St James's Park defends big events

Royal Parks manager says damage is minimised and each application is rigorously considered.

St James’s partly closed in 2012 for beach volleyball courts - image:MWasilewski
St James’s partly closed in 2012 for beach volleyball courts - image:MWasilewski

A Royal Parks manager has defended the hosting of events such as pop concerts on some of Britain's most famous green spaces after revealing details of a post-Olympics restoration.

Mark Wasilewski stood by decisions to hold concerts at the Royal Parks, which have drawn criticism for damage caused by thousands of festival-goers to grass and paths.

The park he manages, St James's Park, is undergoing a major restoration following the Olympics: "This is a relatively small park with high footfall - 6.7m visitors a year - but we do so much work beforehand with the client to minimise damage. We agree a restoration programme and follow through before anything starts."

Wasilewski said applications for events across the Royal Parks were treated separately and considered based on what the park could sustain. If an application was not compatible with the character of a park, it would not be accepted, he said.

Restoration at St James's Park involved planting more than 16,000 wildflower plugs including harebell, evening primrose and ox-eyed daisy to the south. Teams had to prepare the ground and lay 3.6ha of turf and overseed 2.8ha of damaged parkland.

"More than half the park was closed to the public during the Games to house practice beach volleyball courts, etc. Temporary trackways for people and trucks were laid to avoid damaging tree roots," Wasilewski said.

He said the Royal Parks was looking at measures to offset problems caused by deluges and droughts, including bark mulch and "smart" irrigation systems.

- See interview, 18 January.

Massaria infection - Parks fight back

Massaria infection in the 2,110 London planes in the eight Royal Parks has declined from a peak of 800 in 2011 to 554 in 2012 - but there is still a lack of knowledge about the disease.

A representative said: "The Royal Parks is also participating in a study with Treework Environmental Practices, which aims to establish a better understanding of the disease. We are also using practices such as water management, mulching, or retrenchment pruning, to ensure our mature tree stock is as healthy as possible and therefore best equipped to resist all diseases.

"We cannot be certain why there has been a decline. It could be as a result of the work we are doing, but by equal measure it could be related to the wet spring and summer we experienced. This lack of knowledge is why we are working with Treework Environmental Practices."

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