21/08/2016

‘Friends of’ Groups

‘Friends of’ groups

South West London is lucky to have amazing green spaces from local authority managed parks and recreation grounds to nature reserves, community orchards, greens, allotments as well as well known parks managed by the National Trust, English Heritage gardens, Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and Royal Parks of Richmond and Bushy.

Many people are surprised to learn that local authorities in the UK have no legal duty to provide or look after parks and green spaces. Community involvement is a vital way to support parks, and ‘Friends groups’ play a key role.

A friends group are a community that is representative of the local population and park users as possible, and that includes the committee that runs it too. An inclusive and diverse group achieves greater credibility in the neighbourhood and helps solve problems and raise awareness.

SWLEN supports many ‘Friends of Parks’ groups across South West London and in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames the Council commissions us to provide hands on support, advice and networking informally and formally through a once a year forum. We are also funded by the London Borough of Hounslow Council to organise a friends of parks groups forum. You can find out more about the Forum’s here. We are passionate about neighbourhoods protecting and supporting their green spaces.

 

i-am-a-friendWhy start a Friends group?

  • Facilities in the park could do with improving, such as play equipment
  • To raise the quality of the whole green space
  • To meet and work with other people in your neighbourhood
  • There is an issue or concern that needs action
  • To work with the Council to improve facilities
  • To improve habitats for wildlife
  • Create benefits for all users
  • A green space or park might be threatened

 

What are the benefits?so-am-i-in-friends-of-groups

  • People value the green space more highly and there is a greater sense of ownership and investment, discouraging misuse of the site.
  • The Council will relate to and work with a group that has come together in the interest of a park, whereas a Council cannot work with individuals or without broad democratic representation
  • You receive free support, advice and training from us including set up assistance, safety and events advice, website hosting, social media and networking
  • You can access a wide range of resources including funding
  • You join a local Friends of Parks Forum and a national network of groups

 

What does a Friends group do?

  • Helps the community safeguard its green spacemurray-park-cake-3-in-friendss-of-groups
  • Works with the Council’s Parks Service and agrees management plans
  • Enables people to participate in the group across age and background
  • Meets together regularly over the year
  • Addresses issues and needs
  • Helps to plan improvements for facilities
  • Runs activities or events such as ‘work days’ for planting, conservation or guided walks, or a Summer Fair
  • Publicises the group by creating a website and running a mailing list to keep people in touch

 

The Friends group can carry out many tasks, functions and seize opportunities associated with the promotion and management of their park. Subgroups can be formed that focus on specific activities or needs such as an event or biodiversity. Other areas that a group can work in conjunction with Richmond Council Parks and Open Spaces are:

  • Park bench donations
  • Tree donations
  • Tree wardens

Read our downloadable PDF Why Start a Friends Group.

Go to How to set up a Friends Group in 7 steps