Control of London’s eight Royal Parks is to pass to the Greater London Authority, Tourism Minister John Penrose confirmed today.
The transfer of the parks, which had been widely expected as part of the coalition’s drive to increase democratic oversight of public services, will require legislation to be passed by Parliament and will not take place until “post 2012”.
A statement issued by the Department for Culture Media and Sport confirms that the GLA will receive funding for the parks which will be “agreed at the outset” but “subject to future spending reviews.”
It is envisaged that control will pass from the Royal Parks Agency to a board chaired by a Mayoral appointee and comprising representatives from the London boroughs and a member “appointed by or on behalf of the Sovereign”.
The Mayor and new board will be bound by all existing arrangements between the Royal Parks Agency, the Royal Household and armed forces for ceremonial use of the parks “which should have overriding priority.”
As part of the transfer of the parks, a framework setting out the maintenance of the parks and safeguarding their “primary use” as a place of “quiet recreation by the public” will be established.
The GLA will also be granted a new power to make bye-law covering the parks, subject to agreement by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
Mr Penrose said the coalition believed it was time to make the parks ” more accountable to the public, and to do so by passing responsibility for their continued success to the Mayor, rather than a remote figure in national government.”
The Minister added: “But the current identity and character of the Parks must not change, so sensible safeguards against unsuitable developments and activities would be put in place too. They are a precious asset for Londoners and it is only right that local people – the Parks’ everyday customers – have a full and proper say in their future.”
Ministers will bring bring the relevant legislation before Parliament “when the opportunity arises.”
News of the transfer was welcomed by Green Party London Assembly Member Darren Johnson who said: “I welcome plans to devolve the running of the Royal Parks to the Mayor of London so that there is more direct accountability to Londoners.
“The Mayor will need to ensure the right balance is struck between big events and the everyday needs of parks users. We don’t want to see the parks overcommercialised and the Mayor needs to take steps to ensure the Royal parks are more wildilfe friendly and provide decent facilities for park users like water fountains.”
The eight parks are:
• Bushy Park,
• The Green Park,
• Greenwich Park,
• Hyde Park,
• Kensington Gardens,
• The Regent’s Park including Primrose Hill,
• Richmond Park
• St. James’s Park.
In 2006 a transfer of powers from the DCMS to City Hall saw the Mayor and GLA gain responsibility for funding and appointing members to the board of the Museum of London, a role it shares with the City of London Corporation.