Newcastle ponders handing parks and allotments to charitable trust

The Labour city council is consulting on the concept of establishing a charitable trust to carry out the funding and management of 33 parks and 50-plus hectares of allotments

Newcastle park: to be run by charitable trust?
Newcastle park: to be run by charitable trust?

Newcastle City Council is considering handing over the running of the bulk of its parks and allotments to a new charitable trust.

The Labour-run council is running a consultation on the idea of establishing a charitable trust to take on the funding and management of 33 parks and more than 50 hectares of allotment space in the city, although they would continue to be owned by the local authority.

Newcastle City Council said the proposals had been drawn up in response to a cut of more than 90 per cent in its budget for parks over the past seven years to £237,000 in 2016/17, with further reductions likely next year. 

The Heritage Lottery Fund has given a grant of £237,500 towards testing the approach and said it would require the council to share its findings so other councils could learn from the exercise.

The council said the National Trust had also invested a similar level of funding and was advising the council on the delivery of the project.

The local authority’s consultation, which closes on Friday, includes asking people how they think funding could be generated to run the parks and allotments, with suggestions including renting out the spaces for events or increasing car parking charges.

If the proposals go ahead, the 17 council employees working on managing the parks and allotments would transfer to the new charitable trust.

Kim McGuinness, cabinet member for culture and communities at Newcastle City Council, said: "Our parks budget has suffered greatly at the hands of central government funding cuts, but despite this we’re committed to maintaining and sustaining the beautiful parks and green spaces the city is known for."

Ivor Crowther, head of HLF in the north east, said the National Lottery had always taken a keen interest in parks. "We’ve funded parks since 1996 and we funded a substantial amount of parks in Newcastle, something to the value about £12m," he said.

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