Q1: In the Explanatory Memorandum (EM) you say that charitable status “would also make it possible for the Agency to join the Royal Parks Foundation, an existing charity that raises money for the parks, in forming the new organisation. Having one single organisation for the parks would bring greater coherence to fundraising, income generation and volunteering opportunities.” Does this mean that new “Royal Parks Company” would merge with the Royal Parks Foundation? If so, how would this merger be achieved?
A1: Subject to the agreement of Parliament and the Charity Commission, the Royal Parks will become a charitable public body. It will be a company limited by guarantee of the Secretary of State and registered as a charity with the Charity Commission. The new organisation will be responsible for functions currently undertaken by The Royal Parks Agency and the Royal Parks Foundation. Both organisations will effectively be subsumed into the new organisation but the Foundation may continue as a legal entity for a short time if necessary to meet existing legal obligations, although it will no longer fund-raise for the park or in any way compete with the new charity. The Secretary of State will have a contract with the new Royal Parks organisation. Transfer agreements will be made between the Foundation and the new charity and between the Secretary of State and the new charity transferring staff and assets (although the land will remain Crown land).
Q2: In the EM you say: “The core purpose of the new organisation will continue to focus on protecting and enhancing the intrinsic qualities of the parks. It is not the intention to permit the estate to become overly commercialised; rather it will mean that we can broaden the current opportunities (see 7.4) in a more effective and beneficial way.” How will the Secretary of State ensure that “the new organisation will continue to focus on protecting and enhancing the intrinsic qualities of the parks”? Is this a requirement laid down in statute?
A2: The Secretary of State will set out, in the contract, the obligations of the new organisation in terms of maintaining quality in the parks. This will include key performance targets that the charity will be obliged to meet. The new organisation will continue to be subject to all of the existing statutory designations relating to environmental protection and management.
Q3: You say in the EM: “Local authorities (LA) exercise planning control over major events, such as Winter Wonderland, the summer concerts season and other key activities in the Royal Parks. This will continue to be the case.” Does this mean that there are minor events not subject to LA planning control? How often do such minor events take place? Will the Secretary of State have the ability to limit minor events if they proliferate?
A3: Local authorities regulate our largest events that are subject to planning or licensing law. For other events that fall outside the statutory oversight of local authorities, the new charity, acting on behalf of the Secretary of State, will continue to regulate them through a licensing regime in accordance with park regulations. This will ensure that the number of events is controlled so as not to undermine the overall enjoyment of the parks by those who visit.
The TRP Agency’s “Major Events Strategy” which will continue to apply once the new charity is in place, includes guiding principles applying to all events, as well as park-specific criteria, including respecting and complementing the park environment, minimising the impact on the park fabric and ecology and minimising the impact on park users and local residents. The numbers vary from year to year, in the hundreds, but the majority are small community events such as sponsored walks and runs to picnics and school sports days.
Q4: In the EM you say: “8.1 The Royal Parks will remain free to all and will continue to be managed as high quality listed landscapes. Given that this instrument amends the status of the organisation rather than changes the face of the parks as experienced by visitors, no formal consultation has been undertaken. There has however been engagement and discussion with key stakeholders and the wider public.” What has been the nature of the engagement and discussion with key stakeholders and the wider public? Who are the key stakeholders in this context? Has the Royal Parks Foundation expressed a view? What is the basis for the statement in the EM that there is broad support for the new proposal?
A4: The aspiration to create a new charity has been discussed over many months at a series of meetings attended by friends groups of all the Royal Parks and other visitor representatives, concessionaires, elected representatives and the police. Local Authorities bordering the estate are represented on the Royal Parks Advisory Board and are fully supportive of the proposal. So too is the GLA. Discussions have also taken place with the army in view of the number of ceremonial events that take place in the estate. In addition “Meet the Park Team” events have been held across the parks providing the opportunity for visitors to learn about the parks including the proposed change of status for the organisation.
The Royal Parks Foundation’s Board supports the proposed change and its executive team is fully involved in the preparations for the new charity.
Q5: As regards the discussions with friends groups and visitor representatives, have these groups voiced support for the Government’s proposals?
A5: [I]t is fair to say that there has been little criticism or dissent. Most of the Friends etc understand that the change is intended to ensure the long term financial stability of the estate and also know that the ownership itself is not changing, so they are therefore understanding of the proposal.
28 July 2016