Category Archives: Saving Crystal Palace Park

Under park has been under threat from a number of big property developers and the Mayor of London in recent years.

At the moment we are supporting the Crystal Palace Sports Partnership in their campaign to stop the Mayor of London killing off the athletics facilities in the park, which are still used by thousands of amateur and elite athletes.

We also recently helped to see off a damaging plan from the ZhongRong Group and Boris Johnson to sell of a large part of the park on a 500 year lease to build a large hotel, conference centre, gem trading floors and other commercial uses on protected open space and habitats.

We support the new moves to establish a community trust to govern the park, and to gradually improve it for local people and athletes, and to preserve and enhance its ecological and heritage value.

Mayor of London’s answers on Crystal Palace Park

One of our London Assembly Members, Darren Johnson, has been working closely with local residents and groups to get answers from the Mayor about the plans to build on the Crystal Palace Park hill top.

This post contains all the answers the Mayor has given Darren and other Assembly Members. If you have questions you’d like answered, email Darren at darren.johnson@london.gov.uk. He can’t put in every question, but if there is something the Mayor could clarify or be challenged on let him know!
Continue reading Mayor of London’s answers on Crystal Palace Park

Paying for Crystal Palace Park

While we were waiting for the consultation on the £2.4 million to improve the park (which has now been announced), we have been looking at Bromley Council’s budgets, and obtained some detail on the finances of Crystal Palace Park using a Freedom of Information request. Funding for the park’s maintenance and improvement is one part of the puzzle when we look at the ZhongRong Group’s proposal to build a commercial development on the hill top, because one of their sweeteners is a promise to put a significant amount of money into revamping the rest of the park.

So what have the park’s finances looked like in recent years? Continue reading Paying for Crystal Palace Park

MEP and party leader visit Crystal Palace Park

Jean Lambert MEP and Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, visited Crystal Palace today to look at the park, traffic pollution and the Upper Norwood Library.

We were joined by some local campaigners, and talked Jean and Natalie through the plans to build on the hill top. Continue reading MEP and party leader visit Crystal Palace Park

Position statement on Crystal Palace Park

Leading figures in the five Green Parties from the boroughs that border Crystal Palace have united to oppose the proposed development on Crystal Palace Park, signing a statement copied below. Local Green Party members and Darren Johnson, a Green Party Member of the London Assembly, met with twelve representatives from local park, residents, business, heritage, culture and environment groups to hear their views, before agreeing their united position.

To date, we have worked with local groups to get information from the Mayor of London, lobby him to improve the consultation process, and lobby Bromley Council about the land deal.

Statement of the Green Parties of Bromley, Croydon, Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham on the ZhongRong Group proposals for Crystal Palace Park, April 2014

This is our position statement, signed by: John Street (Bromley), Tracey Hague (Croydon), Jonathan Bartley (Lambeth), Chantal Frances (Southwark) and Helen Thompson (Lewisham).

We believe any development in Crystal Palace Park must enhance its use as a park – for leisure, culture, sport and as a natural habitat – and be non-commercial, recycling any profits back into the upkeep of the park. The park should be improved incrementally, with sensitivity and led by the local community.

We support establishing a Community Land Trust, owned and controlled by local people from the five boroughs, which could then take ownership of the park and lead on proposals for the future of the park and the wider area. The Trust could build on the current masterplan for the park and work with the GLA and local councils to explore the potential for wider regeneration of the Crystal Palace area. This could explore whether there is potential for a large hotel and conference centre in the area, and any proposals could then be competitively tendered. It could also take forward ideas endorsed by the community in the park masterplan to build a better museum, and a botanical garden or butterfly house on the hill top.

We will oppose this new proposed development for the following reasons:

Scale and loss of green space – building a large hotel, conference centre and boutiques will inevitably take up a large part of the park and be too big for the area. When the original Crystal Palace was moved here the area was semi-rural and surrounded by green space. Today the park is surrounded by housing, so such a large loss of Grade II* heritage Metropolitan Open Land and Conservation Area to build a largely commercial development is unacceptable.

Local economy – it is likely that business rates and rents would rise substantially, chain stores would move into the area, and businesses would change their focus to serve tourists rather than residents, all of which would fundamentally change the character of this thriving centre of independent local businesses. Profits would return to overseas investors, rather than circulating in the local economy. There are brownfield sites in the area that could be developed in a more appropriate way to create more local jobs and businesses, and better ways to create a genuine cultural centre for the area.

Traffic and pollution – roads in the area are already congested and experience levels of air pollution that break legal health limits. This kind of development would inevitably draw in more road traffic, including lorries, and may further add to crowding on train services as tourists staying at the hotel travel into central London.

Biodiversity – this has largely been ignored by the developers, but the hill top hosts valuable habitats including hedgerows, scrub, wildflowers and woodland which are home to bats, insects, at least 27 species of local birds and 9 species of migratory birds. The proposed building would almost certainly involve the loss of or damage to most of these habitats.

Process – the proposal came about through a backroom deal between the developers, the GLA and Bromley Council, without a competitive tendering process. It disrupted the community-led, £7.5m plans to improve parts of the park, and has put many other community initiatives on hold. Bromley Council and the GLA have supported the plans before any work has been done on the likely impact, and without considering alternatives. The consultation process to date has been poor, the developers have not been transparent about their aims or intentions, nor the source of finance (which isn’t philanthropic) and it is clear that they aren’t willing to follow what the community wants – in the last masterplan exercise, it was clear that local people don’t want a large-scale commercial development, and would prefer the masterplan proposal of a small cultural, heritage or botanical facility on the hilltop to complement the open space and wildlife.

Privatisation of land – selling such a large area of public parkland on a 125 year lease is unacceptable, and Bromley Council have rejected the Green Party suggestion that the land be put into a Community Land Trust and then leased to the developer, which would be the only way to protect the interests of the wider community.

Inappropriate use – it is inconceivable that the developer wouldn’t have a firm idea of the building’s use at this stage in order to work out whether the project is viable, so we believe he has withheld this information from the public. Whatever the initial use of the building, the history of the original Crystal Palace and of more recent attractions like the Dome show that it will have to change over time to stay viable. We don’t think a large 6* hotel and conference centre is appropriate to begin with, and don’t trust Bromley Council to retain a genuine, publicly accessible cultural facility if the developer sought changes in future years to increase revenue and avoid a white elephant.