As we have reported before, the coalition government plans to transfer responsibility for The Royal Parks (TRP) from central government to the Mayor of London.
Although the "enabling legislation" was due to be included in the Localism Bill, the Bill was published on December 13 without anything on the transfer. We understand that this was because of delays in sorting out the legal aspects. The transfer will probably be proposed as an amendment to the Bill as it goes through Parliament.
In the meantime, the Richmond and Bushy Parks Forum, made up of over 30 local organisations with a stake in the two Parks, met for the third time on December 14. It agreed a seven-point programme that we think would deliver effective and sustainable governance and funding of the Parks under the Mayor, and ensure that its management was accountable to local and national needs.
The Forum wants its seven points to be included either in primary or secondary legislation, or as part of a binding agreement between central government and the Mayor, similar to the Framework Agreement between government and the current Royal Parks agency when it was created in 1993.
These are the seven points, in summary:
1. The eight Royal Parks should be kept together
2. TRP should be kept as a single semi-independent entity with its own managment support functions
3. There should be a central TRP Board, with executive powers, and including local representatives and external experts
4. There should be a statutory consultative Board for each group of Parks, to include local stakeholders
5. There should be a specific commitment to environmental protection (eg SSSI status for Bushy Park)
6. There should be protection against further significant commercialisation
7. Central government funding and commercial income should be ring-fenced, ie only spent on the Parks.
The Forum has sent a paper setting out the seven points to the DCMS and the Mayor's Office and will be approaching them, local MPs, other interested MPs and members of the Lords to express its concerns and explain its reasoning. Below you can download the letter the Forum sent to the Minister, and a paper setting out the seven points in more detail, together with explanatory notes.
The Times covered the transfer extensively on November 23, with a full page article and a leader. The tone of the article was somewhat scare-mongering, but raised many of the issues we are concerned about. The leader was more balanced, pointing to the increasing encroachment of "festivals, monuments and artworks" on the space and tranquillity of the Parks, and arguing that the Parks are a national asset.
Below you can download the The Times' articles and leader, and also a paper on options for Parks governance which the Forum discussed at its first meeting on September 21.