Sustainable Cities™

Lewisham, London: Park keepers create safer environments

The re-introduction of park keepers and the increased number of park staff in Lewisham creates improved life quality, employment for local citizens, better park maintenance, a significant reduction in the number of criminal incidents. Furthermore, the introduction of user groups has led to increased community engagement. In a time with credit crunch and unemployment Lewisham has found a way of creating better life quality, increased jobs and a safer environment.

Lewisham Park, 5. november 2007. Foto: Ewan-M, Flickr Creative Commons

In the London Borough of Lewisham a 10 year public-private partnership was initiated in 2000. The partnership between the Council of Lewisham and the green service provider Glendale Grounds Management is responsible for the maintenance of 46 parks and open spaces in the borough.

Lewisham and Glendale have cooperated to develop a skilled workforce and to retain skilled workers within the park's service. The improvement of the parks and open spaces generate jobs by recruiting most of the staff from the local community. Some of the employees are recruited from the local charity Envirowork Lewisham, which trains unemployed people in ground maintenance and other green space skills.

A common complaint about contracted-out park services is that the staff is anonymous and constantly changing. There is little sustained commitment to improve parks or meet users' needs. In this aspect the partnership between Lewisham and Glendale is particularly interesting since they have been addressing these concerns by reintroducing the 'park keeper' in Lewisham. Each park in the borough has the same park keeper 5 days a week in order to build familiarity with park users.

Brookmill Park, London Borough of Lewisham, 5 Oct 2008. Courtesy of Ewan-M, Flickr Creative Commons

The keepers are based in buildings within the parks, and their visible presence encourages the community to enter the parks, and help prevent vandalism and anti-social behaviour. Park keepers were one of the focal points in Lewisham's 'Visibly Safer' campaign, which aims to reassure residents that front line Council services keep people safe.

Apart from improvement and maintenance, the green spaces in Lewisham benefit from park staff who are included in community policing roles in a similar way to neighbourhood wardens, acting as the eyes and ears of the community. The dedicated park staff create a sustainable circle of improvement - their presence leads to better maintained parks which are perceived as safe and are better used. This helps to combat public fears and encourages even more people into parks. By increasing the park staff numbers in Lewisham, the number of residents describing parks as 'good to excellent' increased from 32 % in 1998 to 52 % in 2004. 

Establishing park user groups

Lewisham Council has established a number of 'green space' user groups, in which anyone can join in to actively involve the local community in the daily lives of the parks and open spaces. There are currently 18 groups established, each of them linked to specific parks and green spaces within the borough. The role of the user groups is to provide support to the contractor, Glendale, in the day-to-day management of the park. The support concerns areas such as litter clearance days, reporting defects, organising events within and associated with the park, promotion of the park and contact with Glendale's staff.


The innovative contract features performance-related payment and includes a significant upfront investment from Glendale, with £1.5 million being spent in the first three years. Lewisham used this investment to secure additional funding from the council and other sources including the Heritage Lottery Fund, EU Life Environment funding, and the Football Foundation. In 2008, the value of the parks management contract is around £3 million.

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014