Boris to get control of Regent’s Park

Friends chairman voices fears after World Cup screens furore

Regent’s Park is to come under the control of London mayor Boris Johnson as part of a move to make the Royal Parks more accountable to the public.

Tourism and heritage minister John Penrose confirmed the plans on Tuesday to transfer responsibility for London’s eight Royal Parks from the department for culture, media and sport to the Greater London Authority.

In a “statement of intent” before the move is finalised at a later date, the government says the decision will allow Londoners to have full democratic accountability over the parks.

Mr Penrose said: “London’s Royal Parks are a real success story. They delight millions of visitors every year as a big part of the London tourist experience – but also give people who live and work in the capital a quiet and well-maintained place to relax and enjoy a whole host of leisure activities.

“We believe the time is right to make them more accountable to the public and to do so by passing responsibility for their continued success to the mayor rather than a remote figure in national government.

“They are a precious asset for Londoners and it is only right that local people – the parks’ everyday customers – have a full and proper say in their future.”

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Mr Penrose added that measures would be put in place to safeguard against unsuitable developments and activities to ensure the “character of the parks” did not change.

But Friends of Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill chairman Malcolm Kafetz said he was wary of control being given to Mr Johnson who last year applied for a 20,000-person fan zone with big screen in Regent’s Park for the football World Cup.

On that occasion, objections ensured the application was withdrawn with fears of long-term damage to the park and distress to animals at London Zoo.

“It’s difficult because from my experience of the Mayor of London was that he tried to do something that was quite ridiculous,” said Mr Kafetz.

“We have got our power of veto sorted with the council and we don’t want that to change. But at the moment we don’t know the view of the GLA. As long as the current rules apply, we are all right but if this localisation is going to mean we cannot stop things then there will be problems.”

The government says it will “legislate when the opportunity arises” to make the changes official.

A Royal Parks spokeswoman said: “The future governance of the Royal Parks is a matter for government and department for culture, media and sport ministers. The priority for the agency remains conserving the parks as high quality open spaces for the public and maintaining them for future generations.”