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