8th September 2019

PROTECTING OUR PARKS: A legal perspective on protecting parks and green spaces

As Summer of Parks discusses protecting parks, our penultimate staff blog comes from our Solicitor, Stanka Dimova, who shares a legal perspective on our work to protect green spaces for good.

I have been working at Fields in Trust since 2012 and feel so fortunate to have such a vital role in the protection of green spaces across the UK when they are facing the greatest threats due to budget cuts. My passion for parks and open spaces comes quite naturally.

Growing up in the small town of General Toshevo in Bulgaria with abundance of green spaces within a short walking distance, my most cherished childhood memories are playing for long hours at the playground, in the park and the woods with other kids in the neighborhood. There was not a single overweight or unhappy child in our locality and I believe that would not have been the case if we did not live within an area with free access to the green environment.

Supported by my wonderful colleagues, a Paralegal and Development Managers, over the past seven years I have dealt with hundreds of dedications and liaised with as many landowners across the UK including parish councils, town councils and local authorities as well as private landowners, charities and sports clubs.

In this blog I wish to tell you about my work, the support I offer landowners during the protection process and especially how I help in resolving any difficulties.

The dedication process is really straightforward - in essence it involves me checking that the applying organisation owns the land to be dedicated and there are no covenants or third-party rights that conflict with the recreational purpose of the green space. I will then draft a Deed of Dedication and discuss this with the applicant and once agreed, arrange for it to be signed by all parties. To complete the process, we register a restriction and a notice at the Land Registry which is an effective way of legally protecting the land in perpetuity for public recreational use. It prevents registration of a dealing with the property such as a transfer, lease or easement without the written consent of Fields in Trust.

"I enjoy working with the landowner to find a solution, especially when it is obvious how important it is to them and local communities to have their green space protected for future generations to enjoy."
Stanka Dimova, Fields in Trust Solicitor

Protected space

Whilst some large local authorities have legal representation, many do not have solicitors acting for them, so I offer them as much support as I can to enable the process of protecting the land to run smoothly. For example, I will obtain title documents from the Land Registry, assist with the preparation of the plan for the Deed and explain the provisions in the Deed, always helping to translate legal phrases into plain English.

It is important that only publicly accessible recreational land, such as public parks, playing fields and recreation grounds, is dedicated. As every space has different facilities and uses, we make sure that buildings that are not ancillary to the main use are left out of the dedication. Sometimes we encounter problems such as missing documents, or an existing covenant on the land but I enjoy working with the landowner to find a solution (which in the vast majority of cases we find!), especially when it is obvious how important it is to them and local communities to have their green space protected for future generations to enjoy.

There is nothing more disappointing than when an application gets withdrawn especially after a lot of hours have been spent drafting and answering queries. Fortunately, that is a rare occurrence and I always remain hopeful that the green space will be safeguarded at some point in future.

It always fascinates me how some applicants find our Deed too restrictive and wish to have the absolute freedom to deal with the site as they wish without any restrictions, whereas others will consider the Deed too flexible and would even want absolute prohibition on disposing the land. For further information on this, please see our article on what protection means from earlier this week. We have worked hard over the years to strike the right balance and produce a Deed of Dedication that is as robust as it is flexible and enables local owners and communities to do what they do best and manage the green space. Fields in Trust would only then get involved at some point in the future if the recreational use might be affected by something and that's when our Deed of Dedication really comes into its own.

It is incredibly rewarding to look back and think of the 2,809 green spaces legally protected forever for all generations to enjoy, and I say to myself: "It is worth it!"

 

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Stanka's Favourite Five

Favourite childhood park: People called it the Railway Station Park. It was right next to our house in General Toshevo, Bulgaria where I grew up so I played there every day after school.

Favourite local park: On Saturday morning, I love to play basketball with my family in Dulwich Park and then have a cup of hot chocolate in the café.

Favourite overseas park: Sea Garden in Varna, Bulgaria is the largest landscaped park in the Balkans (26,000 m2). It offers beautiful views of the Black Sea and activities for every age.

Favourite park memory: Playing hide and seek with my friends when I was a child.

Favourite thing to do at the park: Jogging in the park clears my mind and makes me calm and happy.

 

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Stanka DimovaStanka Dimova is Fields in Trust's Solicitor. She can be contacted by any of the below means.

t: 0207 427 2116
e: stanka.dimova@fieldsintrust.org

 

Stanka Dimova is a solicitor at Fields in Trust. She joined the organisation as a Legal Officer in 2012 and was admitted to the Roll of Solicitors for England and Wales in 2013. Stanka previously worked as a paralegal at a south-west London law firm for two years, before which she was an advocate for four years in Varna, Bulgaria. Her role is very broad and ranges from dealing with various Deeds including Deeds of Dedication, Licences, Leases and Transfers to handling Fields Change Request cases.