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.
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.
At last count the parks had more than 77 million visitors a year. Decreasing government funding is making increasingly challenging to maintain high standards and public satisfaction rates (currently at 98 per cent).
The Royal Parks said as the new charitable public corporation will be increasingly self-sustaining, it 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, 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."
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.