Knowsley mulls partial park sell-off
Following Knowsley Council’s decision that it can no longer meet the annual £1.3m cost of maintaining the borough’s parks, a consultation has been launched regarding how the parks should be funded and managed in future.
The consultation will be led by the Knowsley Parks & Green Spaces Review Board, a group made up of businesses, academics, interest groups and representatives from the local parish, town and borough councils.
The board is chaired by Gideon Ben Tovim, a veteran of Merseyside civic life, who also chairs Liverpool City Region’s Local Nature Partnership. He said: “Budget cuts mean the council can’t maintain its current funding of parks and if we don’t explore alternatives the parks in Knowsley will fall into decline or close.”
Vice-chairman Paul Nolan, director of the Mersey Forest Partnership, added: “Our aim is to identify a new delivery model for sustaining Knowsley’s public parks and green spaces and protect them for future generations. We need Knowsley residents to get involved and tell us their views as these will help us make our final recommendations to the council in November.”
Knowsley Council has lost £86m in budget cuts since 2010 and faces a further £14.8m of cuts up to 2020.
The review board has undertaken a review of potential new funding and governance models and developed recommendations, which will be outlined to residents this month. The consultation will include a survey, market research, local forums and meetings.
Two options are in play:
Option 1: Knowsley Council continues to manage Knowsley’s parks and green spaces, but without a budget for maintenance and management from April 2019. Under this option:
- The council would seek to generate income from other activities, such as park events and other services, to meet the costs for the management of as many parks as possible
- A selection of parks and green spaces would be left unmanaged
- The quality of the unfunded parks and green spaces will deteriorate
- Parks and green spaces may close
- The council would remain in charge of the parks and green spaces.
Option 2: Knowsley Council transfers responsibility for maintenance and management of Knowsley’s parks and green spaces to a charitable trust, funded by the sale of 10% of Knowsley’s parks and green spaces.
Under this option, a trust would take over the maintenance and management of Knowsley’s parks and green spaces. Under this option:
- Over 15 years, Knowsley Council would sell 10%, or 146 acres, of Knowsley’s parkland and green spaces for uses such as housing or commercial development. This money would be used to create a £40m funding pot.
- Responsibility for Knowsley’s parks would be handed over to a charitable trust along with the £40m funding pot.
- The trust would invest the funding pot to raise the £1.3m per year required to pay for the maintenance and management of Knowsley’s parks
- The trust would be allowed to generate income from other activities, such as park events and other services
- The trust would not be allowed to sell the remaining 90% of parks and green spaces.
- The quality and benefits of the remaining parks will be protected forever for the public’s free use and not impacted by any future council funding cuts.