Newcastle’s parks: present and future

Funding cuts – under the UK’s austerity measures – have put huge financial pressure on many areas of local government service provision. One such service is local parks, which have seen their budgets slashed in an effort to minimise the impact on other areas.

In practice, this means that fewer full-time staff are available to local parks, increasing their reliance on volunteers from local communities.

Public concern has risen about the conditions of the Newcastle’s parks and their future. This has prompted the Council to look for and consider creative solutions for their funding and maintenance, with special consideration given to the opportunities they offer for social activities and the benefits they provide for health and wellbeing.

The extent of the threat, and public concern for local parks, has led the Communities and Local Government Committee to launch an inquiry into public parks to examine the impact of reduced local authority budgets on parks serivices.

It is in this context that, since November 2015, Open Lab has been collaborating with Newcastle park services, park rangers, friends of parks and volunteers’ groups to explore the potential of digital technology to support the delivery of park services.

The ongoing project has developed through a series of engagements and the development of Parks2026—a board game that aims to support different stakeholders (rangers, volunteers, friends of parks, park services officers), examine possible futures scenarios and consider creatively and collaboratively possible solutions for the multifaceted aspects at play in the running of park services. Concurrently Open Lab has also begun to explore how digital technologies might support civic learning activities in parks, which have also been significantly reduced due to the cuts.

Open Lab’s involvement with Newcastle Park Services and volunteers’ groups will continue over the next few months, exploring how design tools and technology can support the examination and decision-making processes towards creative and practical solutions to keep the city’s parks a public asset we can all enjoy and care for.

For more information please contact Clara Crivellaro.

Author: Clara Crivellaro

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