A council survey into the future of Brighton & Hove’s parks has brought a big response from residents – and many generous offers of help.
The Big Conversation on parks had over 3,500 responses – a record for such a survey in the city.
Running between August 23 and October 28, the survey set out to establish what residents’ spending priorities were for parks and open spaces in times of reduced funding for councils from central government. Between 2009 and 2020, the council’s parks service will have to lose around one third of its money, down from £4.7m to just £3.4m
The consultation also sought ideas on how the parks department could cope with less cash.
Most popular suggestions were for the council to use more volunteers (403 mentions), create new revenue streams such as cafés, sponsors, events and charges (217 mentions) and to have more wildflower or overgrown areas (211 mentions).
About three quarters of respondents favoured replacing play area equipment with natural play features such as logs, which were cheaper to maintain.
Eighty seven per cent of respondents tend to agree or strongly agree that residents should be allowed to cut grass verges using their own tools under certain circumstances.
Just over a half of people – 56.4 per cent - were interested or fairly interested in volunteering to help maintain parks. Litter collection was the most likely thing people would offer to help with. Weeding or pruning were other possibilities. Over 1,000 people left email addresses because they might be interested in volunteering.
Business sponsorship or advertising in parks should be explored as a way of raising funds, according to over half of respondents - 54 per cent.
Sixty seven per cent said options should be explored for getting not-for-profit organisations to maintain parks or raise funds for them.
Results will help inform an open spaces strategy report going to the environment committee on January 17.
The survey was publicised via news outlets, the council website and social media, 10,000 flyers distributed in various ways, 3,000 postcards to random addresses and adverts in community magazines. Social media was the most common way people heard of the survey – 36 per cent.
Chair of the council’s environment committee Cllr Gill Mitchell said: “Big thanks to everyone who took part in the Big Conversation. The huge response shows how valued our parks are – with big numbers using parks regularly.
“It's clear from the responses that there is a great willingness to be more involved. Obviously it’s not desirable to offload all the work onto volunteers but I do think there is more the council could do to link residents and businesses to activities in their local parks, using social media. That’s where continuing the conversation would be useful.”