(N37) The Mayor of London takes control of Royal Parks - 19 January 2011, Evening Standard, Pippa Crerar, City Hall Editor
Boris Johnson takes control of Royal Parks, with pledge to defend their character
The Royal Parks are finally to come under Boris Johnson's control but with strong safeguards to protect their traditional character.
The Mayor will take over day-to-day management of the eight historic green spaces - including Green Park, Hyde Park and Regent's Park - after the Olympic Games in 2012.
He will also have control of the £32 million budget and take key decisions on rock concerts, new cafés and shops, parking charges and leisure activities. However, the Culture Secretary will retain the power to intervene if the Mayor is thought to have compromised the national interest.
It is understood the previous government was concerned about a proposal by former mayor Ken Livingstone to reroute the Notting Hill Carnival through Hyde Park. While ministers are happy for Mr Johnson to continue putting on concerts and festivals, they are keen to avoid the commercialisation of the parks.
The Mayor will have to honour agreements with the royal household and Army for ceremonial use of the parks and agree to "quiet recreation" as a priority. Heritage minister John Penrose said: "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."
A Department for Culture, Media and Sport insider added: "There's lots of tension and anxiety from the well-heeled folk who live around the park about the news. But at the end of the day this is first and foremost a facility for people who live and work in London, and tourists, so it is more appropriate that the GLA manages them."
The Royal Parks, which also include Bushy Park, St James's Park, Richmond Park, Greenwich Park and Kensington Gardens, will be managed by a board appointed by the Mayor and the Queen.
Talks continue over responsibility for other green spaces in central London, such as Victoria Tower Gardens, Grosvenor Square Garden and Brompton Cemetery, which have been run by the Royal Parks.
Mr Johnson's economic adviser Anthony Browne said: "The Mayor's overriding objective is to ensure that the Royal Parks stay the best parks in the world, and are managed in a way that balances the interests of all those who enjoy them."
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28/1/2011 Last updated 28/1/2011