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The History and Current Usage of Greenwich Park

A brief description of the history and current usage of Greenwich Park and the current plans for use of the Park in the Olympics

According to the Royal Parks (2009), the 73 hectare Greenwich Park is the oldest enclosed Royal Park located on a hilltop that provides a scenic view of the River Thames to the Docklands, Isle of Dogs, Blackheath, and the City of London.

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Architectural legacies that include the Old Royal Observatory, the Royal Naval College, the National Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House are set in Greenwich Park to add historical relevance to the Park. It was said that Greenwich Park was settled as early as Roman times although it is much more known for its royalty. It was originally owned by the Abbey of St. Peter at Ghent. The Duke of Gloucester, the brother of Henry V inherited it in 1427 and since then, had been sentimental to generations of monarchs (Royal Parks, 2009). It is known as the birthplace of Henry VIII and he introduced deer to the park. In addition, Mary I and Elizabeth I, daughters of Henry VII were born here while his son Edward VI died here before his sixteenth birthday. By 1600’s, the park acquired the French style characterized by many trees with some said to stand until today. The Royal Parks (2009) added that Queen’s House, designed by Inigo Jones was a gift of James I to his wife Queen Anne.

Charles II’s interest in science had him establish the Royal Society in 1661. Sir Christopher Wren was tasked to build The Royal Observatory named after the first Royal Astronomer John Flamsteed. The Flamsteed House is already a part of the National Maritime Museum and Greenwich Park is declared a World Heritage Site most popularly known for the Greenwich Mean Time. The Park had a significant role during the Second World War but was restored afterward (Royal Parks, 2009).

It is said that the park was opened to the public by the 18th century and the large grassland enclosure serves as a sanctuary for deer, foxes and birds. The park is open from 6 in the morning for pedestrians and 7 for traffic all year round while closing times vary and depend on the season. It is also ideal for picnics, featuring bands during weekends, with children’s playground and puppet shows, workshops, and features the Pavilion Tea House, Observatory Café, Cow & Coffee Bean, The Honest Sausage and Refreshment Points with a wide selection of foods (Royal Parks, 2009).

Some events are open to the public for free such as the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch, “Drop-In” at The Secret Garden Wildlife Centre, Guided Walk – Tree Identification, Guided Walk – Spring Flowers, and some that require entrance or participation fee such as the Winter Wildlife Lecture – Waterbirds and much more, and the Winter Wildlife Lecture – Sixty Years of Beekeeping.

A survey of opinions among a small sample of current undergraduate students at GSM

According to several students interviewed at random from Greenwich School of Management, the majority of them are excited about the Olympics. Two of them noted, “A lot of changes have taken place,” and all eight of those interviewed said they look forward to the actual arrival of tourists and meeting people from other nations. “It is a time to expand our cultural knowledge and experience, as well as showcase our tradition and posterity as a European nation,” one of the students said.

The students also expressed their expectations regarding the national players of the United Kingdom. “We hope we could top the gold count,” three students said. “There are a lot of things imagined and quite real that we all look forward to and most of them are positive experiences to harness unity and cooperation between athletes and spectators,” one student added.

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As with Greenwich Park, two students expressed positive belief that the Park would not only be useful during the 2012 London Olympics but will retain if not surpass its rate of visitors and tourists. “It’s management is already doing well-adopting ways to make the Park more attractive not only to adults but children. More importantly, making wildlife accessible in a safe environment is an achievement that is still to be duplicated,” another student commented.

A survey of the literature on the post-Olympic plans for Greenwich Park

The Royal Parks (2009) has announced that Greenwich Park will be the venue for the Olympic and Paralympic Equestrian Events as were as some of the Modern Pentathlon. Already, the Royal Parks aims to minimize impact to the parks and return them to their pre-Games state, and to minimize impact on the park users as a guiding principle of The Royal Parks is hosting the 2012 London Olympics.

The Royal Parks is said to be working closely with London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) to ensure the areas are designed to avoid impact to trees as well as protect ecological and archaeological areas. LOCOG is advised by the Royal Parks with regards to treatment of the environment. Already, a temporary equestrian arena is planned to be built in the Park to the south of the Queen’s House. It will host dressage, show jumping, and elements of the Modern Pentathlon. The Cross Country Course will extend into the Park and LOCOG was designated to provide course plan and design. LOCOG as of the given time frame already showed indicative route of an Olympic-size course that can be accommodated into the Park.

Currently, there are over 150,000 trees cared for across nine Royal Parks, including 1,500 veteran trees. It was imperative that best practices are followed, trees are managed for conservation and public safety. Constructions and routes are designed to avoid tree roots, and in unavoidable instances, ground protection is used. The Royal Parks said that, “Tree and other specialist surveys are being undertaken to help inform the design, and these will be submitted as part of the planning application for the course, scheduled for autumn 2009.” In addition, the Royal Parks anticipates that the Greenwich Park after the London 2012 Games will have LOCOG is responsible for fully reinstating the Park.

A short analysis of the costs, benefits and risks associated with the plans

Management Overview

Major efforts are undertaken by the Royal Parks management to sustain a competitive and sustainable Greenwich Park which is one of the nine being managed by Royal Parks, an executive agency of the Department for Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS). These include St. James Park, the Green Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Richmond Park, the Regent Park, Bushy Park, Brompton Cemetery and the Greenwich Park. The management considers and aspires to maintain horticulture and international best practice, ecology, environment and biodiversity, heritage, culture and entertainment, education, learning, and community engagement, sport, health and well-being, as well as promoting organizational excellence (Royal parks, 2009).

The corporate objectives and the performance targets of the Royal Parks are set by the DCMS using the European Foundation for Quality Management excellence model.

It aims to provide value through the better buildings program focused on residential accommodation for short-term licensed occupancy. Aside from being cared for, maintained and conserved appropriately, the lodges’ additional incomes return to budget used for caring for the Parks, as well as for the creation of a wildlife hide and nature trail. Customer focus resulted in addition to new park maps, opening of visitor center, provision of much-needed information points to visitors staffed by volunteers from the Friends of Greenwich Park.

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When it comes to health and safety, the Royal Parks is committed to health and safety welfare of the staff and those involved in all activities and in providing an effective health and safety management system aiming to clarify and update procedures on health and safety, implement the non-smoking regulation, ensure that contractors and concessionaires are compliant with health and safety on food hygiene, legislation and best practice. For the current year, targets include arrangement for external health and safety audit for incorporation to a 5-year strategy, arrange staff training, ensure that contractors and concessionaires comply with the health and safety standards, monitor compliance with the Construction (Design and Management) regulations (Royal Parks, 2008).

In addition, specific targets were pointed out:

  • protect and enhance the world-class natural park environment for the enjoyment of families, children and visitors.
  • understand and respond to the needs of visitors, reflect diversity of needs and use, enrich lives and enhance access to culture and sport.
  • work with other organizations and volunteers to deliver clear education, health, sport and participation offerings.
  • conserve and enhance the historic built environment of the Royal Parks.
  • deliver greater value for money for the taxpayers through increased income generation and reduced dependency on vote funding.
  • and demonstrate organizational excellence (Royal Parks, 2008).

All that was enumerated sums up to an effective and efficient, balanced and responsible conservation and enhancement of the environment with creative policies to encourage access and increase opportunities for employment, education, entertainment and healthy recreation (Royal Parks, 2008).

Financial Position of the Royal Parks

The DCMS Supply Estimate, Request for Resource 1 funds the Royal parks with a 2007-2008 allocation of £19.992m but £3.031 was non-cash with a £900k capital. They were also allowed to use Resource Appropriations in Aid income up to £13.05m with a gross Resource budget of £10.976m.

The MPS or the Metropolitan Police Service police the Royal Parks starting April in 2004 and co-policing has been arranged since and merger was completed by May 2006 with the police funded by the Home Office. The Royal Parks (2008) noted that, “The accounts show as Exceptional Item of £0.298m as the remaining shortfall between the amount available from the Principal Service Pension Scheme and the amount required by the Police Pension Scheme to cover the service credits for all Royal Parks Constabulary officers transferring to the MPS.”

The fiscal year 2007-2008 indicated fixed assets and capitalization value at £ 2,000 to £5,000 per individual item. This indicates a net loss on disposal of assets amounting to £0.284m. Increased expenditure on IT equipment is transferred and recorded on the Fixed Asset register for monitoring and review purposes.

In addition, the Royal Parks started the design and development of the memorial dedicated to the victims of the July 7 bombings with the preliminary costs capitalized as an Asset under Construction on the Fixed Asset Register.

Operating Cost year-end March 31 2008 is as follows:

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2007-2008 Continuing Operations £000
Staff costs 4,094
Depreciation 2,306
Notional charges 1,541
Program costs 23,779
TOTAL EXPENDITURE 31,720
Exceptional item 289
Gross expenditure 32,018
Less income 11,026
Net expenditure 20,992
Unrealized surplus on the revaluation of fixed assets 2628

Balance Sheet as of ending March 31, 2008:

2008 £000 2007 £000
Fixed Assets 47,623 47069
Current Assets
Stocks 1 17
Debtors 2,638 2,735
Cash at bank and in hand 2,900 1,043
5,539 3,795
Current Liabilities
Creditors (due within 1 year) (7,019) (4,810)
Balance at Office of Payment General (12) 0
NET CURRENT LIABILITIES (1,492) (1,015)
Total Assets less Current Liabilities 46,131 46,054
Taxpayers’ equity
Revaluation reserve 16,368 14,882
Donated assets reserve 2,555 2,614
General fund 26,879 27,732
45,802 45,228

Cash Flow Statement:

2007-2008 £000
Net Cash Outflow from Operating Activities (15,095)
Net Parliamentary cash funding received 17,464
Capital Expenditure and Financial Investment
Purchase of tangible fixed assets (536)
Proceeds on disposal of fixed assets 12
1,845
ANALYSIS OF CHANGES IN CASH BALANCES
Increase in cash held 1,845
RECONCILIATION OF OPERATING CASH FLOW TO NET EXPENDITURE
Net expenditure for the year (20,992)
Depreciation 2,306
Loss of disposal of assets 284
Notional charges 1,541
Early retirement costs (56)
Pension transfer provision (400)
Provision for other liabilities (41)
Decrease / Increase in stocks 16
Decrease / Increase in debtors 97
Increase in creditors 2,209
Notional income (59)
NET CASH OUTFLOW FROM OPERATIONS (15,095)

Risks

Risk management was set up to understand the risks that will impact the ability of the Royal Parks to deliver the corporate plan and ensure that actions are taken to limit risk and maximize delivery of objectives. The risk management identified key areas of risk and introduced new reports and processes to contain impact and probability as well as highlight mitigated actions and management of residual risk. Short and long-term risks are reviewed together for prioritization and to capture risks and minimize escalation.

Enumerated risks include:

  • key relationships with stakeholders affecting Royal Parks long term position,
  • policy and achievement of policy on social and community issues.
  • and environmental matters (Royal Parks, 2008).

However, it can be added that risk, as posed by the current economic crisis, demands a bigger and more serious consideration as both private and public organizations adjust to the situation.

Reflective Log

The 2012 London Olympics is generally viewed to impact as much as previous Olympic games in other host countries and encompass political, social, and economic aspects. These include:

  • urban regeneration as a brand new 80,000-seater Olympic Stadium is built;
  • housing provision of about 5,000 homes after the conversion of the Olympic Village after the games although the cost of housing may increase and relocation of poorer families may become inevitable;
  • transport upgrade as spectators, athletes, officials, and media are catered to link east London in improvements at Channel Tunnel Shuttle link from Stratford to Kings Cross; 45% capacity of Jubilee line; Extensions to the DLR; £1bn improvements to London East line;
  • tourism as nationals from all over the world trek to London and indirectly buffer expenses incurred by LOCOG;
  • generation of jobs prior to and during the Olympics, and sustenance of other but smaller number of jobs after the Olympics (ICL, 2009).

As for Greenwich Park, the same may be applied to the area, the park’s management and its people. The opportunities for jobs and incomes increase as people flock to London to experience the Olympics. This is a time to showcase the Greenwich Park and its amenities, features, events, as well as services that may be availed by the public and the tourists.

Personally, I find the cost of staffing and operational expenditures quite huge for parks management considering the current economic crisis that has escalated in a global phenomenon in a recent couple of years. The crisis is evidently not over and continuing in a manner that should be seriously considered not only by the private but also the government sector who at some point due to policies, may adjust at lower speed than the private sector in matters such as budget and fund allocation.

The crisis should be seen as an immediate risk that needs to be addressed strategically at all points, from decreasing operation expenditures, to buffering loss of notional income from operations. As noted elsewhere, tourism has decreased globally and that spending has become quite unaffordable for less basic needs such as travel and recreation, of which the parks may fall under when classified as a service provider. The Royal Parks management in Greenwich Park should adopt measures to maximize income possibilities as they tie-up with other agencies, appeal to volunteerism, at the same time accepting limitations such as the provision of a continuing salary rate earlier provided, expenses on operations, and another outflow of funds activities.

In the end, while environment and operations normalcy are top priorities of the Royal Parks management after the Olympics, pre and post-Olympics concerns must all be properly addressed sooner.

Reference

Imperial College of London (2009). “Advantages for London.” Web.

Royal Parks (2009). “Greenwich Park.” Web.

Royal Parks “Annual Report 2007-2008” My Park. Web.

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