Boris showed “outrageous contempt” for Crystal Palace locals

A senior member of the London Assembly has attacked Boris Johnson for showing “outrageous contempt for local democracy” by supporting a Chinese billionaire’s plans to build a replica Crystal Palace on public parkland.

"Do what you like. We'll take your cash, and we won't tell the locals", is what someone might have said when Boris Johnson and  Chinese developer Ni Zhao met at this week's announcement

“Do what you like. We’ll take your cash, and we won’t tell the locals”, is what someone might have said when Boris Johnson and Chinese developer Ni Zhao met

The only real surprise is that Assembly Member Darren Johnson seems surprised.

Darren Johnson is a London-wide Assembly Member from the Green Party. He is the chair of the London Assembly and also chairs the housing committee at City Hall.

Today, in a column in the Grauniad newspaper, Darren Johnson accuses the Old Etonian London Mayor of (not for the first time) taking the side of big business over that of ordinary Londoners on the matter of the £500 million scheme to build a 21st century version of the Crystal Palace.

Darren Johnson says that he worried that the scheme could threaten a £7.5 million Heritage Lottery grant, awarded to local groups for their work restoring the original Crystal Palace’s terracing and statues and the nearby subways.

Assembly Member Johnson writes that London Mayor Johnson “has backed a Chinese developer who wants to create a ‘world-class landmark’ without any meaningful involvement from the community”. The image of local residents being kept away from the breakfast announcement that was made by Chinese businessman Ni Zhaoxing, with BoJo grinning at his side, will long last as a metaphor for the London Mayor’s style of public engagement.

“During the press conference the developer told the press that he was in talks with the government, the Greater London Authority and Bromley council to get around restrictions on development,” Darren Johnson writes.

“The consultative group that Bromley council has worked with in recent years very politely complained about being kept in the dark about these new plans.

“Excluding these people shows outrageous contempt for local democracy.”

London Assembly Member Darren Johnson

London Assembly Member Darren Johnson

As Darren Johnson highlights, the announcement is very much a case of “here we go again” for Crystal Palace residents, many of whom campaigned against a scheme to use the same site for “an ugly multiplex cinema”.

“Many of the objections that myself and local people had about the multiplex cinema scheme, the loss of open space, the huge impact on traffic and the damage to the local economy, will probably apply just as much to this scheme as to the multiplex plans we fought so hard against 13 years ago,” Darren Johnson writes.

“While I’m sure many people would love to see the Crystal Palace raised from the ashes, this precious parkland is no longer the right place for it.”

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2 Responses to Boris showed “outrageous contempt” for Crystal Palace locals

  1. One man’s outrageous contempt is another’s brilliant initiative.

    Darren Johnson’s criticism is tainted by party politics, I suspect, and by a degree of enmity: it must be galling always to be less well-known than his namesake at City Hall.

    Crystal Palace is a regional open space as well as a local one: far too much concern is shown for the convenience of those who live close to the park, compared with those who live further away, but still value it as a place of recreation.

    The children’s zoo and classical music concerts are among the casualties of poor management in recent years, as is the steady decline in the fabric of the park. An asset of this size and importance should never have been handed to a small-minded local authority like Bromley.

    There are valid concerns to be raised about the use of Crystal Palace for large-scale events, but none that can’t be overcome.

    For example, the poor transport links: The railway station has recently been refurbished and is now a terminus for the East London Line as well as a through station for Southern suburban services. Both could easily be augmented as required for major events.

    As for Tramlink, the new development would strengthen the argument for the long-discussed Crystal Palace extension; it might even be included as part of the development costs.

    Like many others I have sat in long and slow-moving processions of cars waiting to leave the park after events, but other places have learnt to deal with such exoduses efficiently – Croydon’s twin-town Arnhem in The Netherlands has a football stadium in its midst, where it sets up a temporary traffic control centre on match days.

    I note there appears to be a stadium in the Chinese design: to me that’s an obvious home for Crystal Palace FC, infinitely better than a redeveloped Selhurst Park. I hope the club’s owners are already talking to Ni Zhaoxing.

    • eagleash says:

      Agreed. This article, although I concur in principle with a number of the points, is basically “Party Politics”. Although overall Boris has got this one wrong at this stage, possibly carried away by the success of the Olympics.
      The stadium capacity is vastly reduced under the current proposals, the grandstand on the racetrack side & most of the end seating is missing. It would not be in any way suitable for the football club to use as things stand. Security of the area could also be a problem. Furthermore the club have already stated they intend to upgrade Selhurst Park rather than make furhter attempts to move to the NSC.

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