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Chair’s Welcome

I am delighted as Chair of the Friends to welcome you to our website. Bushy Park and Home Park are two wonderful large green oases in the south west corner of London. Feeling wild, they are natural places with ancient histories, fascinating heritage and superb wildlife. Both are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) containing rare species. These are places to be enjoyed and conserved. Which is why the Friends exist, campaigning, supporting and protecting the parks, and enhancing visitors’ enjoyment with information, advice and guidance.

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Royal Parks Transfer: Latest Update

Meeting of London Assembly Environment Committee & Royal Parks 12th October

The Friends of Bushy and Home Parks along with the Friends of the other Royal Parks have been asked to give their comments to the questions that are to be on the agendas for the 12th October meeting.

FBHP and FRP (Friends of Richmond Park) have amalgamated their responses as they are broadly similar parks and many of our concerns are the same, so I thought it sensible to send a joint statement as we are already co-operating on the Richmond and Bushy Parks Forum (RBPF).

The questions the committee are to discuss are in italics and our responses follow. There is also a reminder of the 7 point plan which the FBPF issued in December last year, and a list of the 38 local groups who have joined the Forum.

THE FRIENDS OF BUSHY AND FRIENDS OF RICHMOND PARKS SUBMISSION TO: The London Assembly Environment Committee and Royal Parks meeting on 12th October

When the transfer of the Royal Parks to the Mayor was first proposed, The Friends of Bushy Park and The Friends of Richmond Park combined to create the Richmond and Bushy Parks Forum with 36 other local organisations (see list below). In principle we were not against the idea, but issued a 7 point plan (see below) which, if implemented, we believe would help to enhance and protect the Royal Parks. The statement from the Minister two months ago upheld some of our points but did not react to others.

Your e-mail of 24th August suggests that the agenda for the meeting on 12th October will consider responses to the following questions. The Friends of Bushy and Richmond Parks wish to have the following points considered by the Committee.

How will biodiversity in the Royal Parks be preserved and enhanced?

1. SSSI status should be implemented without delay for Bushy Park. This has been discussed in the past by TRP and Natural England and there seem to be no objections in principle but it has not been progressed; we would like the Environment Committee to request TRP to pursue it as a matter of urgency.

2. The new Royal Parks Board should have an independent expert from Natural England or a person they recommend to strengthen our ecology and biodiversity concerns. The current board does not have such a figure.

3. There should be a strengthening of the environment and wildlife expertise in both the new management and staff. Only one of the senior management of TRP has such experience. Wildlife officers have recently been cut in numbers. This decision should be reversed to combat the threats to the ecology.

The biodiversity of Richmond and Bushy Parks is under pressure. In the last 50 years, Richmond Park alone has lost such species as the grey partridge, bullfinch, brown hare and water shrew. Its 40,000 oaks and horse chestnuts are threatened by various diseases; it is likely that significant numbers will be lost in the next 10-20 years. The same problems threaten Bushy Park too.

How will visitors to the parks be encouraged and enabled to reduce their environmental impact?

This can encouraged by public education and the enforcement of the park regulations, including the use of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs). All the Royal Parks Friends, along with TRP and MPs, have been lobbying for almost 5 years for the introduction of FPNs for litter, dog fouling and off-track cycling, giving TRP similar powers to a local council. The proposal has been agreed in principle by all parties but then held up by other considerations. We would urge the Environment Committee to push for their introduction.

How do TRP balance the benefits of commercial events and other intensive uses of the parks against the environmental impacts?

Commercial events should only be allowed if appropriate to their setting; neither Bushy nor Richmond Parks is appropriate for such events on any scale. However, commercial pressures are pushing TRP to override these considerations. The SSSI status of Richmond and proposed status of Bushy demands that there should be an Environmental Risk Assessment before any event is planned. The income from such event should be worthwhile; some recent events have produced very little income. Our view is that significant revenue; sufficient to cover the operating costs of the two Parks could be generated by toll charging on through traffic. This would have the added benefit of reducing traffic and therefore pollution in the parks.

How do TRP promote sustainable transport including walking and cycling?

1. All transport used by Royal Parks should be fuel efficient, sensitive to the environment and the lowest possible carbon emissions.

2. Any large numbers of walkers or cyclists will have an impact on the grassland. It should managed better, so as not to cause disturbance to the wildlife and ecology. Creating more cycle paths often opens up areas of parkland that have been relatively untouched, leading to disturbance of wildlife and erosion of the surrounding ecology. This has been the experience of recent new cycle paths in Richmond Park.

What role could TRP have in boosting sports participation and access?

As with all events in the parks it should be sensitive to the environment. Off road cycling can cause considerable damage to the grassland, and can be a nuisance to other park users. In contrast, horse riding, kite flying, individual running on well-defined paths, or road cycling do not have a significant impact, providing the Park regulations are followed – for example speed limits are obeyed. Sporting activities should be encouraged by better management of the areas involved. For instance, 750 runners on the same grass area every weekend must have a compaction effect on the grassland and cause erosion.

As with all visitor attractions of open spaces, the biggest threat faced by the Royal Parks is the increasing numbers of visitors and the increasing intensity of their use of the Parks. Access should be encouraged, but access to enjoy the beauties of the Park and not to destroy the very thing people come to see.

What opportunities and challenges may come with the Olympic and Paralympic Games?

The Olympic road cycling races will go through Bushy and Richmond Parks, and the Cycling Time Trial will use Bushy Park. They provide an opportunity for a great spectacle.

The test run in August highlighted some major problems. There was mass cycling across some sensitive grassland areas to get to the course, despite barriers being in place. Temporary bike parks should be installed for the Olympics to save the grassland. LOCOG had promised that the stewards and marshals would be briefed about the ecology, and would direct people to avoid sensitive areas and hand out educational leaflets. In the event there were only a few of them and most were not briefed at all. The Friends’ Reviews of the trial event should be carefully considered, including the further preservation of the parklands. The number of spectators next year is expected to at least treble, which will just make this years’ problem worse next year.

What changes are anticipated as a result of the Mayor’s new role in governance of TRP?

1. We are concerned that the new governance could reduce the priority on protecting the environment of both Bushy and Richmond Parks and increase the priority on using them for commercial and sports activities that give short-term political advantage. Management of the ecology of the Parks requires a very long-term view (50 years and more), and that protected by short-term political considerations.

2. It is imperative that the new Board should have on it independent experts from organisations such as Natural England for the ecology; English Heritage for historic buildings; and the Royal Horticulture Society for the gardens, or independent representatives with similar expertise, so that the ecology, infrastructure and the environment can be equally protected.

3. There should also be statutory local consultative committees for each park or group of parks, and representation on the new Board from local park users and other groups who use the on a regular basis and know them well, such as Friends Groups and Wildlife Groups. Hampstead Heath provides a model for how such a mix of Board members can work well.

Ron Crompton, Chairman The Friends of Richmond Park
Pieter Morpurgo, Co-chairman The Friends of Bushy and Home Parks
(Co-chairs The Richmond and Bushy Parks Forum)

Richmond and Bushy Parks Forum Transfer of The Royal Parks to the Mayor of London Points to be incorporated in transfer arrangements

The Localism Bill, secondary legislation or a binding agreement between central government and the Mayor should set out mandatory requirements for the future management of the Royal Parks. The following points should be included:

1. The 8 Royal Parks should be kept together
o Bushy Park should include the Longford River

2. TRP should be kept as a single, semi-independent entity and retain its own management support functions, such as property management, commercial, marketing, finance, HR, IT
o Individual parks should keep their own management teams
o Current Park Managers should be retained

3. There should be a central TRP Board, with executive powers
o The Board should include representatives from local Boards, and external experts in ecology, historic buildings/landscape and managing large parks
o Its executive powers should include approval of TRP’s strategy, policies, budget, main spending programmes and significant new initiatives

4. There should be local statutory consultative Boards for each Park or group of Parks
o Richmond and Bushy could have a combined Board
o Local Boards should include representatives from local councils, local user , wildlife, friends, amenity and conservation groups, concessionaires, park management and outside expertise (e.g. for RP/BP in managing SSSI/NNRs)
o TRP/MoL should have a statutory duty to consult local Boards on all matters

5. There should be specific commitments to environmental protection.
o A commitment to get SSSI status for Bushy Park, with funds allocated.
o No further cuts in maintenance of green spaces within the Royal Parks

6. There should be protection against further significant commercialisation
o No concerts, new sports pitches, intensive sports or national events in RP/BP
o Revenue raising only from options with low environmental impact

7. Central government funding and commercial income should be ring-fenced, i.e. only able to be spent on the Parks
o It should include a programme and resources for reducing the £56 million maintenance backlog

Notes to the Points
• Introduction. Prompted by the lack of consultation and information over the proposed transfer of the Royal Parks to the Mayor, the Richmond and Bushy Parks Forum was formed with a mission “to provide input from a wide range of local stakeholders in the two Parks on the governance, protection and enhancement of the Parks for current and future generations of park users”. It comprises 30 bodies – Friends, users, local amenity and conservation groups, and organisations operating in the two Parks.
• Introduction. Strong governance and protections are important because the Mayor will have fewer constraints on his action from the Assembly than the Minister currently has from Parliament. The Royal Parks agency is currently part of DCMS and the Minister is accountable to Parliament, which can override his decisions (as the Lords attempted to do on parking charges). The London Assembly does not have similar powers over the Mayor; it can only scrutinise his actions and vote down the whole annual budget (not individual items). The Localism Bill proposes that the Assembly can override the Mayor’s strategies with a two-thirds majority, but this is still less power than Parliament has with its simple majority.
• Point 1: Longford River was built as a canal to feed Bushy Park (and Hampton Court), and keeping it in TRP will ensure the supply of water. It is a green or natural ecological corridor linking the River Colne with the River Thames, and important for fish, invertebrates and water fowl.
• Point 2: At present TRP is a semi-independent agency within DCMS (of which it is legally part). It has all its own management support functions (e.g. ecology, property management, commercial, marketing, education, finance, HR and IT), although it relies on DCMS for some expert advice, e.g. in legal and pensions; even so, it suffers from some bureaucracy and sometimes slow/poor response by the centre to park management. There is talk from MoL of changing TRP from a semi-independent agency into a department within the GLA – because making it (in GLA terms) a “functional body” or its equivalent would be legally difficult – and merging some or all of its functions other than direct park management into other GLA departments. This would undermine the identity and effectiveness of TRP, introduce another layer of bureaucracy and poor response, and risk losing valuable expertise; also, the GLA administration has a poor reputation for effectiveness. Therefore, a way should be found for TRP to remain as a separate entity, retaining all its present management support functions.
• Point 2: The current structure of park management teams should be retained to ensure local management is responsive to the needs of each park and its stakeholders. Current park managers should be retained for the foreseeable future (say 3-5 years), subject to normal performance review, to provide continuity and expertise to implement any changes.
• Point 3: The 23 July agreement between the Mayor, the London Assembly and London councils about the central Board is for 4 Mayoral appointments, including the Chairman, and 3 council reps; the Mayor’s office has recently agreed to add a Palace nominee. This is narrow in terms of both stakeholders and expertise. The Board should include representatives of local stakeholders (say one person from each local Board) to ensure local input, and expert appointees from outside bodies, e.g. the ecology member from Natural England, historic buildings expertise from English Heritage, large parks management expertise from the National Trust or the Corporation of London (which manages Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest); all of these need to be non-political appointees. Such a structure is not unusual; for example, Hampstead Heath, which is managed by the City of London, has a Management Board with a majority of City representatives, but also representatives from local stakeholders, Natural England and English Heritage.
• Point 3: The Board’s executive powers would cover TRP’s strategy, policies, budget, main spending programmes and large new initiatives. The Mayor would still have the power to direct the Board to do something if required. The alternative of a purely consultative body does not provide constraints on the Mayor – it can be ignored by him, with its only recourse being to make its disagreement public.
• Point 4: Local Boards for each park or group of parks ensure that local stakeholder views and knowledge are input to TRP decisions, and it is responsive to local conditions, thereby avoiding situations such as parking charges. The Forum has agreed that there can be one Board for Bushy and Richmond. Members should all be selected and appointed by stakeholder groups on a basis agreed when the Boards are set up. The Boards would be statutory consultative, i.e. TRP/MoL would have to consult them on matters affecting that park or group of parks. Hampstead Heath is an example of such a statutory consultative arrangement, and there is a good working relationship between the Management Board, park management and local stakeholders.
• Point 5: Richmond Park has good environmental protection from its status as a SSSI, NNR, SAC and local Conservation Area; of these the most important is SSSI. Bushy Park has been considered for SSSI status and there was the intention to designate it in 2011. Cuts in both TRP and Natural England make this problematic, and the Mayor should be required to pursue it, with the necessary funding. TRP already prioritises maintenance of green spaces, but spending is still being cut by 12% under the CSR. Green spaces are the defining characteristic of both Richmond and Bushy Parks and should be protected from further cuts.
• Point 6: Reports suggest MoL sees the Royal Parks as prime entertainment and sporting venues; certainly its application to put large screens in Regent’s Park for the World Cup and Assembly members’ demands for more football pitches are not a good omen. Entertainment and more sports in the two parks would damage their ecology and tranquillity, and urbanise them further, while raising relatively little money.
• Point 6: TRP is currently testing new revenue raising options, including a farmers’ market and selling Christmas trees in Richmond Park. Both of these small-scale activities raise very little money (it would need 30-50 of these a year to offset all of the funding cuts in Richmond Park). But cumulatively they have a major impact on the character and environment of the Park. Revenue raising should only come from large, low environmental impact activities.
• Point 7. TRP’s income comes from two sources – government funding (currently 60% of income but reducing to under 50% with the CSR cuts), and commercial income (the rest). Both sources should be ring-fenced for the Parks, i.e. it cannot be spent on anything else and the Mayor cannot divert them to other uses. The case for government funding being ring-fenced is obvious. Commercial income is derived from assets that central government has entrusted to the Mayor through the transfer, so it should also be ring-fenced.
• Point 7: With the transfer of the Royal Parks, DCMS is also transferring a maintenance backlog of £56 million, mainly for buildings, which has reduced from £64 million in the last 2-3 years. There should be an agreed programme and resources for eliminating the backlog, maybe over 5-10 years, funded jointly by central government and MoL.
Richmond and Bushy Parks Forum
16 December 2010
Secretary: max.lankester@btinternet.com

RICHMOND AND BUSHY PARKS FORUM MEMBERS – December 2010

Bushy Park Wildlife Group
Bushy Park Education Volunteers
Environment Trust for Richmond
Esher and Walton Conservatives
Friends of Bushy and Home Parks
Friends of Palewell Common
Friends of Richmond Park
Ham and Petersham Association
Hampton Hill Association
Hampton Hill Cricket Club
Hampton Society
Hampton Wick Association
Hampton Wick Royal Cricket Club
Holly Lodge Centre
Kingston Society
Kingston Stables
London Dynamos Cycling Club
London Parks and Gardens
London Wildlife Trust
Molesey Residents Association
Petersham Conservators
Pembroke Lodge
Queens Road (Teddington) Residents’ Association
Richmond Environment Network
Richmond Hill Terrace Residents Association
Richmond Park Charitable Trust
Richmond Park Flora Group
Richmond Park Wildlife Group
Richmond Society
Royal Ballet School
Safer Parks Panel, Richmond Park
Strawberry Hill Association
Teddington Cricket Club
Teddington Town Cricket Club
Teddington Rugby Club
Teddington Society
Weybridge Society
Wimbledon Common Conservators

Compiled by Pieter Morpurgo

Walks & Talks

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A perimeter walk of Home Park led by Nicholas Garbutt was enjoyed by over 45 people on 2nd September.

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