The Green Flag Award Scheme celebrates its silver jubilee

Logo: Green Flag Award

2021 will see the prestigious Green Flag Award for parks and green spaces presented for the 25th Year.

The Green Flag Award® scheme recognises and rewards well managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for the management of recreational outdoor spaces across the United Kingdom and around the world. Originally developed by the industry in response to declining standards, 2061 parks in the UK currently fly the flag, having achieved the highest benchmark as set out in the award criteria.

People standing with Green Flag banner in Victoria Park London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Victoria Park (London Borough of Tower Hamlets)

The eight main criteria of the Green Flag Award are;

  • A Welcoming Place
  • Healthy Safe and Secure
  • Well Maintained and Clean
  • Environmental Management
  • Biodiversity, Landscape and Heritage
  • Community Involvement
  • Marketing and Communication
  • Management

Each site is judged on an annual basis, this consists of an assessment of the site management plan and an on-site assessment to ensure standards are being met and the plan is being delivered.

Green Flag Award Judge, Salama Saeed Alketbi, UAE – Green Flag Award
Green Flag Award Judge, Salama Saeed Alketbi, UAE (Green Flag Award)

Following assessment each site receives a detailed feedback report highlighting strengths and recommendations. One of the main benefits of the programme is the advice and guidance provided by our Judges, if a site is unsuccessful then this can be used to improve the site and ensure it meets and continues to achieve the standard in future years.

Formal judging is also supplemented by mystery shop assessments that can take place at any time to ensure standards are maintained throughout the year. It also provides invaluable feedback from a user perspective.

The scheme is supported by over 1000 judges who have given hundreds of thousands of hours to the programme over its 25 years, carrying out assessment and providing professional advice to park managers across the world, without their support the scheme would not be the success it is today. The scheme is always looking for new judges, further details and the application process can be found on the website

Each year a week of celebrations takes place when flags are presented and raised proudly above the winning parks and green spaces. It also provides an opportunity to thank all the staff and volunteers who have worked so hard to achieve and maintain the standard.

The website contains a plethora of useful information about the programme including a ‘Parks and Green Spaces Resource Hub’ which has information to support people achieve the standard as well as publications that highlight the value of parks and green spaces e.g. to people health, climate change, investment and biodiversity.

Building lit up at night, Green Flag Award winner Caldecott Park, Rugby Borough Council
Green Flag Award winner Caldecott Park (Rugby Borough Council)

The history of the award

In 1996 a group of individuals and organisations came together in response to the decline in funding and quality of our parks and green spaces to develop a national standard to measure quality and to provide a framework for improvement. In the initial years the scheme was managed by ILAM on behalf of the Green Flag Award steering group, in 1999 the administration of the programme transferred to The Civic Trust and was managed by them until 2009, during this period the ownership of the Award was transferred to the UK Government, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, now the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government, who invested in the programme so that by 2009 over 1,000 parks and green spaces were proudly flying the flag. The scheme was now in all UK nations and had been trialled in The Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland.

In 2002 the Green Pennant Award, now called the Green Flag Community Award was launched for sites managed by volunteers or community groups, there are now 349 winners.

People holding a banner in Presidio, San Francisco - First Green Flag Award in USA  - Presidio Trust
Presidio, San Francisco - First Green Flag Award in USA (Presidio Trust)

During 2003 with the support of Historic England the Green Heritage Site Accreditation was launched to recognise those Green Flag Award winning sites that, recognise, conserve, enhance and promote and share the historic value of their park of green space. A total of 109 sites are in receipt of the accreditation.

2009 saw the management of the scheme transferred to a consortium of Keep Britain Tidy, BTCV and Greenspace and to sole management by Keep Britain Tidy in 2012.

Over 25 years the type of sites applying for the awards has diversified, with cemeteries and crematoria, canals, university campuses and museums now some of the 2221 sites across the world in receipt of the Award, along with many traditional parks, country parks and community gardens.

2008 saw the first International Award when sites in The Netherlands first received their Awards at a ceremony in Liverpool. The scheme has since expanded to include 14 countries outside the UK including the USA, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand and Spain.

In 2020 our normal ceremonies were not able to take place due to Covid-19 restrictions so the announcement was accompanied by parks and building across the country being lit green to celebrate, sites include Canada Tower at Canary Wharf, the Liverpool Waterfront, and the white cliffs at award-winning Samphire Hoe in Dover

The 2021 winners will be announced on 14th October. Hopefully included in the winning parks for 2021 will be four of the original parks who have been in the scheme since its inception and whom flew their first Green Flag Award back in 1997.

The last 18 months has seen parks use increase dramatically and valued as never before, we hope to see future investment to ensure everyone has access to a Green Flag Award quality green space.

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