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Perth and Kinross Council’s Community Greenspace team have been actively encouraging community involvement across a range of greenspace and parks services. The team took on their current form in 2012 when they already had a good starting point with a very active Bloom group network and Association. The decision was made to widen this network of volunteers and to engage more with community groups to get them involved in the maintenance and development of the area’s 1,600 public parks and greenspaces.

Project development
The community focus is embedded in the way the team works and in 2017 their efforts were supported by the appointment of part-time Greenspace Partnership officer to take forward the Engage, Equip, Empower Transformation project. Along with the Community Greenspace team they support people to take on greenspace maintenance, parks development and project fundraising. They are working with range of people and organisations including schools, sports groups, friends of park groups and older people.

The groups work at a number of different levels with some such as The St Fillans Community Trust taking on full responsibility for the funding, development and maintenance of a play area within their local park in partnership with the Council.  In other situations, management agreements are in place where communities want to take on specific pieces of ground from the Council.  At Rannoch Station a local group has taken on full maintenance of the site removing it from the Council’s duties and saving on two hours round trip travel time. Andy Clegg, Community Greenspace Team Leader explained:

“Fully engaging communities in the use and management of their greenspaces brings many benefits to both the council and the communities. Not only does it enable council resources to go further, it brings social and health improvements, develops skills and encourages active citizenship.”

Building skills and capacity is an important part of the initiative. Some groups have been very successful at securing additional funding, Friends of MacRosty Park have raised £211,000 to install all abilities equipment within this popular park in Crieff. The Council’s Community Environmental Challenge Fund also provides financial support that community groups can access.

Next steps
Future developments include connecting more with GP practises on social prescribing, tools  training and lending, progressing to look at cemeteries maintenance, developing more accessible playparks with communities, encouraging more networking between groups and possibly an umbrella group independent of the Council that brings the path maintenance groups together.

In a climate where cuts to council greenspace budgets are common, working closely with communities has made Council maintenance resources go much further and generated almost 2000 hours of volunteer time on the most recent initiatives. The Council would have required an additional budget of about £30,000 to do the equivalent number of hours which is just not available, making the investment of staff time in the project well worthwhile. Following on from the success of the Council’s Community Greenspace team and its Greenspace Partnership officer, it has been agreed by councillors at a recent committee meeting that the ‘Working with Communities’ approach should continue. The Team look forward to working with more communities across the region to improve parks, upgrade paths and create innovative ways to best manage outdoor spaces to meet their needs.

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