Speakers' Corner Bulletin 11 - 28 Aug 2014
Here’s the long-awaited (5 weeks) reply from Dennis Clarke of Royal Parks. And what disappointing space-filling puff it is. Frankly I feel insulted. I am preparing a response and will send it early next week. I welcome your thoughts…
Further to our meeting on site I convened a meeting of the Royal Parks team who have worked on the layout and landscape of Speaker’s Corner over recent years to look at the matters we discussed. I can advise on these matters.
We now plan to alter the railings around the horse mounting block to provide access for horse riders. We will carry out this work when there are other railing works taking place in the Park to give value for money. Although we have not received any feedback from the riders regarding access to the horse mounting block we agree the alterations are required.
With regard to the problem you reported with soiling at the holly hedge, I am pleased to advise that the Hyde Park team has reported that so far this year this has been less of a problem. The Park team however will continue to monitor this and will arrange cleaning as required. The team are also working with our police regarding responding to overnight sleeping in the area. We also discussed the behaviour of some hire bike cyclists on Sunday afternoons. The Park team with Police have put an onsite focus on this recently and will keep this under review.
We discussed the options available for speakers when choosing where to stand. The Royal Parks have designed the space overall to ensure there has been no net decrease in speaking area. In particular we have added semi circles of hard standing speaking area to the south of the grass enclosures. These areas have up to now been far better used than other areas of Speaker’s Corner, indicating the preference of speakers and the public for some shade and the other environmental benefits associated with the trees. Whilst the current layout does not preclude the public from gathering on the grass I discussed with the Park team the idea of opening up the railings onto the grass areas to allow the public to gather more easily on the grass. Unfortunately we had to conclude that this would lead to substantial and unattractive wear of the grass and ground compaction which would damage the trees. We also considered further the issue of noise from passing traffic. Although this is difficult to resolve, we are confident that the new vegetated banks and recently planted trees will make some contribution to masking this noise and will significantly improve the environment for both speakers and other users of the area. We will also keep our maintenance of the vegetation under review to ensure we plant and prune to maximise the masking effect.
I mentioned our plans for improving the interpretation at Speaker’s Corner to support and encourage interest in the space. We plan to continue the temporary boards for some time and we have had positive feedback regarding these. I can also confirm our intention to install permanent interpretation which will help with the public experience and appreciation of the space.
We remain committed to the area and strongly support its relationship to free speech. The recent landscape works have helped make the space feel less desolate and more welcoming to all park users. We are confident that as the new landscaping matures over the next few years, it will further enhance this important space in Hyde Park for both the speakers and the many visitors that come to the Park.
I hope this has answered your comments about Speaker’s Corner but perhaps we can meet again, maybe in the first half of 2015, to review the developing layout of the space.