I fully endorse Simon Jenkins’ request for a bequest to the nation where Buckingham Palace is concerned (Parks have been a lifeline during the pandemic. Let’s make Buckingham Palace a public space, 25 February), but why stop there? How about a redistribution of the country’s assets through radical land reform? Britain’s enormous wealth gap is underpinned by the fact that vast swathes of land are in private ownership, most of it obtained by accident of birth, patronage and historic dodgy deals between various dynasties and their hangers-on.
Only recently you reported on the millions that the Queen will get from her development rights over the seabed when offshore windfarm licences are auctioned. It is unacceptable in a democracy in the 21st century that so much of the nation’s wealth is still in the hands of a few aristocratic families and ancient institutions like the church and public schools. This puts local authorities at a huge disadvantage when looking for land to build truly affordable housing for rent and provide essential infrastructure that benefits everyone. Suggestions to use largely empty buildings like the palace to house the homeless are treated as a joke. Who’s laughing?
• Simon Jenkins’ excellent suggestion to have a Buckingham park underplays the significance of his other idea: to turn the palace into a museum. It would at last give the public access to the great art collection it contains. Paris has the Louvre, Madrid the Prado, St Petersburg the Hermitage. It’s time for us to have the Buckingham museum.
• Simon Jenkins’ suggestion fulfils some idea that each royal generation should donate space to the public. But space is a diminishing asset and, in any case, the palace is the London “office” of Her Majesty, an essential component of her position as head of state. Surely he would not suggest that the Élysée Palace should meet the same fate? As for the garden, it is quite unsuitable for daily public invasion (except for our exercising prime minister).
• Parks are indeed the “unsung, unclapped heroes” of the pandemic. They are also a chronically underfunded and understaffed public service. We represent hundreds of thousands of members of local Friends of Parks groups across the UK who care passionately about their local green spaces. They publicise, protect, maintain and generally champion them. It is time to demand the government takes its responsibilities just as seriously and ensures parks get the statutory recognition and funding that our communities deserve.
Chair, National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces
• Simon Jenkins highlights the importance of access to green spaces. Most people in towns are within walking distance of a school playing field, but most are now fenced off for safety reasons. This means that whole communities are denied easy access to a green space. We have found an answer in Maidstone by negotiating with two schools and the council to enable the local community to have access outside of school hours. Now, anyone in the community can have a safe space for enjoyment every day. Perhaps Gavin Williamson could make a contribution to the Covid recovery through encouraging schools to make similar arrangements with their communities.