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.

The "enabling legislation" was due to be included in the Localism Bill, but it was published on December 13 without featuring anything on the transfer. We understand that this was because of delays in sorting out the legal aspects.

However, as of February 1, there is still no sign of any draft legislation on the transfer, and there seems to be confusion about how the government will introduce it. The most likely route remains an amendment to the Localism Bill; it was debated in principle in the Commons on January 17 and on February 1 started being considered in detail in the relevant Commons Committee, which is when an amendment would be introduced. We wait with bated breath!

In the meantime, the government (DCMS) issued a statement in mid-January, which can be downloaded below. Some plus points are that the Royal Parks agency will “become an integral but distinct part of the GLA”, implying that it will not be split up, that the GLA will be able to make bye-laws for the Parks which should improve policing, and that there will be a framework agreement between central government and the Mayor so he will operate under constraints. However, there is no mention of environmental protection and little about local consultation – both key points that we and other Friends of the Royal Parks are fighting for. 

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; a paper on options for Parks governance which the Forum discussed at its first meeting on September 21; and the DCMS statement referred to above.