About the Parks Management Forum

Lister Park, Bradford


“Representing professionals working in public parks and green spaces”

There are 418 principal (unitary, upper and second tier) councils in the UK – 27 county councils, 201 district councils, and 125 unitary councils. There are around 11,000 local councils in the UK, from town councils to parish councils. These councils, along with a number of trusts, charities and other organisations, manage between them 27,000 public parks across the country and employ a significant number of professionals to manage and maintain them within such service areas including streetcare, waste services, leisure services, community services, neighbourhood services and cultural services. It is now a rarity to find an authority that retains its distinct ‘parks service’ often absorbed into a wider departmental structure, yet the public perception is very different, and still perceive that ‘parks departments’ still exist.

However, over the last 20+ years, there has been a significant reduction in the number of professionals dedicated to the management of parks and green spaces with headlines such as ‘last of a dying breed’ and media coverage not only in the trade press but also in mainstream media (The Guardian and the Daily Mail, BBC Radio). Like many public services, austerity has hit hard and soft services such as parks have and continue to be hit hard with parks and green spaces management professionals often becoming marginalized and in many authorities, redundancies have occurred with significant posts lost.

Up to this period of austerity, a number of organisations had represented parks and green spaces professionals including:-

  • ILAM (Institute of Leisure and Amenity Management) which became ISPAL and ultimately CIMSPA, neither of the latter organisations representing parks professionals; ILAM had a dedicated parks team with officers advocating policy and recommendations for the wider management of parks.  
  • The Urban Parks Forum, becoming GreenSpace which folded a number of years ago;
  • CABE Space, which was a government funded quango responsible for championing urban parks and professionals, but was disbanded and became part of the Design Council, no longer representing parks professionals.

Since the disappearance of these reputable organisations, no single body represents the body of individuals who continue to manage our urban parks and green spaces and the sector has become fragmented. As part of the recent public inquiry into public parks, one of the key issues raised was the lack of a professional body to represent parks and green spaces management professionals. With the end of the last period of austerity and continued importance given to public parks, it is an important period to look at representing those still managing parks and green spaces as well as those that have inherited the management of these, with little or no sector support. This has recently become increasingly significant with the current Covid-19 pandemic where parks and green spaces have had greater coverage and awareness raised of their importance.

Mowbray Gardens, Sunderland

The Current Position

With no single professional body representation and the gap in the sector, a number of other bodies do exist but have fragmented links to parks practitioners and the sector, but they have carried the flag for parks.  This has meant that decision makers and policy makers have had inconsistent links to the sector that actually delivers, and has done for decades. The Parks Management Forum, through an independent Board of practitioners,  can strengthen that link not only by strongly representing the sector but most importantly by acting as a sound board for ideas and policy implementation as well as proposing solutions and share best practice that can cross fertilise the work amongst the organisation.  The Parks Management Forum will work and support all the Regional Parks Forums and organisations such as the Landscape Institute, APSE, Parks Action Group, The Parks Alliance, The Gardens Trust, The National Trust, NLHF, Chief Leisure Officers Association, Chartered Institute of Horticulture, Fields in Trust, Keep Britain Tidy, CPRE and forge stronger links with Scotland, Wales and any other national and international organisations that have in common, the passion and values that underpins our work in valuing our parks and open spaces.   

Merry Hell on Cassiobury Park bandstand, Watford

So what are the next steps?

On 28th May, the interim board met for the first time and was made up of representatives from City of Cardiff, LB Hounslow, LB Ealing, Watford Borough Council, Bury Council, Wirral Council, Manchester City Council, Sheffield City Council, Arun and Worthing District Councils, Milton Keynes Parks Trust, Urban Green Newcastle, North Tyneside Council, Rugby Borough Council, Nottingham City Council, Salford City Council, Birmingham City Council, Walsall Council, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, Green Estate Sheffield, and Community First Partnership. This board will meet 6 times a year.

The next stage will be to begin to work with the Regional Forums and all the relevant organisations that can help us to strengthen this single voice  for the sector. We have already contacted the Parks Leaders Forum in New Zealand who have been set up for over 7 years. Their advice was to establish the ‘critical mass’ and develop the ‘network’. This will include individuals who work in the parks sector (and it does not matter at what level) to the organisations who have similar interests in our work. This is crucial and will strengthen our voice and role within the sector. This will be the main focus of our work in the next 6 months. We will keep you updated.

The meeting on the 10th June discussed the following:-

  • Adopt the Terms of Reference – ADOPTED
  • Agree a statement on the value of parks to be released – AGREED
  • Decide on the structure of the interim board – AGREED
  • Discuss who we need to collaborate with as a priority – AGREED

The board consists of:-

  • Paul Rabbitts, Watford Borough Council – Chairperson
  • Ian Baggott, Community First Partnership – Vice-chairperson
  • Stefania Horne, LB Hounslow – Vice-chairperson
  • Philippa Reece, Adur and Worthing Council – Vice-chairperson
  • Eddie Curry, Nottingham City Council – Vice-chairperson
  • Chis Worman MBE, Rugby Borough Council – Vice-chairperson
  • Dr Mary Worrall, Wirral MBC – Vice-chairperson
  • Mike Bent, Bury MBC – Vice-chairperson
  • Jerry Dronsfield – North Tyneside MBC – Vice-chairperson

Working Group

  • James Cairncross, Milton Keynes Parks Trust
  • Sue France, Green Estate Sheffield CIC
  • Barbara Hooper, Urban Green, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Chris Welsh, LB Ealing
  • Jon Maidment, City of Cardiff
  • Michael Rowland, BCP Council
  • Annie Surtees, Salford MBC
  • Darren Share MBE, Birmingham City Council
  • David Lambert, The Parks Agency
  • Kylie Ward, Manchester City Council
  • Stuart Turner, Sheffield City Council
  • Laurence Gale – TurfPro
  • Andy Lee – Rotherham MBC
  • James Jones-McFarland, Adur Council

A little more about who we are?

It has on occasions, that those who manage parks, have been perceived as purely operational and when compared to other professions or disciplines, often ‘lower down the pecking order’. We carried out an exercise looking at what actually existed in the sector in relation to qualifications and years of experience, looking at this group alone. This group has over 634 years experience in the sector of which 450 years are within parks and green spaces.

NamePaul Rabbitts
Current Job TitleHead of Parks, Heritage and Culture
OrganisationWatford Borough Council
Years in the Sector31
Years in Public Parks29
QualificationsBA Honours (Geography); Masters in Landscape Architecture
Post nominals / Professional MembershipsMLA, FRSA, also member of CLOA
SynopsisA former Chartered Landscape Architect, I have worked in the public sector most of my career, but primarily in parks development, management and restoration. I have been a Green Flag Judge for over 20 years, as well as an International Green Flag Judge, a published author and lecturer on public parks as well as a parks historian. An award winning (Landscape Institute, ILAM, Keep Britain Tidy) strategic thinker who has constantly advocated for a single voice for parks managers. National geek on Victorian and Edwardian bandstands.
NameIan Baggott
Current Job TitleManaging Director
OrganisationCommunity First Partnership (CFPUK)
Years in the Sector34
Years in Public Parks27
QualificationsRFS Cert Arb; BSc Hons, MSc
Post nominals / Professional MembershipsMMRS, FRSA
SynopsisPublic parks have been my career for 27 years. My first 10 in local authority creating and leading a parks development team and the remaining 17 in consultancy. I’ve been part of national steering groups, written national guidance, been a Green Flag judge and a CABE Space enabler, worked on over 130 HLF projects and helped set up the Midlands Parks Forum. I led our team on the State of UK Parks research and have just written Managing Public Parks during Covid 19.
NameEddie Curry
Current Job TitleHead of Public Realm
OrganisationNottingham City Council
Years in the Sector31
Years in Public Parks23
QualificationsOND Landscape Practice
HND Horticulture (Amenity and Landscape Provision and Management)
MBA Strategic Management
Post nominals / Professional MembershipsFellow of the Landscape Institute (FLI)
Chair of the Core Cities Parks and Green Space Group
National and International Green Flag Judge
SynopsisIn 1997, Eddie was appointed as a Landscape, Refuse and Cleansing Maintenance officer at Redditch Borough Council.
In 1998 Eddie took up the position of Parks Technical Assistant at Preston Borough Council. Eddie progressed to Assistant Head of Parks and Open Spaces in 2000 and then Head of Parks and Open Spaces in 2002.
In 2006 Eddie become the Head of Parks, Open Spaces and Investment Funding at Nottingham City Council. In 2019 Eddie was appointed as the City’s new Head of Public Realm and now takes full control of the City’s fully integrated Public Realm Services.
NameStefania Horne
Current Job TitleHead of Parks and Leisure
OrganisationLB of Hounslow
Years in the Sector25
Years in Public Parks19
QualificationsItalian Doctoral degree and MSc (Bangor)
Post nominals / Professional MembershipsExecutive Member of CLOA
SynopsisPassionate about the role of parks in transforming lives. Speaker at national conferences (CABE, Greenspace and Public Service Transformation Academy)
Nominated as Chair of one of the areas of the All London Green Grid and I sit on the GLA London Green Infrastructure Partnership.
Presented evidence to the London Assembly on parks and health and well-being and to the London Mayor’s Greenspace Commission panel about models to manage parks and open spaces. As practitioner, I am trained as a peer reviewer by the LGA Idea programme and Hounslow Parks services were nominated by the Association of Public Service Excellence as one of the most improved service in the UK in 2019.
NameChris Worman MBE
Current Job TitleParks and Grounds Manager
OrganisationRugby Borough Council
Years in the Sector36
Years in Public Parks36
QualificationsPost Graduate Cert Management Studies
Post nominals / Professional MembershipsFLI MBE
SynopsisChris started his career as an apprentice gardener for Leicester City Council and quickly moved through the ranks to become a Team Leader, before moving onto Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council, and then Rugby Borough Council.
I was a member of the West Midlands Parks forum for over 20 years where he served as vice chair and is now a volunteer supporter of the Midlands Parks Forum.
Being passionate about parks and green spaces since a teenager, I became a Green Flag Award judge at the very start of the awards in 1996 and over the past 24 years of volunteering have been fortunate to have the opportunity to judge many 100’s of parks both around the UK and beyond. This includes international judging tours in Spain, The United Arab Emirates, Mexico and America.
For his service to the Green Flag Awards and public parks he was awarded an MBE in the Queens 90th Birthday honours in 2016.
In 2017 Chris was appointed to the governments Parks Action Group as the parks industry representative and was invited to be a Fellow of The Landscape Institute in 2019.
NamePhilippa Reece
Current Job TitleParks and Foreshore Manager
OrganisationAdur and Worthing Council
Years in the Sector19
Years in Public Parks13
QualificationsBA (Honours), Environmental Management
Post nominals / Professional Memberships
SynopsisMajority of my working career has been within Manchester parks covering pioneering projects with the home office and becoming the major events manager at Heaton Park. 
Moved into the social housing sector managing their blue and green infrastructure obtaining the only Green Flag award in the North of the UK within this setting. 
Manchester’s first Green Summit consisted of ‘lead in listening events’ that formed the direction of the event and future strategy for the city.  Myself and MMU led on one of these events on behalf of the mayor in a new style and approach that was then adopted in the wider remit.
NameMike Bent
Current Job TitleParks and Countryside Manager
OrganisationBury Council
Years in the Sector38
Years in Public Parks38
QualificationsCity & Guilds Amenity Hort.
Level 6 Diploma in Management and Leadership
Post nominals / Professional MembershipsCMgr FCMI
SynopsisMy whole career has been spent in the parks industry from an apprentice gardener at 16 to Parks Manager, 10 years in Grounds maintenance, the rest managing, improving and developing parks. I also cover the Bereavement Service.
I am a National/International Green Flag Judge (17+ years) working in Holland, Germany and Turkey and am the NW Judges Representative. I have also trained judges and been a Green Flag applicant at Bury for 17 years.
I was part of the AGMA Parks and Open Spaces Group who set up Greenspace North West and became the Chair in 2010 for 3 years
NameJerry Dronsfield
Current Job TitleOperations Manager, Parks and Horticulture
OrganisationNorth Tyneside Borough Council
Years in the Sector42
Years in Public Parks20
QualificationsNational Diploma in Amenity Horticulture
BSc Hons Plant Biology
Landscape Institute Examination, Part 1
Institute of Leisure and Amenity (ILAM) Management Diploma
Post Graduate Diploma in Management Studies
Certificate in Further Education
Post nominals / Professional Memberships
SynopsisMy professional life of 42 years has been in horticulture, it began as a Gardener working in the Royal Parks in London, then with the London Borough of Redbridge and the University of Cambridge Botanic Garden. I worked and trained in Landscape Architecture and spent over 15 years in Land Based education in Northumberland teaching horticulture and finally holding the post of Head of School for Land Based Industries. Since 2003 I have managed various aspects of public parks and horticulture, including the restoration of two heritage parks, parks development, management of trees, grounds, allotments and play facilities. I am a Green Flag International Judge.
NameSue France
Current Job TitleCEO
OrganisationGreen Estate CIC
Years in the Sector45
Years in Public Parks12
QualificationsOND Landscape Construction, BSc Ecology and Science, Certificate of Education (FE) MA Landscape Management.
Post nominals / Professional Memberships
SynopsisInitial years in LA Parks in Warwickshire before moving first into commercial landscape practice then FE culminating as Head of Horticulture, Cornwall. Returned to LA Parks in Camden prior to moving to Sheffield to tackle strategic neighbourhood and parks regeneration. A CABE Space enabler, contributing to best practice guides and mentor to more community led parks regeneration projects. Through a social enterprise model continue to this day to manage 6 regenerated very urban public parks in what was once labelled ‘the worst estate in Britain’. Leading R+D around new approaches to more resilient and naturalistic planting schemes.
NameBarbara Hooper
Current Job TitleDirector of Parks and Allotments
OrganisationUrban Green, Newcastle
Years in the Sector37
Years in Public Parks1
QualificationsBSc (Hons) Environmental Science; Diploma Town Planning; MPhil Town and Country Planning.
Post nominals / Professional MembershipsMRTPI
SynopsisStarted career as a ranger in a country park, and have come full circle back to parks via: environmental planning, including setting up local community parks; conservation work with RSPB; sustainable communities work within local authorities; consultancy work on renewable energy and sustainability appraisal; environmental planning with the National Trust; and leading on regional planning and projects within Historic England.
NameDavid Lambert
Current Job TitleDirector
OrganisationThe Parks Agency
Years in the Sector34
Years in Public Parks28
Post nominals / Professional MembershipsIHBC, FRSA
SynopsisI have been campaigning for public parks since co-authoring ‘Public Prospects – historic urban parks under threat’ in 1993; I was instrumental in setting up the National Lottery’s Urban Parks grants programme in 1995 and remained an advisor and monitor until 2017. I have been a specialist adviser to 3 parliamentary select committees, including public parks 1999; a CABE Space enabler; and an advisory panel member for the Urban Greenspace Taskforce, the National Trust, English Heritage and Historic Royal Palaces.
NameJonathan Maidment
Current Job TitleHead of Parks and Harbour Authority
OrganisationCardiff Council
Years in the Sector34
Years in Public Parks32
Post nominals / Professional MembershipsPG Cert (Management Studies)
PG Cert (Sustainable Leadership)
SynopsisA time served Local Authority Apprentice and former Youth Trainee. I have occupied a variety of roles in the local authority parks service including senior management roles in Parks Management, Development, Design and Operations at three local authorities.
In my current role I’m responsible for an holistic green space management service across all Council landholdings together with the management and development of the Cardiff Bay area under the auspices of Cardiff Harbour Authority. I am currently the Chair of Green Space Wales.
NameMichael Rowland
Current Job TitleStrategic Lead for Greenspace & Conservation
OrganisationBournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council
Years in Sector25
Years in Public Parks16
QualificationsBSC Hons Biology
Post Grad Diploma in Conservation
Advanced Diploma in Management
Post nominals / Professional Memberships
Synopsis15 years’ experience in public parks management in Bournemouth. In 2015 established Bournemouth Parks Foundation. Nesta Innovation Consultant through 2019/20 assisting other part of the UK establishing parks charities.
Trustee Queens Park Neighbourhood Forum 2020 helping to develop Neighbourhood Plan. Green Flag Judge for 15 yrs. CABE Space International Design Scholarship Award 2008. Previous experience in public, private and charity sector in rights of way management, cycling and walking infrastructure, woodland management, care of adults with learning disabilities.
NameDarren Share MBE
Current Job TitleAssistant Director, Streetscene
OrganisationBirmingham City Council
Years in Sector35
Years in Public Parks32
QualificationsMBA, Cert Arb (theory) WAMITAB Level 4
Post nominals / Professional MembershipsMBE
SynopsisI started my career in Parks as a Horticultural Apprentice and after gaining my horticultural qualifications I have worked in all sections of public sector Parks Management. I am currently responsible for all environmental matters in Birmingham. I have been a National Britain In Bloom Judge since 2014 and I’m current National Chair. I also sit on the National In Bloom Federation and RHS Community Outreach Advisory Group. In my spare time I am a Trustee for the Birmingham Botanical Gardens
NameLiz Stuffins
Current Job TitlePublic Health Development Manager
OrganisationWalsall MBC
Years in Sector34
Years in Public Parks32
QualificationsBSc (Hons) MSc
Post nominals / Professional MembershipsCMLI
SynopsisI have worked for Local Government for the last 32 years in Countryside Management as well as Parks management. I have also worked for the voluntary sector in environmental education, volunteer and project development. I have been Chair of the West Midlands Parks Forum for the last 5 years, and have developed the Forum to cover the Midlands region with input from NLHF, employing a part time development manager. The Midlands Forum has become a CIO.
NameAnnie Surtees
Current Job TitleParks and Streetscene Manager
OrganisationSalford City Council
Years in Sector31
Years in Public Parks26
QualificationsBSc(Hons), MSc
Post nominals / Professional Memberships
SynopsisComing from youth work and nature conservation background I joined Salford City Council on a temporary contract 26 years ago. My first role was developing and engaging people on a derelict land site and establishing it as a country park. This then extended to involve all the countryside sites and designating them as Local Nature Reserves and establishing a city wide ranger team. I am now responsible for all land management, parks development, grounds maintenance and street scene services, arboriculture, and allotments. I am a Green Flag judge and have been involved in developing some areas of Green Flag guidance.
NameStuart Turner
Current Job TitleService Manager Green & Open Spaces
OrganisationSheffield City Council
Years in Sector25
Years in Public Parks17
QualificationsBSc (Hons), MSc, MBA
Certificate in Ecology & Conservation
Post nominals / Professional Memberships
SynopsisMy environmental career has spanned the public, voluntary and private sectors, and has included roles in Ecology, conservation and consultancy. I have worked in green space management in Kensington & Chelsea and have now been with Sheffield’s Parks and Countryside Service for over 14 years leading on development, strategic planning, performance and more recently I have gained additional operational management responsibilities. I have been a Green Flag judge for 10 years
NameKylie Ward
Current Job TitleParks Lead
OrganisationManchester City Council
Years in Sector20
Years in Public Parks20
QualificationsBA (Hons) Business Management and Sport
Post nominals / Professional Memberships
SynopsisI started my career as a Park Warden in 2000, fast forward 20 years and I am now the lead for Manchester’s Park Service. I’ve developed many skills through that time including community engagement, activation, development and restoration. My more recent years have focused on the development and delivery of our new Park Strategy which will see us reach a more sustainable position that will protect our Parks in years to come.
NameChris Welsh
Current Job TitleParks Manager
OrganisationLB Ealing
Years in Sector23
Years in Public Parks15
Post nominals / Professional Qualifications
SynopsisMy career with public parks started in 2004 as a landscape architect and project manager and included work in Canada, USA and the UK before getting more involved in parks management and operations since joining Ealing in 2014. I have been a committee member of the London Park Benchmarking Group for 6 years and Chair for 3 years.
NameDr Mary Worrall
Current Job TitleSenior Manager, Wirral Parks, Coast & Countryside
OrganisationWirral Council
Years in Sector35
Years in Public Parks14
QualificationsCPPI, BSc (Hons), MA, DBA
Post nominals / Professional MembershipsFIPM, FCIPD, MWUP, MNAI
SynopsisI lead Wirral’s dedicated team of 190 staff managing and promoting Wirral’s spectacular heritage parks, coastal and country parks, allotments, cemeteries, rural and urban verges, village greens, local parks and SSSIs, working with communities. I co-chair the Older People and Parks Advocacy Committee for World Urban Parks. I am developing Birkenhead Park’s International Centre for Public Parks, and work to achieve World Heritage Site Status. I chaired the London Parks and Greenspaces Forum while Head of Greenspaces for Hillingdon. I am a Green Flag Judge and have also worked for the Conservation Volunteers, the Woodland Trust and English Heritage.
EXTRAVAGANZA: Proms in the Park event in South Park, Darlington featuring among others The Royal Signals (Northern) Band. Picture: CHRIS BOOTH
%d bloggers like this: