It’s your space

CABE’s 2004 campaign stimulated communities to get involved in improving the open spaces around them, encouraging ordinary people who look at patches of wasted or underused land every day to feel that they can do something about improving them.

Urban Oasis

Urban Oasis, Manchester
Photo by A&M Photography

Launched as a follow up to the Wasted Space? campaign, CABE aimed to:

  • Inspire the public with examples of great spaces created by local communities
  • Empower people, encouraging them to engage with organisations that can help them to turn their ideas into reality

The value of public space

CABE launched The Value of Public Space, which demonstrated how good quality public space can bring huge health, educational, regeneration and other benefits. CABE named a number of spaces in the UK as ‘Inspiring Spaces’, great public space projects that were led by their local communities.

A website was launched full of information about what people can do to improve their environment, from volunteering to setting up a park friends’ group or applying for a grant.

Manifesto for better public spaces

CABE called for organisations and individuals to sign up to the Manifesto for Better Public Spaces. The manifesto sought to create a national consensus that parks and public spaces must be a political and financial priority. Fifteen hundred people signed up, showing real grass roots support for CABE’s campaign.

A national news release called for an end to the compensation culture that leads public spaces to be turned in to fun-free soulless places. It stimulated wide debate and was picked up by a diverse range of commentators, from the Sun’s Richard Littlejohn to Will Hutton in the Observer.

Regional spaces

Three regional campaigns in Sheffield, Gloucestershire and Greater Manchester helped people improve their environments in those areas. Regional newspaper competitions asked local people for ideas to improve wasted space in their neighbourhoods.  The campaign website provided information on regional organisations that could help put people’s ideas into action.

Parks and squares, who cares?

CABE asked signatories to the Manifesto for better public spaces to say what they thought about parks and public spaces. CABE expected to receive a robust endorsement of the Manifesto, but was overwhelmed by the strength of feeling with which people responded.

The vast majority – 91% – of the public believed that parks and public spaces improve people’s quality of life. Their views told CABE what the manifesto’s pledges meant ‘on the ground’: what happens when parks meet its ten-point standard, and what happens when they don’t. People described why they use parks – and why they would not. The results of this nationwide survey were launched at the 2005 Sustainable Communities Summit as Parks and squares, who cares?

Useful links

It’s our space: a guide for community groups working to improve public space

Guidance for anyone involved in a public space project for the first time, giving examples of great outdoor spaces led by community groups.