University of Leeds (UK) – Improving the world’s parks and green spaces

A ground-breaking project that aims to improve parks across the globe has been launched.

The Parks & Green Space Research Portal promotes collaboration and shared research between academics and parks professionals worldwide.

It enables users to exchange expertise and drive forward change on topics ranging from climate change, safety and biodiversity to history and culture, finance, and health and wellbeing.

The Portal has been established by the University of Leeds, University of Sheffield, the Green Flag Award scheme and environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy.

As well as hosting summaries of the latest research, the Portal helps users promote relevant events, highlight projects and offers a global directory.

Benefits of green spaces

Dr Anna Barker, Associate Professor in Criminal Justice and Criminology at Leeds’ School of Law, leads the project.

She said: “In the UK and abroad, public parks are much-loved and treasured communal areas, and have been particularly important during the pandemic.

“The benefits of green spaces are numerous, and range from promoting health and wellbeing among users to being a vital resource for communities while providing wide-ranging environmental benefits.

“The aim of the Parks & Green Space Portal is to bring together global expertise, share ideas and research, and provide evidence and support for policymakers.”

The Portal, which is endorsed by World Urban Parks, is managed by Keep Britain Tidy in partnership with Leeds and Sheffield universities.

Dr Nicola Dempsey, Senior Lecturer in Landscape Planning and Management at the University of Sheffield, is a partner on the project.

She said: “Research going on in universities doesn’t always get seen and shared as well as it could. The Portal is a great opportunity for academics to get our research out there and for us to connect with the professionals in the parks world.”

A space to share and learn

Allison Ogden-Newton OBE, Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said: “The ability of our parks and green spaces to adapt to the changing climate is dependent on the knowledge and skills of those charged with managing them.

“Our new Portal will provide a space where people can share and learn as we navigate the challenges resulting from global warming, as well as other issues that are common to parks around the world.

“It is a great addition to the resource and knowledge sharing initiatives we have developed during our tenure of the Green Flag Award programme.

“Sitting alongside our existing Resources Hub, it will champion the impact that academic evidence-based research can have, to boost the value and recognition of parks and the people who care for them on the ground.”

The Parks & Green Space Research Portal provides a free and accessible platform to connect researchers, policymakers and green space managers in the UK and internationally.

It aims to facilitate knowledge exchange and foster collaboration to inform the best practice management of parks and green spaces for the benefit of communities and the environment.

Global access

Luis Romahn, CEO of World Urban Parks said: “Access to information in a globalised world is critical to advancing the parks agenda.

“World Urban Parks celebrates this fantastic initiative that will provide access to cutting edge research that is both valuable and free, for parks professionals all around the globe.”

The portal received funding from the universities of Sheffield and Leeds via the UK Research and Innovation’s Strategic Priorities Fund and the Leeds Social Sciences Institute (LSSI) through its Economic and Social Research Council Impact Acceleration Account.

Professor Louise Waite, Director of Leeds Social Sciences Institute, said: “LSSI is thrilled to see the fruits of our funding for this project result in such fantastic resource in the shape of this Portal.

“We support colleagues to maximise impact from their research and the Portal will grow a global community of parks professionals and academics to further our knowledge and understanding of parks and green spaces, for the good of all.”

Further information

Founders of the Parks & Green Spaces Research Portal: Dr Anna Barker, School of Law, University of Leeds; Dr Nicola Dempsey, Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Sheffield; and Carl McClean, Keep Britain Tidy.

The Parks & Green Spaces Research Portal website is hosted by Green Flag Award.

short video highlights the Portal’s aims and objectives.

The Green Flag Award programme is run by the environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, under licence from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, in partnership with a network of National Operators around the world.

Keep Britain Tidy is a leading UK environmental charity. They set the standard for the management of parks and beaches, inspire people to be litter-free, to waste less and live more sustainably. They run campaigns and programmes including the Great British Spring Clean, Eco-Schools, Love Parks, Eco-Schools, the Green Flag Award for parks and green spaces and the Blue Flag/ Seaside Awards for beaches. Find out more about Keep Britain Tidy campaigns and programmes.