The Royal Parks of London are lands originally owned by the monarchy of the United Kingdom for the recreation (mostly hunting) of the royal family. They are part of the hereditary possessions of The Crown.
With increasing urbanisation of London, some of these were preserved as freely accessible open space and became public parks with the introduction of the Crown Lands Act 1851. There are today eight parks formally described by this name and they cover almost 2,000 hectares (4,900 acres) of land in Greater London.
Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens (which are adjacent), Green Park, Regent's Park and St James's Park are the largest green spaces in central London. Bushy Park, Greenwich Park and Richmond Park are in the suburbs. The Royal Parks agency also manages Brompton Cemetery, Grosvenor Square Gardens, Victoria Tower Gardens and the gardens of 10, 11 and 12 Downing Street.
The public does not have any legal right to use the Parks, as public access depends on the grace and favour of The Crown, although there are public rights of way across the land. The Royal Parks Agency manages the Royal Parks under powers derived from section 22 of the Crown Lands Act 1851. As part of its statutory management function the Agency permits the public to use the Parks for recreational purposes, subject to regulations issued under the Parks Regulation Acts 1872–1926 which are considered necessary to secure proper management, preserve order and prevent abuse within the Parks. The current regulations are the Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces Regulations 1997.
They are managed by The Royal Parks (an executive agency of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport) and are policed by the Royal Parks Operational Command Unit of the Metropolitan Police (the English section of the previous force policing the parks, the Royal Parks Constabulary, has been abolished). The main form of funding for the Royal Parks is a central government grant. This contrasts with most of London's other parks, which are funded by local borough councils. The Royal Parks generate additional income from commercial activities such as catering and staging public events such as concerts.
The Royal Parks Foundation is a registered charity which raises funds to protect, support and create new opportunities within the Parks. They have a number of membership schemes such as adoption and champion programmes.
In 2010, Mayor of London Boris Johnson proposed that control over the Royal Parks should be devolved to the Greater London Authority and the government put forward proposals for that to happen later on that year. The plan was welcomed by Royal Parks but it is yet to be implemented following the 2012 London Olympic games.[dated info]