Royal Parks charity chairman outlines revenue vision

The chairman of the new Royal Parks charity has outlined his vision to "to grow income and support" without "overt commercialisation" as he opened a £500,000 toilet-turned café in Kensington Gardens.

Loyd Grossman in Kensington Gardens
Loyd Grossman in Kensington Gardens

The former disused toilet block has been refurbished as income-raising Italian Gardens Café with views over the park and a living roof to support biodiversity.

Opening the café at a reception last night Loyd Grossman, who was named chairman of the new Royal Parks charity in July, called the Royal Parks "the heart, the brain and the soul of London" as he spoke about the need to raise income to maintain their high quality.

"My vision is to continue maintaining them as the best parks in the world for this and for future generations. We won’t see overt commercialisation but we do need to grow income and support. The Italian Gardens Cafe is a perfect example of what The Royal Parks will be doing as a new charity, using our current assets to transform them into fantastic new facilities which not only offer our visitors an even greater experience but help generate the much needed income to keep these parks at the standard you see today."

The new cafe and its landscaping have been designed to not only reflect the Italian style of the gardens, but also to complement the neighbouring Grade 2* Listed Queen Anne’s Alcove, which is currently being restored.

The conservation works include repairs to the stonework and brickwork, and to the timber panelling and seating. The roof covering has also been replaced in lead, after it was damaged during a storm in March.

The iconic shelter alcove was built in 1705 and originally sat in the gardens of Kensington Palace, until 1867 when London builder Mr Cowley funded its relocation to its present site, as he thought it ‘unsightly’ and ‘a resort for undesirable persons’.

Kensington Gardens manager, Andy Williams, said: "The new cafe and restoration of Queen Anne’s Alcove has made a huge improvement to this part of Kensington Gardens – in my opinion, it boasts one of the finest cafe views in London, looking across the fountains towards the Long Water."

The Royal Parks are in the process of merging with its charity the Royal Parks Foundation to become a new, single charity and move away from Government control and responsibility. Currently it is an executive agency of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The eight Royal Parks are used by 77 million visitors each year. The Royal Parks also looks after Victoria Tower Gardens,  Brompton Cemetery, and Grosvenor Square Gardens with all 11 costing £36.6m annually to run. The split between the DCMS grant and self-generated income is currently 35 to 65 per cent.

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