Park improvements

We are continually working to improve our parks. This might be to make them safer and more inviting, to add activities, or replace broken infrastructure such as seats, fences or paths. Sometimes we remove features that are no longer used, too expensive to maintain, or replace high maintenance features with lower maintenance alternatives.

Identifying need and planning improvements

We identify what is needed in several ways, as well as considering how we will make any changes:


In addition to the daily checks and vigilance of the maintenance staff and area managers, one of our own Green Flag judges carry out an audit of our 49 parks and 100 other green spaces every five years. They assess each park's condition and to what extent it is meeting the Green Flag Criteria, which is the national standard for park management.

At the end of the audit we compile a list of actions required for each park.

Friends groups

Many parks have friends groups and we work with them to maintain and improve parks. If you want to find a friends group or start a Friends of Central Parks group see Park friends.

Public requests

Park users can make requests, complaints or enquiries to us. Each request is investigated to see if the change would be viable, taking all limiting factors into account, and how it fits with our Management Plan. We also draw upon the many years of experience in open space provision within our professional staff.

Design and costing

Having identified a project, we consult, design and quantify materials to give the information needed to be able to cost the project. Using our collective experience, we will automatically be designing to deal with the rigors of public open spaces, making sure that:

  • Everything is of robust anti-vandal construction
  • Able to resist graffiti removal agents
  • Safe for purpose
  • Items match the council's park livery and design standards
  • Equipment meets the design brief
  • Any design meets its primary function

We will also consider whether local or national planning permission will be needed or if there are any other legal restrictions.


When we have an idea of how much the project is likely to cost, the next step is finding funding. For smaller works we can make a bid for Community Infrastructure Levy contributions from developers (CIL). Sometimes we use this source as “match funding” required by most external funding sources. External bids usually require us to provide a small percentage (perhaps 10%) which they then convert to the larger amount needed to deliver the improvement.

There are a number of external funding sources such as the Lottery, Landfill Community Fund (which in Hampshire is mainly administered by the Veolia environment Trust), current Central Government initiatives, or other external funding opportunities. Improvements are rarely, if ever, funded with revenue budgets, which is the money taken in Council Tax for grounds maintenance.

When we find a potential funding stream, we can develop a bid and submit this. Many other local authorities are bidding for the same funding sources, so we are not always successful and may then have to wait for the next potential funding source. The funding bids have closing dates for submissions so we need to work quickly when we hear of potential funding.

If we are successful, we will usually consult publicly to let people know what is happening and to make sure there is still strong support for the idea, so that it is not just one person’s wish. We will incorporate any changes from the consultation into the final design.

Finding funding for implementing change takes a long time, so it is important to identify the improvements needed well in advance of funding becoming available. Some projects may take years to develop, fund and deliver, but often the need for them does not change, so we keep them in mind until potential funding can be found, when we will be ready to act.

Future maintenance

Councils are not legally obliged to deliver park provision, so it is called a non-statutory service. This means that in times of reducing budgets the council cannot guarantee that these services will be funded. It is important, therefore, that anything we improve or add to a park or green space should be “low or no” maintenance. This will help to reduce future pressure on diminishing maintenance budgets and, where possible, seek to relieve them.

In difficult times, finances have to be directed towards statutory services, which Local Authorities are legally obliged to provide, such as:

  • Education
  • Adult and child social care
  • Waste collection
  • Planning and housing services
  • Road maintenance
  • Library services

We need to be confident that we can sustain the maintenance of any new improvements, features or additions to our parks, well into the future. In some areas we are able to work with friends groups, such as Friends of Portswood Rec and the Friends of St James’ Park, who provide volunteer gardening groups. They help us with maintenance of features that we would otherwise be unable to deliver and maintain.

A plan showing a winding path going through an area of grass, shrubs and trees