Newcastle’s parks and allotments are facing big changes, but local people are being brought into the discussion.
Open Lab is working with Newcastle City Council to hold workshops and online discussions that include residents, allotment holders, the business community, local charitable groups, friends of parks and other interested parties. These conversations are centred around what activities a charitable trust could support, where the money should come from, what role volunteers and communities should play, and how decisions should be made.
The consultation comes after the council announced plans to transfer the city’s parks and allotments to a new charitable trust. Since 2010 the council’s parks budget has been cut by 91% and it is now looking for a new way to fund their maintenance and operation.
In addition to the council’s own consultation, Open Lab are running workshops across the city, with a mix of morning and evening sessions, to allow as many people as possible to take part.
“The people who use the city’s parks and green spaces are best placed to give their opinions about how they’re run and managed,” explained Clara Crivellaro, who is leading the project for Open Lab. “These workshops will provide opportunities for people to come together to examine aspects of the council’s proposal and proactively contribute ideas for parks and allotments across the city.”
The workshops are being complemented by Twitter discussions, hosted each Wednesday at 7pm by @NCLTalkParks using the hashtag #NewcastleParks. Each of the four hour-long debates will focus on a different question relating to the future of Newcastle’s parks.
The Twitter discussions will be facilitated by Dan Lambton-Howard, who said: “Twitter provides a fantastic opportunity for people to have their say without having to attend a public meeting or workshop. Anyone with a Twitter account can join in the debate, and can already start having their say by using the hashtag #NewcastleParks.”
Clara added: “The variety of ways that people can get involved in this consultation exercise is a great example of what Open Lab is all about – using digital technology to empower local communities and engage them in decision making.”
Open Lab’s consultation will run until 6 April, and more information can be found at the Let’s Talk Parks website. The council will use the ideas collected through the discussions and through its own consultation to develop a business case for transferring control of the parks to a charitable trust.
Cllr Kim McGuinness, cabinet member for culture and communities at Newcastle City Council, said: “Open Lab at Newcastle University have come up with imaginative ways to deliver online material and informal face-to-face workshops that will help people think about the matters being raised. Technology and social media play a big part in Open Lab’s work – as they look to get people to think outside of the box, and express their views and thoughts about the prospects of a charitable trust.
“We hope this fresh approach will attract a broad cross section of the public and allow people to participate on their own terms in person or via technology. We really want people to engage and share their thoughts, ideas and feelings about the future of the city’s parks.”
For more information, please contact Clara Crivellaro.