Plans to launch a new organisation to manage and fundraise for London’s Royal Parks have been given the go ahead by the government.
Update 4 July 2016 - Royal Parks welcome Loyd Grossman CBE as new Chairman
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has given the green light to plans by The Royal Parks Agency and the Royal Parks Foundation (the charity for the Royal Parks) to create a new public corporation. They will now begin the process of applying for charitable status from the Charity Commission.
The new charitable body will take over the role of managing the parks from The Royal Parks Agency (TRP), which last year spent £36.6m maintaining the 5,000 acre estate. It will also build on the role of fundraising currently undertaken by the Royal Parks Foundation (RPF).
Of the £36.6m annual cost of managing the parks, about 65 per cent is self-generated through events, sponsorship, donations, catering, grants, lottery funding, licences, rental income from lodges, filming and photography. The rest of the Parks’ income (35 per cent) comes from a DCMS grant.
With more than 77 million visitors a year (Ipsos MORI 2015) and decreasing government funding, this means maintaining high standards and a public satisfaction rate of 98% (Ipsos MORI 2015) is becoming increasingly challenging.
The new charitable public corporation will be increasingly self-sustaining, and so will be able to manage the parks even more efficiently, with better services provided at a lower cost while maintaining excellent visitor satisfaction.
One single charitable body at arm’s length from government can also present a more compelling case for support to corporate sponsors, private donors and charitable trusts, as well as attracting new volunteers.
Andrew Scattergood, the Chief Executive of The Royal Parks, said:
“This is an exciting new era for the Royal Parks – one which will see evolution rather than revolution. What the public see from the parks won’t change dramatically, but how we manage them will.
“Bringing TRP and the Foundation together means our parks benefit from the best of both worlds, ensuring they remain among the most popular and best managed parks.
"We will remain accountable for maintaining and conserving the parks for public enjoyment, and with them costing just over £1 for every second of every year to manage, we will have more freedom around how we raise and spend money. These include being able to plan and invest for the longer-term rather than on a year-by-year basis and operate more efficiently."
Sara Lom, the Chief Executive of the Royal Parks Foundation, said:
“The Royal Parks are one of Britain’s greatest national treasures. They offer precious freedom for people and wildlife in the middle of our city – and in return they need everyone’s support.
“Generous private donors, sponsors and supporters have, to date, contributed more than £16.5m through the Foundation for the benefit of visitors and wildlife in the Royal Parks and this wonderful new charity, created by two organisations, will build on this success.
“It will also offer many more volunteers the opportunity to help care for 5,000 acres of glorious green space and 500 years of history in the heart of London.”
Heritage Minister David Evennett said:
"Our Royal Parks are a historic, much-loved part of our capital city, used by millions of people every year.
"This new structure will give the Parks more financial freedom while continuing to protect these special public spaces for generations to come."
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson MP, said:
“The Royal Parks are a tremendous asset for our capital, offering Londoners an oasis of calm from the hustle and bustle of city life. I fully support the creation of this new organisation, which will give the Parks a stronger financial footing, and it’s now vital it remains shackle-free to attract further investment to maintain the phenomenally high standards for the millions of visitors it attracts each year.”
Both organisations are now working together to create the new body, which it is hoped will be launched by the end of this year.
The creation of the new entity will also see a new board of trustees appointed. Recruitment for its Chair has been advertised publicly on the Cabinet Office's public appointments website . Candidates will be interviewed by a panel that includes an independent member. The appointment of other trustees will follow soon after.