At the October 2022 meeting of the Barnet Green Spaces Network it was agreed that a short questionnaire would be sent to members of the Network asking about the support they could offer each other and the support that they needed to run their Friends group and look after their site.
Of the approximately 40 members of the Network 21 responded to the questionnaire. Only one response per site was invited and members were asked to co-ordinate responses, so this is a survey of groups, not individuals. The survey was open from 28th October until 26th November and was run using Google Forms. Some of the questions were set by the Biodiversity Officer.
Because of the small sample size and the open-ended nature of some of the questions, this report uses a narrative approach to reporting the findings.
Conclusions from the Survey were:
The Friends groups that replied to this survey in general feel that they lack the necessary technical skills to manage and care for their open space. In particular there was a demand for training in general site management, ecology and tree management. Groups were in far less need of support with general administration and financial management, although help with fundraising was highlighted as desirable.
There was a call for Barnet to do more itself to maintain sites and the buildings and sports facilities that some contain. Related to this, it appears that Grounds staff and contractors need to be better trained in ecology and more careful with existing planting when working on sites.
It was thought that to improve biodiversity in the borough Barnet could change the mowing regimes and also create more meadows, wetlands and woodlands. Some groups felt that their sites were overused by people and dogs. There was a call for the public to be educated about ecology and the management of sites to help preserve existing and new planting.
It might also be time for a review of the insurance policy that covers volunteers working on sites to allow the use of some battery powered tools.
The Network could support groups in building better relationship with Greenspaces and other teams within the Environment team. This could help address the issue of finding contractors and dealing with neighbours as well as getting more support for individual sites.
Both Barnet and the Network could help with fundraising. Although Inclusion Barnet helps with this it may not be specific enough for individual groups.
Currently the Network does not have a website. A website could act as a repository of information for members and others involved in managing Friends groups and sites, but funding would be needed. Through the Network website, perhaps supported by Barnet Volunteering, a pool of volunteers who could be deployed to various sites as needed might be organised.
The Network is following up these findings with Barnet Council greenspaces officers. You can read the full report here: Barnet-Green-Spaces-Network-survey-report.pdf (PDF 42kB).