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

the attachments to this post:

1chestnut helen
1chestnut helen

9 Comments to “Green Matters (1)”

  1. IanVisits says:

    I think it is more a change in management than in fact.

    The Royal Parks already answer to the Culture Minister – so there is no change there at all.

    Putting the Mayor in charge basically means that the Parks will be something people can raise as an issue at Mayor’s Questions and harass him (or her) about.

    I doubt it will make much real difference as I would presume the Mayor would just nominate someone else to handle the political issues.

    However, if it means I can persuade them to let people into the undercroft under the Albert Memorial on occasional guided tours, then that will be good!

  2. Ebspig says:

    If Greenwich Park is run by some one who really cares about Greenwich Park, and appreciates how different it is to other parks, then it wouldn’t matter what the umbrella organisation was. And any opening of the tunnels needs to be handled as an adventure and a privilege!

  3. That’s NOT a Chestnut tree! (No, I dont know what it IS, but I know what its not!). The leaf form is completely wrong for it to be a chestnut tree.

  4. Are you sure, Capability? Then I’ve been eating something random and probably poisonous for yonks. Might explain the insanity…

  5. Mary says:

    Phantom – you might take note of the other parks in Greenwich which are not run by the local authority. South Park,Central Park and Memorial Park are currently managed by Homes and Communities Agency but will be passed to a trust eventually.
    I hope you don’t need to ask where they are.

  6. Steve says:

    As long as Greenwich Council or GHT don’t run it….

  7. Ebspig says:

    Sorry, insanity and blinding headache. “Different from…” Sorry Capability, a lot of us have eaten the fruit of that particular tree, and we all think we were munching sweet chestnuts.

  8. Capability Bowes says:

    Ah, Sweet Chestnut. I was thinking Horse Chestnut. Stand corrected.