Sheffield parks – the jewels in the city’s green crown – could get millions of pounds of new investment over the next few years.
Sheffield has 74 public parks and nearly 1,000 other green spaces across the city but the parks and countryside service has seen its budget cut by 30 per cent over recent years.
Now the council’s Cabinet has agreed a new five year strategy to raise more money from parks. This could include private sponsorship, hosting more events, opening up cafes and renting space for bouncy castles and rides. The are no plans to sell off any parks for development.
Coun Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure, said: “We have lost income and we have had to change the way parks are managed. In some parks, we have had to stop cutting the grass, taken out flower beds and there is a general maintenance backlog.
“We maintain and improve our parks to the best of our capabilities and there are many exciting opportunities we would love to pursue but there is only so much that can be done with our ever-reducing budget.”
The service already generates £1.8m from a combination of sponsorship, leases, car parking income and fees and charges.
Coun Lea added: “We’re very proud of our parks in Sheffield but we know some provide a better visitor experience than others and we want to improve this.
“Businesses that operate within our parks are already contributing to some of our most-loved sites such as Endcliffe, Millhouses, Hillsborough and High Hazels, where cafes, tennis courts, children’s rides and more improve the experience for visitors.
“We can bring together all potential income streams including grant funding, volunteering and business partnerships, to provide new business opportunities, bring back unused land and assets and create real leisure destinations for the whole city, but even better still, we can generate sustainable income that will guarantee our parks can thrive.
“I’d like make it explicitly clear that the council will not be selling any park land and that under all circumstances the parks will remain under council ownership and control.”
The council has already used £1.2m Public Health investment to improve ten parks this year, including the major transformation at Norfolk Heritage Park.
It’s estimated that around £8m – the highest amount of investment in decades – could be available across the city over the coming years.
Recent capital investment from the Lawn Tennis Association has seen the development of tennis courts at High Hazels, Hillsborough, Millhouses and Graves parks and the introduction of a specialist operator who now runs low cost tennis participation and coaching programmes. This partnership not only brings income but has encouraged people to play tennis.
The parks and countryside’s service has already had informal consultation with some Friends of Groups and existing park operators. Further consultation will now take place.