Hats off to Peninsula ward councillor Mary Mills – one of a tiny, tiny minority of Greenwich Labour representatives comfortable with speaking publicly to constituents – for letting us know about a meeting she had about Greenwich Park. One of the many topics she raises could be a big issue in the years to come, since City Hall is eyeing up the Royal Parks…
Cuts were followed by a report on the move to give the Royal Parks to the London Mayor’s office which is expected to be part of an imminent Parliamentary Bill. To my mind this is crazy since it will involved the recreation of the old GLC Parks Department at vast public expense – and for what reason??? If they have to give them to anyone, the City of London administers other parks in the Greater London area and has pots and pots of cash.
At the moment, Greenwich Park is run by the Royal Parks Agency, which is run by the government. (Until recently, it even had its own police force.) It seems to do a good job, although the row over the Olympics has created lots of bad feeling. It makes much of its money through parking charges and hiring parks out for events, notably Hyde Park concerts.
There’s a precedent for handing these parks over to the mayoralty; Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square were handed over to it in 2000. This has seen great improvements in Trafalgar Square, although plans to pedestrianise Parliament Square were canned by Boris Johnson when he took office. While perhaps London’s most important parks should be run on behalf of all Londoners – Blackheath, Burgess Park and Crystal Palace Park were run by the old GLC, for example – this could submit these parks to political turbulence.
Then again, if local people having a say in running Greenwich Park is important, why not give it to Greenwich Council as a present to mark becoming a royal borough in 2012? Greenwich is one of London’s greenest boroughs, and already looks after important spaces like Plumstead Common and Oxleas Woods.
Or then there’s Mary’s suggestion that the City of London takes it on. The City crest may look out of place around Westminster, but we’re miles away from there and the corporation’s responsibilities already include the lush spaces of Hampstead Heath, Epping Forest and West Wickham Common. It certainly has money – but isn’t exactly democratic.
Anyway, what you reckon? I thought I’d try holding a poll to see what 853 readers think.