Green Flag Award

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Green Flag Award
2019 Green Flag Award
Greenflag logo.png
Logo of the Green Flag award
CountryUnited Kingdom
Presented byThe Green Flag Award
Reward(s)Award
First awarded1996; 24 years ago (1996) 
Last awarded 
Websitehttp://www.greenflagaward.org.uk/
Television/radio coverage
NetworkBBC Radio


The Green Flag Award® is a nonprofit international accreditation program that recognises and rewards well managed parks and green spaces. Originating in 1996 - today the Green Flag Award proudly flies above more than 2,000 places in over 15 countries around the world.

The Award is open to any free to enter park or green space, anywhere in the world. This includes but is not limited to City Parks, Neighbourhood Parks, Nature Reserves, Country Parks, University Campuses, Cemeteries/Burial Grounds, Woodlands, Community Gardens and Botanic and Historic Gardens. There is no limit on the size of the site; they currently range from less than one hectare to thousands of hectares.

Management[edit]

The scheme is owned by the UK Government through the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government, and managed internationally by UK environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy. Keep Britain Tidy deliver the program in England. A portfolio of partner organisations known as Green Flag Award 'operators' also deliver the program in other countries See http://www.greenflagaward.org/roi/ for further details.

Scope[edit]

The Green Flag Award® is the longest serving and most widely parks and green space accreditation program in the world - often cited as the 'international standard' for the sector. It is currently being delivered in: England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, France, Spain, Portugal, Finland, Sweden, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and the United States of America.

Purpose and Aims[edit]

  • To ensure that everybody has access to quality green and other open spaces, irrespective of where they live
  • To ensure that these spaces are appropriately managed and meet the needs of the communities that they serve
  • To establish standards of good management, and to promote and share best practice amongst the green space sector
  • To recognise and reward the hard work of managers, staff and volunteers

The concept of the Green Flag Award[edit]

Successful sites show that they manage a quality space with a clear idea of what they are trying to achieve, why, and who they seek to serve. Award applicants are judged against 27 different criteria and must submit their active management plan, showing that they understand:

  • the users – who they are, who they could be, what they want, how they are informed and involved
  • the site – what is special about its history, biodiversity, landscape, social and physical setting, and what it is trying to achieve; and
  • the management – that what is there is safe, in line with legislation and policy, well maintained, and that there are plans for the future

The flexible and useful management framework is the key to the Green Flag Award, making it relevant to any green space. It is deliberately conceived not to be a formulaic list of things to have or to do, but instead as a guide to the ways professionals and communities can approach the management of their sites. It also helps to quantify what they are doing now and in the future, helping to prove value to customers, colleagues and funders. Having a fully considered and fully costed management plan is the first step in ensuring that our green spaces are adequately funded. Good practice is shared between the site managers submitting their management plans for each site and the trained judges (often one and the same) who judge the sites. Each site that enters, whether or not it achieves the Green Flag Award standard, receives a detailed advisory report written by two expert judges – helping to share, recognise and reward good practice across the sector.

Raising the Standard - the Green Flag Award guidance manual[edit]

The Green Flag Award guidance manual, titled 'Raising the Standard' is designed for applicants and judges, to explain the process and the requirements of the Award. It goes through each of the Award criteria in detail, under eight section headings, explaining what exactly is being examined in each, the kind of evidence to submit, and what judges will be looking for in the desk assessment and on site. It also suggests issues for managers to consider during their decision-making process. Raising the Standard is free to download from the Green Flag Award website and is often used by landscape managers as a framework for writing management plans for parks and greenspaces as it addresses a wide range of considerations relating to the sector.

Award Criteria[edit]

Applicants are judged against 27 different criteria divided into eight sections. These are not a list of requirements – the strength of the Green Flag Award is that it provides a framework for good management that professionals can evaluate and apply to their own particular site. For some sites, some of the sub-criteria will be ‘not applicable’ and for every site their proportionate importance will vary widely. This approach provides a clear but flexible framework for current management and future planning, and helps to make a case for funding, proving the value of the site to the community that it serves (often in ways that are otherwise difficult to quantify) and recognising the hard work of staff and volunteers.


The eight Award criteria sections are:


  • A Welcoming Place

This section recognises the culmination of everything done well. A welcoming place is one that invites and draws people into it. This means creating a space which, through its visual appearance, range of facilities, standards of maintenance and ease of access, makes people feel that they are in a cared-for place.


  • Healthy, Safe and Secure

This section looks at how well managers understand their users’ needs, encouraging them to enjoy healthy activities using appropriate, safe-to-use facilities and activities, and to feel personally safe and secure.


  • Clean and Well Maintained

For aesthetic as well as health and safety reasons, issues of cleanliness and maintenance must be addressed, in particular: + litter and other waste management issues must be adequately dealt with; + grounds, buildings, equipment and other features must be well maintained; + policies on litter, vandalism and maintenance should be in place, in practice, and regularly reviewed.


  • Environmental Management

This section seeks to ensure that the way the site is managed has a positive impact on the environment, locally and globally, both now and for the future. Where choices can be made for future procurement, landscaping or buildings, they should aim to minimise energy and resource consumption and waste, and design in benefits to the local and global environment. Policies should seek to eliminate the use of peat and chemicals to control pests and as fertilisers. Horticultural and arboricultural decisions should reflect an understanding of the impacts of climate change.


  • Biodiversity, Landscape and Heritage

Attention should be paid to the appropriate management and conservation of natural features, wildlife and flora; landscape features; and buildings and structures. Their particular character and requirements should be identified and appropriate management strategies put in place to conserve and enhance them.


  • Community Involvement

This section examines the extent to which the managing organisation: + understands the community it seeks to serve; + actively and appropriately involves members of the community in making decisions about the site’s development; + provides opportunities for active participation in site projects; and + ensures that there is appropriate provision of recreational facilities and activities for all sectors of the community.


  • Marketing and Communication

This section seeks to examine the ways that managers understand the key benefits of the site and how they use this information to promote it appropriately. They should understand who the main user groups are, could be or should be, and use a fitting range of interpretation and engagement techniques to communicate with them. This basis ensures that appropriate facilities, events and activities can be offered and most effectively promoted, and forms a solid foundation for development now and in the future.


  • Management

This section evaluates the overall management being delivered including how well the Management Plan submitted as part of the application process is being implemented on site.

Awards Process[edit]

An application consists of a short online form and submission of your current Management Plan. Applications are submitted every year and are assessed by experienced judges over two stages:

1. A review of management documentation or Management Plan, known as the 'Desk Assessment'

followed by-

2. A judges site visit, known as the 'Field Assessment.

All applicants that meet the international standard receive the Green Flag Award flag in recognition of their success. Their accreditation is valid for 12 months, within which time they must re-apply for the following year to maintain accreditation.

Judges[edit]

Green Flag Award judges are trained parks and green space professionals who give their time voluntarily to support the program each year. There is currently a network of over 1,000 judges around the world including park & landscape managers and other sector related specialists. Anyone wishing to volunteer to become a judge can submit their CV to the Green Flag Award team through the website; If successful, they will be selected for a training course and then mentored closely for the first year by an experienced judge.

History[edit]

The Green Flag Award originated in England in 1996. Its formation was originally a direct response to the parlous state of the green space sector in the country at the time. Decades of underfunding had left many once proud and beautiful historic city centre parks derelict, dangerous, no-go areas, and many other green spaces neglected or barely maintained. Experts with a shared interest in promoting natural spaces from a range of backgrounds came together in response to this decline.

The Scheme was directed by a Steering Group made up of individuals and representatives of larger organisations, led by Mark Davis of the Pesticides Action Network UK, who worked closely with the following individuals to develop and drive the Scheme forward in these early years: Nick Reeves – ILAM (The Institute of Leisure and Amenity Management) and then of CIWEM (The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management); Ken McAnespie – KMC Consultancy; George Barker – English Nature; Allan Tyler – independent consultant; and Liz Greenhalgh – independent consultant. Their intention was to establish agreed standards of good management, to help to justify and evaluate funding and to bring people back into the parks. And it worked. As the Green Flag Award standard became established, other green spaces began to apply for the Award, and now Green Flag Award flags fly over parks, cemeteries and crematoria, recreation grounds, canals, reservoirs, educational campuses, hospital grounds, housing estates, nature reserves and allotments.

In 2008 the program started to expand as pilot studies into other countries - with the Netherlands being the first non-UK country to adopt the program. Keep Britain Tidy continue to introduce the program in to new countries every year - as a result of requests from parks and greenspace organisations or from individual park managers. An international development strategy focuses on developing the program sustainably for the benefit of the landscape sector in each country and on a fully nonprofit basis.

Green Heritage Site Accreditation[edit]

Green Heritage Site Accreditation is awarded to green spaces that are managed to Green Flag Award standards and also actively understand, identify, manage and promote the elements of their heritage that make that site unique. A Green Heritage Site must also hold the Green Flag Award (although it is possible to apply for both even in the first year). Green Heritage Site Accreditation promotes the value of, and best practice in, the care and upkeep of parks and other green spaces. Sites do not have to be on a National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens but, except in exceptional circumstances, would normally be at least 30 years old. Green Heritage Site Accreditation is sponsored in England by Historic England.

Green Flag Community Award[edit]

As well as the Green Flag Award, the Scheme also offers the Green Flag Community Award. This is aimed at sites that are managed by volunteers, or by community groups or organisations made up of volunteers. Sites must be solely managed by the community group – this means that all decisions, including financial ones, regarding the site are made by the organisation responsible for its management and maintenance – although certain aspects of the site’s maintenance may be undertaken by other bodies, for example the local authority.

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