Messing about on the city’s lakes has long been a favourite pastime for Londoners and tourists alike, but next summer is set to be rather drier, as pedalos and rowing boats have left some of the capital’s parks.
The Royal Parks, a charity which looks after eight of London’s largest outdoor spaces, including Hyde park and Regent’s park, has failed to grant a new contract to Bluebird Boats Ltd, who since 2004 have operated the boats on The Serpentine and in Greenwich park. Thirty-five jobs have been lost as a result.
Accordingly, though plans had been in place to operate the boats through the winter, these have now been abandoned, with the Royal Parks telling Bluebird that the parks would have a “dark summer" in 2021, with no hire boats available.
Bluebird director Peter Scott said of the news: “We are staggered that the Royal Parks have decided to allow our contract to lapse without considering the provisions of boating in Hyde Park and Greenwich. The Serpentine is an iconic boating lake and a world renowned tourist attraction similar to boating in Central Park, punting in Oxford or Cambridge and gondola tours in Venice.
"The Royal Parks have told us we are no longer able to operate. This means that not only will boating be cancelled under lockdown but will not be available in the Summer of 2021 as the country tries to rebuild post Covid.”
The charity had been in a legal dispute with Bluebird company since January of this year, with the two arguing over ownership of the Hyde Park boathouse. The Royal Park blamed this for the delay in arranging a new contract to offer the public boats for hire.
In a statement, the Royal Parks said: "The plans we put in place for a fair and open tender process had to be put on hold due to a legal dispute with Bluebird Boats Ltd. Once this dispute has been resolved, we intend to proceed with a fair and open tender process for the use of the Serpentine, which will include boating. This is in order to get best value for money, which is so important for us as a charity.
“We are deeply disappointed that our plans were disrupted, meaning that there will be a delay until a new contract can be fairly awarded. We know how important the parks are to people, particularly during lockdown and the extended restrictions, and we know how popular boating is. We are working hard to be able to proceed with the tender that will allow boating on the Serpentine to be resumed.”