Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Credit Crunch fails to stop the LDA...

Last night, at a rather long and at times emotional planning meeting, Bromley's Development Control Committee approved the LDA's masterplan for the park. Objections based on the setting of a precedent by building housing on park land, the lack of funding, the collapse of the housing market, and the distinctly underwhelming tree palace all failed to sway the Bromley Councillors. The only argument that seemed to gain traction was the issue of the college building on Ledrington road, which would severely impact on the residents there.

Where next? It seems highly likely that this application will be called in by the Government Office for London for review.

Personal Note.

I know that the membership of the Friends has a range of views on the issue of housing and the topsite, and I try to be careful to avoid making statements on the membership's behalf because of this. But I genuinely believe that Bromley have just set a very dangerous precedent last night by allowing this proposal through. It felt like all of our arguments counted for nothing against the need to be seen to be doing something with the run down, abused park.

As an example, I quote from Councillor John Getgood's report of the meeting that he's posted on Virtual Norwood. You may guess from the tone that he was a keen proponent of the scheme.

"In the end I had to ask myself whether there was anything in the first phase of improvements that I would be ashamed of. On the contrary, the vast majority of people living in Penge are desperate to see their park upgraded."

I suspect the 7,000 signatories of the petition to the Mayor of London might disgaree with him... What he and the other Bromley councillors should be ashamed of is allowing Crystal Palace Park to get into this state in the first place.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Your Park Needs You!

****Planning Meeting****

On the 9th December at 7:30pm, Bromley Development Control Committee will consider the London Development Agency ‘Masterplan’ application. As well as rejuvinating the key parts of the historical park such as the main axis and the terraces, the London Development Agency has included the sale of parkland to developers in its proposals.

Whatever your views its important that we get as many people there as possible to show Bromley how important this park is to us!

9th December at 7.30pm
Bromley Civic Centre
Stockwell Close
Kentish Way (behind the Glades)

The proposed Tramlink extension that would have seen trams running through the corner of Crystal Palace Park, has been dropped for now at least. According to a statement on the Transport for London website:

"Our plans to extend Tramlink from Harrington Road to Anerley and Crystal Palace will not be taken forward.

Although we have progressed the scheme, there is no Government funding to implement it.

We will be carrying out a wider study, working closely with Croydon Council and other key stakeholders, to assess how we can deliver the improvements Outer London needs.

We are committed to including new proposals for extensions to the tram as part of a future bid to Government. "

****Dialogue Process****
The LDA has no funding further consultation at this stage, so the Westaway led dialogue process is effectively closed. The dialogue team have stated that while there may be further consultation on the detailed application (assuming the masterplan is approved, see above) it is not clear whether the team would have a role to play.

****Ghost Walk****
A quick reminder that the Ghost Walk is tonight! More details on our previous post here.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Fun Fair in the Park

Just a reminder that George Irwin's fun fare is back in the park on the top site. It's there until November 2nd, 2008.

Crystal Palace Ghost Walk - Sunday 30th November

Ghost of Crystal Palace
Originally uploaded by Craig Richardson
Meet at Crystal Palace Train Station at 7pm on Sunday 30th November 2008

Walk in the ghostly footsteps of our ancestors on the anniversary of the fiery death of Screamin' Alice!

Relive the horrors of Crystal Palace Past if you dare!

(Bring a torch.)
Further details: 020 8778 1865

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Olympic Celebrations in the Park

Olympic Torch
Originally uploaded by Craig Richardson
This Sunday (24th August) GLL are organising a big Olympic celebration in the Crystal Palace stadium, between 12:30pm and 3pm, including lots of children's activities.

As part of this, Crystal Palace will be raising one of the 500 Olympic Handover Flags that have been distributed around the country to mark the end of the Beijing 2008 Olympics and London officially becoming the next Olympic city.

At 2pm the 1948 London Olympic torch (pictured) will be lit at the Crystal Palace Corner, and it will make its way down through the park in time for the flag raising at 2:30pm.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Darwin & the Local Dinosaurs

Park in the Mist
Originally uploaded by Craig Richardson
Charles Darwin was a frequent visitor to the Sydenham Crystal Palace and there are many links between his work and the natural history of the Palace.

Join the Friends and the Joseph Paxton Society on Friday afternoon for a special tour of the dinosaurs.

When: The walk starts at 4 pm on Friday 25th July
Where: Park Information Building, Penge Entrance off Thicket Road.

There is no charge for this walkabout

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Victorian Weekend!

One is not amused...
Originally uploaded by Craig Richardson
Just to let everyone know, the popular Victorian Weekend is being held in the park on the 5th and 6th of July.

Unlike previous years, this year we understand it will be up on the top-site of the park, rather than down near Penge Gate.

The Friends hope to have a stall there for at least one of the days, so if you see us there, do pop over and say hello!

Sunday, 1 June 2008

The Crystal Palace Corner is up!

Crystal Palace Corner
Originally uploaded by Craig Richardson
Well, its taken the team some time, but the Crystal Palace Corner was finally completed last night! For those of you that don't know about it, its a reproduction of a corner element of the original Crystal Palace building, and as you can see from the photo, its displayed prominently on the hilltop site.

The official unveiling is planned for 7th June.

More pictures here!

Monday, 19 May 2008

Main Group Meeting - Update

(other recent updates from the Main Group Meeting: Girl Guides and CP Park; Sports Centre Update)

Quite a sobering Main Group meeting of the park Dialogue process on Saturday 17th May. A newcomer in the audience stood up and accused a number of the participants of arguing like children, and I have to say, I found myself nodding. And this was just trying to agree the order of the agenda… The contention was over the planning scenarios, in particular the interaction between the Masterplan and the New Crystal Palace proposal. More of that in a moment…


The LDA still describe housing as “the funding source of last resort”, but from the presentation that Mark Lloyd of the LDA gave, you would have to say it’s likely. They break the costs and the funding down by the local/regional/national park split that the Masterplan used. Essential the local park category includes most of the concrete removal and landscaping, whereas national includes things like the tree-top walkway. The costs for the three categories are:

  • Local park £39m
  • Regional park £57m
  • National Park £67m

Broadly, the funding sources for the National Park breakdown as

  • Heritage Lottery Fund - £3m (1)
  • Big lottery fund - £15m? (2)
  • Housing - £13.1m
  • Commercial - £10m?
  • Private sponsorship - £2m
  • Bromley + other LAs - £5m (3)
  • Total funding - £49.1m
  • Gap - £17.9m


1 – for the terraces
2 – although a previous application in 2006 was turned down, so this is likely to have to wait until after the Olympics.
3 – i.e. all five boroughs

So at the very least, they’re still short of £8m, and more likely £18m short…. They’re still looking at other funding streams. The LDA’s position is uncertain until they’ve worked out what the new Mayor wants (much discussion at the meeting, people couldn’t pin down whether or not he’d said he was against housing on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) during the election campaign, but that could be very significant!). Could Tramlink make a contribution if its going to run through the park (personally I think its the least they could do given the damage it will do to the park)?

But there’s still a lot of question marks in there on the major funding streams. Arguably, given the current housing mark, the housing stream should have a substantial question mark next to it (despite the LDA’s protestations that park-side houses sell for a premium, they still reflect the prices in the local area). Tellingly, the LDA admitted that they had no experience of delivering this type of scheme, the closest they could think of was the Olympics!


Broadly, the timings set out by the LDA were:

  • Local park – works 2012 – 2017
  • Regional park – works 2015 – 2019
  • National park – 2016 – 2021

I found myself wondering how many of the people arguing about the park’s future would still be living in the area by the time it was finished…

Masterplan Planning Application

As we’ve said previously, if you haven’t got your response in, do it soon!

Planning Scenarios / New Crystal Palace

It’s fair to say that this subject lead to a lot of heated debate. I know that there are Friends on both sides of the New Crystal Palace argument, so I’m trying to keep reporting on this subject factual. A lot of the heat was around the pros and cons of the proposal, despite the facilitator’s plea that we keep discussion to the various planning scenarios rather than the schemes themselves. Essentially the facilitation team suggested that there were four possible options for the park:

  • The LDA masterplan
  • The New Crystal Palace Park proposal (not yet at planning application stage)
  • Other schemes or a mix of the above two
  • Nothing happens…

There are a lot of forces both in favour of and against each option. For example the LDA scheme benefits from having an option on the park (which would stop the New Crystal Palace proposal, as its backers require an option on the site which can’t be granted while the LDA has one), but it suffers from opposition to the housing elements. It was reported that the New Crystal Palace scheme has support in Bromley and Croydon councils, but would require the issue of Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) to be re-opened to allow a development on the topsite.

Nigel Westaway (from the facilitation team) was genuinely concerned that the most likely outcome was nothing happens. As I said, it was quite a sobering thought, and a very different tone to the note of optimism that we left the last meeting on (see report here: With a lot of people against both schemes and unwilling to compromise, its not hard to see how he reached that conclusion. While the idea of a wilderness may appeal to some, my personal view is the Crystal Palace Park needs at least a basic facelift and a stalemate that leaves it in Bromley’s hands is unlikely to deliver that.

If you want to know more about the New Crystal Palace project, their website is here:

Girl Guides and Crystal Palace Park

It’s always nice to learn about the history of our park. For example, I hadn’t until recently realised the connection between Girl Guides and the park, but with their centenary approaching in 2009 they’re keen to celebrate it… This is the latest from them:

“In September 1909 the newly Formed Boy Scout Association held a rally at Crystal Palace Park, Several small groups of girls dressed as Girl Scouts attended the event. One group from Camberwell, having been turned away once, managed to gain entry and also to speak to Baden Powell himself, The girls asked Baden Powell to “do something for girls'' and so the Guide Association was formed in 1910.

From humble beginnings, Girlguiding UK has grown into the largest voluntary organisation for girls and young women in the UK, with 600,000 members. There are now 10 million girls and women involved in guiding in 144 different countries.

Girlguiding UK wishes to celebrate the centenary of guiding in a Permanent way within the re-developed Crystal Palace Park. As part of our plans to celebrate 100 year of Guiding we plan to work with a female artist to commission where Girlguiding UK began, at Crystal Palace Park in South London. In partnership with Bromley Council and the London Development Agency we have looked at the master plan for Crystal Palace Park and after consultation have agreed that we would like to renew the existing Maze site which is an established part of the park to create a fun, interactive feature which will attract not only the local community but also national and International visitors as a place to celebrate the start of guiding.

Rather than a traditional sculpture/plaque we would like to use the existing maze as the basis for the work and to create an interactive feature. We would expect the artist to work with appropriate specialists to ensure that we create natural and sustainable feature(s) and re-establish the beech hedging.

Girlguiding UK is keen to involve the local community; consultation will be a key part of the artist’s brief. The commission will begin in June 2008 and be completed in August 2010.”

Sports Centre Update

A brief update on the Sports Centre from the Main Group Meeting:

  • The NSC has been confirmed as an Olympic training camp and included in the brochure for teams
  • More asbestos has been found which needs to be removed
  • Now expected to open in Autumn/Winter
  • Greenwich leisure are loath to take bookings that they may not be able to honour...

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Its Not Too Late

Not sent Bromley your thoughts on the Masterplan? Get them in now! They've said they're happy to take responses up until 31st May, so don't delay!

Letters can be sent to:

Mr Bob McQuillan
Acting Chief Planner

London Borough of Bromley
Civic Centre, Stockwell Close

For planning references, copy them out of my response! Here

Our Response to the Masterplan

This was the response that Marie and I sent to Bromley on the park masterplan. It was a personal response rather than being on behalf of the Friends, as I know a number of you don't share our views. I have to say that it was hard to write an objection letter on this plan, given how closely I've been involved in the process over the last couple of years. But for me, the issues of housing, tramlink and the lack of definitive funding means that I can't support it.


Mr Bob McQuillan
Acting Chief Planner

Borough of Bromley
Civic Centre, Stockwell Close

Dear Sir,



We refer to the above Outline Planning application and CAC application submitted by Gerald Eve on behalf of the London Development Agency, on 1 November 2007, and write to formally object to these planning applications.

We register our objection despite having represented a local community group on the Crystal Palace Park Dialogue process for a number of years. There are a number of positive points to the application, however, we believe that these are outweighed by a number of negative points that the council should consider.

Positive Aspects of the Plans

The Masterplan is to be supported in its desire to rid the park of unnecessary concrete and tarmac. The concrete walkways around the NSC will not be missed, indeed, it is a shame that the building itself is not to be demolished and replaced with something more fitting for the centre of this Grade II* listed park. The removal of the turnstiles near the station are a good example of what can be achieved with the removal of the concrete structures.

Opening up the full top-site of the park is also something that we would support, (although we believe the plans for a tree-palace are distinctly underwhelming). The subway is a fantastic example of Victorian heritage and we support its use as a museum.

Other positive aspects include the removal of the unsightly temporary fences erected near the NSC, improved facilities around the park (e.g. toilets and play areas), improved park interpretation and the restoration of the strong Grand Central Axis running through the centre of the park.

Negative Aspects of the Plans

A number of local groups and people have expressed their dissatisfaction with the plans to construct housing on the park, and we support their position. Regardless of arguments about securing funding or the amount of parkland freed-up by the plans/taken up by the housing, we believe it is a fundamental principle that a public park is no place for private housing. Parkland should be funded by public subscription for the future generations; parks should not have sections salami-sliced off for sale until little remains. The sale of Crystal Palace Park land risks setting a precedent that could threaten other parks and open space around the country.

As a result of the evident local opposition to the housing proposals, the LDA introduced the argument that the residential development would only fund the initial work on the park, rather than the more expensive elements such as the tree-top walkway. However, they admit themselves that this split into phases is artificial, and arguably it is these basic park maintenance costs that should be met from public revenue. Although the LDA have stated in the past that the residential development is a last resort and an enabler to leverage in matched funding, and while we have some sympathy with the position that alternative funding streams require planning approval to be gained first, we do not believe the LDA has done enough suggest that funding streams other than residential development are actively being pursued.

Other areas of the Masterplan, such as the construction of a Tree-top walkway through the Concert Bowl area and two Sunken Gardens on the Italian Terraces, will be detrimental to the beauty and integrity of the park. The area proposed for the walkway lacks significant number of trees to make it worthwhile, and thus will be more of an eye-sore than tourist attraction. Such an eye sore is unlikely to make the park a national destination. It will also spoil the impressive views eastwards from the terraces.

The Italian terraces themselves are one of the finest heritage assets of the park, as well as an open space that used for events such as the London to Brighton Mini Rally and school sports meetings. Construction of two sunken gardens will ruin this open space, and the security fears raised about these gardens have not been adequately dealt with in the Masterplan. The balustrades of the terraces should be restored, but the terraces themselves should not be meddled with. Fundamental to the problems we have with the sunken gardens and tree-top walkway is the issue of cost. We do not believe that either of these features justifies the additional cost.

Finally, while we are happy in principle to see the Croydon Tramlink extended to Crystal Palace, we do not support the proposed route through the park, or its inclusion in the Masterplan proposals.

Please acknowledge receipt of this letter.

Yours sincerely,

Craig Richardson and Marie Richardson

CC: Malcolm Wicks MP
Steve O'Connell, GLA
Councillor Jane Avis, Croydon Council, South Norwood Ward
Councillor Susan Bennett, Croydon Council, South Norwood Ward
Councillor Luke Clancy, Croydon Council, South Norwood Ward

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Handel - mini exhibition at the Rangers' Hut

The Joseph Paxton society are running a mini exhibition on Handel in the Rangers' Hut.

Where: Park Information Building
Penge Entrance, off Thicket Road.

When: Friday, 21st March 2008 to Sunday 6th April 2008

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Park Update from the Main Group

Let's start at the end of the meeting for a change. The meeting ended with an impassioned plea from Martin Heath of the Ridge Wildlife group to think about how we could reach a compromise. His point (and I have to say I agree with him) is that if we focus on what we don't like, we'll have a campaign against this, a campaign against that, and what we'll end up with is nothing. There was a lot of sympathy for this at the meeting, but whether or not it will actually translate into a workable compromise, who knows...

On this note, the facilitators be sending round a questionnaire, trying to establish what it is about the masterplan that people do and don't like (I suspect housing will top the list...). I'd be interested to know what the Friends membership makes of the plan. The strawpoll in the meeting suggested that other than the housing issue, most people seemed happy with the scale of the plan.

Capel Manor

We've already posted a short piece on the farm (see here), including likely opening times and dates. Much of the debate at the meeting focused on the number of students on site. One important clarification from the Capel team was that when they talk about student accommodation, they mean classrooms. They're not planning any long-term residential accommodation (although it seems likely that they will have a flat in the new Ledrington Road Lodge replacement building for over-night stays, e.g. for the person on call for the farm).

Planning Application

Again, we've covered the planning application previously, but there was some useful advice about which documents to focus on. Suggestions were:

  • Planning statement section 4 - describes the proposals
  • Planning statement section 6 - justification for the scheme
  • Design and Access statement Section 4 volume 1 gives the key diagrams and drawings of potential buildings etc (they stressed these were only illustrative though)
There was a considerable amount of debate on the lack of communication from the various boroughs and precisely when the deadline was for responses. Bromley stated that responses could be sent in right up until the date of the meeting (likely to be October), but that it would be useful to get them in sooner to help the officers prepare their briefing for the council members. End of April/mid May was suggested as a good deadline.


The remainder of the meeting largely focused on potential governance options for the park. There are a number of options on the table, all with various pros and cons:

  • Single borough
  • Multiple boroughs
  • A regional body
  • A regional Parks authority
  • Royal Parks
  • A Partnership (e.g. public, private, local bodies)
  • A charitable trust
These are very initial discussions, and its unlikely that anything will be decided in the near future (mainly because they all depend on the LDA getting planning permission, if not, we can assume that the lease will remain with Bromley...)

If anyone is interested, the more detailed paper setting out the pros and cons of the various governance options is downloadable here. (word file, 172kb)

Crystal Palace Park in the news...

A belated press update... 25th Jan 2008...

According to a piece in the Streatham Guardian, Ken Livingstone (Mayor of London) would support the scheme to build a a scaled down model of the Crystal Palace on the topsite of the park, as long as it was not a drain on the public purse.

Have you seen Crystal Palace Park in the press? Let us know!

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Exploring the Farm

Capel Manor were kind enough to let me have a wander round the farm in Crystal Palace Park today. I've always been a fan of the idea of having a farm in the park, ever since I saw Capel's open day. They only had a snake and a couple of small mammals with them, but the reaction of the kids that were flocking to see them convinced me that we needed the farm back!

That's not to say that there's no controversy, and I know people are concerned about the number of students (although I think this issue was largely dealt with at the recent main group, more on that shortly...). But I strongly believe that this is a very positive development for the park.

So when's it opening? Wander down at Easter and have a look. They're going for a gradual opening so that the animals have time to get used to humans being around... In terms of opening times:

  • Winter: 10:30 - 12:00, 2:00-4:00
  • Summer: 10:30 - 12:00, 2:00-4:30
  • Monday - Friday (not Wednesdays)

We're not sure about weekend opening details yet.

(click the image for a larger version)