(R120) Crystal Palace Park Dialogue - Report on Governance Options [January 2008]


This report summarises a discussion held by the Park Working Groupto explore the question of long-term governance of the park. To inform the discussion, the group first heard a presentation by David Withycombe of Land Management Services Ltd, setting out the main options. The slides from this presentation are attached to this report(see Contents).



Presentation by David Wythicombe (Land Management)

The LDA Position

The Options

Criteria for comparing governance models





The LDA position


The LDA would probably wish to maintain control of the park while the bulk of the improvement works were carried out. In the longer term, however, the LDA does not consider park management to be within its remit and it would be looking to transfer the management, and possibly the ownership, of the park to another appropriate body.


The LDA has no fixed view on what kind of body would be suitable, but it does have certain requirements that any successor organisation would need to fulfil. These relate, for example, to the efficiency, accountability, transparency and social equity of the

management structure.


It was also suggested that the new governance body should be set up in time to allow for a shadowing period before final handover from the LDA. Top


The Options


Single Borough


The park could be managed by a single London borough – Bromley, Southwark, Lewisham, Lambeth or Croydon, all of which adjoin the park, would seem to be the obvious candidates.




• In terms of setting up, a single, local body that already exists and manages open space presents the least difficulty.

• Local authorities are easy to identify and locate and they also have existing accountability mechanisms.




• There is no evidence that any of the adjoining boroughs would wish to take on the burden of managing Crystal Palace Park.

• None of the relevant boroughs are likely to be able to secure dedicated resources to manage the park. (Note that management of parks and other public open spaces is not a statutory duty for local authorities.)

• Such resources as were available would be subject to competition from other parks and, indeed, other priorities altogether, within the same borough.

• Ring fencing of any park income would be difficult.

• Because the park is at the junction of five boroughs there would be questions of equity of service provision for different user groups coming in from the other boroughs. Top


Multiple Boroughs


The park could be managed by a consortium of local boroughs, all contributing financially.




• The financial burden issues could be more fairly shared around the park’s local catchment area.

• There might be some economies of scale if other parks were also managed by the same consortium.




• Although the boroughs themselves already exist, the consortium and the formal agreements required to bind its members do not. Setting this up could present


• No single body would be responsible for the park. It is easy to foresee a situation in which individual boroughs withdraw funding and commitment, with the park falling into decline again.

• From a practical point of view, the park cannot be managed on a day-to-day level by several boroughs. Presumably either one would need to take a lead, or all five would need to appoint a subsidiary management body. The potential for bureaucratic complexity, and even conflict, is very apparent.

• Lines of accountability would be unclear: would the consortium be accountable to the park and its users, or to its constituent boroughs? Top


Generic Regional Body


The park could be transferred to an existing, generic regional body (i.e. not an organisation primarily concerned with parks).




• If an appropriate body were identified, no new organisation need be set up.




• No appropriate regional body appears to exist – particularly since the LDA has made it clear that park management is beyond its remit. (The GLA might be another possibility, although it currently manages no parks at all.)

• It could be difficult for a regional body to satisfy the requirement for local accountability and provide appropriate opportunities for local stakeholder input.

• It is uncertain whether a regional body, primarily concerned with other matters, would have the expertise to effectively manage a large park.

• Ring fencing of park income may not be possible. Top


Specialist Parks Authority


Two possibilities were discussed here: the Royal Parks and a new London Parks Authority.




• A specialist body of this kind could offer both commitment and expertise.

• It could also offer a career structure, which would make it easier to retain skilled staff.

• It may be better placed to offer long term security of funding.

• It could be relatively free from changing political pressures.




• There could be questions about local accountability and control with either model. Royal Parks:

o The Royal Parks option would require new legislation (to make Crystal Palace crown land).

o The Royal Parks body has made it clear that it is not looking to expand its portfolio. Even if it were, any park it considered taking on would have to bring a very substantial and secure dowry to cover future management and maintenance costs. Top


New London Parks Authority


o No such body exists at present, and setting one up could present challenges. Top




A partnership structure could involve a combination of statutory, voluntary and even private sector organisations, all being formally bound into a legal agreement for the funding and management of the park.




• Partnership would offer the opportunity to share the liability, so that the contribution from each partner might be relatively small.

• It could bring other resources to the park (eg private sector finance, volunteer workers etc).




• As for the multiple borough option, no single body would be responsible for the park. Partners could withdraw funding and commitment, with the park falling into decline again.

• Lines of accountability would be unclear.

• Day-to-day management would either have to be undertaken by one of the partners, or the partnership would have to appoint a subsidiary management body. Again there would be consequences in terms of bureaucratic complexity and potential conflict; and the more types of organisation that were involved, the more acute this would become.

• Private sector partners would be primarily interested in developments that were likely to show a financial return. (On balance, parks do not make money.) Top


Independent Trust (or not-for-profit company)


A new trust could be created on charitable lines, with the sole purpose of caring for the park.




• This model has been used successfully on other parks in the UK.

• Setting up a new trust is relatively straightforward.

• Charitable trusts can apply for some forms of funding for which statutory bodies are not eligible.

• A trust can be structured to provide local accountability and opportunities for local input.




• Recruiting people with the right expertise to govern the trust could be a challenge.

• Financial security would be a major concern. Some existing park trusts are already struggling and a new trust for Crystal Palace Park could not necessarily expect financial support from statutory bodies.

• The composition of the trust could raise questions about equity of representation (especially for local groups).

• There could be conflict between local and regional/national interests with respect to the park. Top


Criteria for Comparing Governance Models


The Park Working Group developed the following initial list of considerations to guide discussions about the relative merits of the various models.


For any model:

• How easy will it be to set up?

• How likely is that it will provide the relevant skills, competence and expertise?

• How efficiently will it use resources?

• How sustainable will the organisation be in the long term?

• How, and to whom, will it be accountable?

• What opportunities will it provide for stakeholder input?

• How independent will it be? (NB the issue of what it should be independent from was not clarified.)

• To what extent will it be committed to the full range of park functions (sports, events, heritage, education) and at all levels (local, regional, national)?

• What capacity will it have to secure revenue funding?

• What capacity will it have to attract future capital funding?

• How will it avoid, or manage, potentially damaging conflicts of interest?

• How well will it cope with liability and risk?

• How flexible will it be in relation to any future changes in park function, design etc?

• How will it cope with failure? (In other words, can there be an effective contingency plan if the organisation fails?) Top




1. The Park Working Group offers this summary to the Main Group, in order to inform further discussion there.

2. In relation to the six main options considered, the Park Working Group also offers the following, very tentative conclusions:

• The single borough and multiple borough options were seen as the least promising.

• The generic regional body and partnership models appeared to offer some scope.

• The new regional parks authority and the new trust options were regarded as the most favourable.

3. However, it was also clear that a good deal more information would be needed on these before a firm recommendation could be reached. Top





Presentation by David Wythicombe (Land Management)

The LDA Position

The Options

Criteria for comparing governance models





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7/03/08 Last updated 7/03/08