Introduction and Local Context
Preston's parks and green spaces provide access to a wide range of positive activities for people of all ages throughout the City. In total, there are over 200 parks and green spaces equating to over 700 hectares1.
They are the green lungs which help the city to breath, ensuring that all residents and visitors have a safe space to enjoy, share and develop. They provide places for people to exercise, play, and relax as well as playing an important role in providing wildlife habitats, flood protection and climate change resilience.
From sharing a coffee with friends in Avenham Park to creating a new pond in Fishwick Local Nature Reserve:
Preston's parks help make the City a special place, loved and appreciated by residents and visitors alike.
The intention is this Strategy will ensure that these parks remain special places, for current and future generations.
To help its parks achieve their full potential, this Strategy outlines the Council's priorities for eight strategic sites over the next ten years. These are:
- Ashton Park
- Avenham and Miller Parks
- Grange Park and Grange Valley
- Haslam Park and Local Nature Reserve
- London Road Recreation Ground and Fishwick Local Nature Reserve
- Moor Park
- Ribbleton (Waverley) Park
- Winckley Square Gardens
The location and quality of all known green spaces across the City are set out as part of the Preston Open Space Study.
Structure of the Strategy
The following sections form the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy for Preston. It has been shaped via consultation with stakeholders and residents from across the City.
It outlines the Council's vision and ambitions for parks and green spaces, which aligned with its corporate priorities, in order to shape a truly vibrant city.
It also highlights the wider strategic links with the Council's planning, health and well-being, climate change, green infrastructure initiatives and future funding opportunities.
A series of objectives are formed from the vision and ambitions designed to achieve the best parks for the people of Preston.
1 - Central Lancashire Playing Pitch and Open Spaces Strategy: Preston Open Space Study (2019)
Before the Strategy details options for the respective sites, it is important to provide some context to help inform some of the ambitions listed later.
The three largest 'strategic parks' are Ashton, Haslam and Moor parks. Avenham and Miller parks, which are located in the south of the Authority, runs parallel to the River Ribble, and have the Guild Wheel (an orbital cycle route around the city) running through them.
Sites such as London Road Recreational Ground and Haslam Park also have designated local nature reserves adjacent or within them.
Figure 2.1: Location of all eight strategic sites in Preston
Health deprivation relates to levels of potential premature death and impairment of quality of life through poor physical or mental health.
Most Preston parks (in particular those at Grange and Ribbleton (Waverley) are located in or adjacent to areas of high health deprivation.
Figure 2.2: Areas of high health deprivation across the City
This Strategy acknowledges and responds to this and is designed to ensure that parks, not only remain accessible to all local residents, but can also offer programmes and activities to help improve health in these local areas.
Figure 2.3 illustrates the percentage of residents which lives within a one-mile radial of each site, broken down by different age bands. It is important to understand the catchment demographics for each site, as this can help inform future priorities. For example, analysis related to this confirms that Winckley Square Gardens and Avenham and Miller parks have the highest percentage of residents aged between; 20-30 living close to them (this reflects the demographics of those living in the City Centre).
Grange Park and Ribbleton Park have the highest proportion of residents aged between; 5-15 living nearby.
Figure 2.3: One-mile radial catchments by age band, per site
To help formulate the ambitions in this Strategy, consultation applying three different approaches was undertaken in Autumn 2020. These are set out below.
A series of face-to-face and/or 'Teams' meetings were undertaken with all key Council staff to gather their views and aspirations.
This stressed the importance attached to the role of parks and greenspaces by the people of the City, particularly for exercise, outdoor socialising and mental health and wellbeing.
Staff had observed a significant increase in footfall across all sites in summer 2020; during the covid-19 Pandemic, highlighting, more so than ever, how vital green open spaces are for the people of Preston.
A key challenge includes continuing to offer a range of opportunities for all residents and visitors whilst ensuring that sites are financed and managed appropriately and maintained and enhanced accordingly. To support the operational and physical upkeep of sites, during an era of continuing budget reductions and competing resources, the Council will need to explore smarter ways to fund such endeavours.
This includes maximising the use of available grants, capital receipts and third sector partner support. In addition, the Council is keen to make sure that sites benefit everyone. On the surface, parks provide places to exercise, socialise with the accompanying positive impact on mental wellbeing.
They also provide opportunities for volunteering and education, often through Friends groups, charities or school programmes. The Council is keen that this continues.
A number of stakeholders, including Friends groups, local organisations and charities were consulted to discuss provision. Key themes drawn from the consultation, included their view that additional support for Friends groups across all sites was needed as part of a process of making certain that parks continue to add value in and to their respective communities.
The forms of support required include volunteer recruitment, provision of additional resources and improved relationships with park rangers and other Council staff. Local organisations and charities were also consulted including Let's Grow Preston, Wheels for All etc.
These are widely recognised to be delivering highly valued programmes and initiatives at key locations, often helping to support disadvantaged groups whilst providing opportunities for personal development. It is important that parks continue to provide a role for such organisations and that sites remain accessible for all.
The importance of biodiversity and climate change were also highlighted. It is key that the management approach taken to parks and other key sites is flexible and adapts to protect and enhance biodiversity and help the City to establish and maintain a resilience to climate change.
An electronic consultation questionnaire was made available to the general public. This was promoted via the Council's social media platforms.
The questionnaire collected information with regard to factors such as which parks residents use and how they might be improved.
In total, over 200 responses were recorded. Key in terms of visitor numbers are Moor Park, Avenham and Miller Parks and Haslam Park.
This broadly reflects the larger size of these sites. Activities highlighted as being common when people were visiting include general exercising, socialising, and dog walking.
Respondent ambitions with regard to parks sites generally reflect the Council's common aspirations including better play equipment, accessible toilets (particularly at larger venues) and improved drainage. In general, the public is keen to see more inclusive activities and promotional events.
For example, a pop-up bar at Avenham and Miller Parks. For others, there is a desire to see parks enhanced ecologically with more native planting, trees, and wildflowers.