Green Matters (1)
So – the Mayor of London is set to take over the running of Royal Parks. Anyone else a little uneasy about this?
I mean – I can’t say that I love everything Royal Parks does – they can be intransigent, dictatorial and opaque, not to mention unanswerable – but they do exist merely to look after Royal Parks, rather than having Park Keeperdom as just one of a ‘portfolio’ (see – I can use the jargon, too) of responsibilities.
I’m sure that in the first instance everything would be rosy – but as a long term arrangement, I’m not too sure. Sure, Heritage Minister John Penrose is saying now that there will be “safeguards against unsuitable developments” but – hang on – what about ANY developments? What guarantee will we have that maintenance budgets that may well be ring-fenced at the handover, don’t quietly get morphed into the rest of the pot (more jargon, I’m getting good at this) and go to funding some mayoral vanity project to reintroduce the horse-driven Omnibus in 2018?
Just look what’s happened with protected views – whose widths narrow and expand like a crash-dieter’s waist with each new mayoral incumbent. And that’s just what you can see – I am edgy about allowing a mayor (any mayor) get his/her hands on the actual soil of Royal Parks. Whether it’s Ken, who’d cover the lot with tower blocks, Jenny, who’d probably divide it all up into allotments or Boris who’d have trouble finding Greenwich Park in the first place, I just plain don’t trust ‘em. And nor would I trust any future Culture Secretary who’d have the ultimate power of veto. Anyone who doesn’t have a single issue to work towards will always be forced to make compromises.
For those who say ‘good riddance; Royal Parks was complicit in the Olympics,’ don’t imagine that a Mayor of London wouldn’t have done exactly the same thing, faced with pressure like that from the IOC and LOCOG – and probably with less of a heavy heart.
And as to the sniffy Culture, Media and Sport ‘insider’ (whatever that means) who dismisses it all with “There’s lots of tension and anxiety from the well-heeled folk who live around the park about the news,” I am neither well-heeled nor (sadly) do I live around the park. I just give a damn about it, which I can’t guarantee that a future Mayor would.
There is one possibly interesting thing that might come out of it. For years Royal Parks have been a brick wall when it’s come to anyone investigating what lies under the park in the way of tunnels. Perhaps a future Mayor would be a little more lenient towards letting people like the chaps from Subterranean Greenwich have a poke around. Not, I imagine, that he/she’d be any more interested than Royal Parks in my dream of opening them up to the public.
What do you think? Am I (as usual) overdramatising a simple change in responsibilities?
PS – thanks to Helen for the lovely picture of the Chestnut trees
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