Bromley leader Carr attacks Boris’s Palace consultation

Seconds out, round three: In a pull-no-punches letter sent to City Hall today, Stephen Carr, the leader of Tory-run Bromley Council, has condemned London Mayor Boris Johnson’s on-going consultation over the future of Crystal Palace National Sports Centre as “…variations of one option, and this option does not immediately appear to be the ambitious and interesting scheme expected”.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has hit Bromley below the belt over Crystal Palace Park

London Mayor Boris Johnson has hit Bromley below the belt over Crystal Palace Park

Carr, who has close links with the leadership of the Conservative group on Croydon Council, was said to be furious after a briefing yesterday from the Mayor’s staff.

This was not least because Inside Croydon had published a Greater London Authority commissioning document outlining the brief for the NSC consultation, a document which the GLA had failed to have the courtesy of sharing with Bromley Council.

Bromley is one of the five boroughs – including Croydon – which border the popular public park, and which until recently had responsibility for the park and the management of the sports centre.

As we reported yesterday, CSM Strategic, the sports marketing company hired to conduct the public consultation, had as part of its mission from the GLA that “it is necessary to revisit the masterplan to test which elements should be reconsidered in light of the changed circumstances”.

Which is easily interpreted as finding an excuse to bulldoze the athletics stadium, because it is an unsightly blot in the view for the £500 million scheme to build a replica of the Victorian Crystal Palace on the park’s top site.

In his letter to Malcolm Beadle, the GLA’s senior manager for land, estates and property who is overseeing the “consultation” process, Bromley council leader Carr states, “The sports facilities are important to the local community and every effort should be made to retain them.”

That is a powerful endorsement of the position taken by coaches and the international athletes and age-groupers who use the facilities, and the local businesses whose livelihoods depend on the sports centre.

Bromley's Stephen Carr: pulled no punches in his letter to Boris's GLA

Bromley’s Stephen Carr: pulled no punches in his letter to Boris’s GLA

Carr went on to criticise the way the consultation had been handled, because it had failed to consult widely enough: “It is important that all sports clubs, both national and local, are directly contacted to ascertain true demand, and provide them with the opportunity to express their interest in the site and consider how they can contribute to the viability of the sporting offer.”

The future of the athletics track and indoor training area has been one of the main points of contention raised by the consultation, especially since it is being run for the GLA by CSM Strategic, which boasts as its executive chairman Lord Coe, the double Olympic gold medal-winner and former head of London’s 2012 Olympic organising committee.

Carr has given Bromley’s backing to keeping the track: “Every effort should be made to retain the athletics track, however the council accepts that a significant reduction in stadium seating may be imperative to the sustainability of the site.”

He also had serious questions about the GLA’s plan to site a free school in the middle of a public park, and has put forward an alternative for a secondary academy instead. “The introduction of an academic institution to the park may be a positive addition to the area and provide financial sustainability,” Carr wrote, “however the council strongly favours options other than the Primary School option being further explored.

“This is an unique opportunity to develop and enhance the sporting facilities at the park by setting up a new South London flagship sports Academy, reinvigorating Crystal Palace as a place of sporting and education excellence. This approach would protect the sporting heritage of the park and ensure the local community continued to have access to a range of high quality sporting facilities.

“It is important that this opportunity is rigorously pursued and properly considered through actively approaching both the Education Funding Agency (EFA) and potential service providers. The positioning of any new academic facility needs careful consideration, and sites on the periphery of the park should also be considered due to wider implications such as traffic control and parking.”

The four options for the NSC all amount to the same thing, according to Bromley council leader Stephen Carr

Four options for the NSC amount to the same thing, according to Bromley council leader Stephen Carr

Carr was clearly underwhelmed with the options put forward, since some of them could see the council and other groups spending £425,000 of public money from Bromley and the GLA on improvements in the park, only to see them demolished soon after.

“The council does not want to spend public money on works which will be undone in the near future,” Carr wrote, “therefore it is imperative that as the plans for the future of the NSC site develop, there is constant dialogue with the Improvement Scheme project team.”

But Carr reserved his most withering criticism for the NSC consultation and the manner it has been handled.

“Initially the GLA indicated they would be producing ambitious and varied options for the future of the NSC for public consultation. However, the options which have been presented would seem to be variations of one option, and this option does not immediately appear to be the ambitious and interesting scheme expected.”

Carr’s criticisms include:

  • “The detail provided in the consultation document does not allow Planning to take a view on whether planning permission could be granted”
  • “It is unclear how the footprint of the proposals fits with the Masterplan, which has outline planning permission already in place”
  • “It is unclear what the impact of these works would be on the listed building”
  • “Whether the consultation carried out will be considered adequate”
  • And whether “there is sufficient re-provision as stated in the consultation document for any lost sports facilities”

Carr doesn’t say so explicitly, but he, too may also suspect that the limited options offered are more about pleasing the billionaire industrialist behind the ZhongRong Group, and its £500 million replica Palace, than it is about the best future for the facilities in Crystal Palace Park.

“The Council would like to see the design iterations leading up to these concept designs to understand how the options provided in the consultation were arrived at, and what other options were considered, including their timescale and funding implications.”

Carr has called for the NSC consultation to be extended until February 2015, so that it could be open until the exclusivity agreement with ZhongRong for the top site expires, and for both schemes – which in total take up almost half of the area of the Grade II-listed public park – to be considered in tandem. The GLA had already been forced to extend the original NSC consultation period until November 16.


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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in 2012 Olympics, Athletics, Boris Johnson, Bromley Council, Crystal Palace Park, Environment, London-wide issues, Mayor of London, Planning, Sport, Stephen Carr and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Bromley leader Carr attacks Boris’s Palace consultation

  1. davidcallam says:

    Bromley Council is largely responsible for the present mess.

    Its inability to handle a simple consultation process and its abject failure to shoulder its financial responsibilities led directly to the involvement of Mayor Johnson in the first place.

    As for the NSC itself, it is a hideous monstrosity that should never have been inflicted on anywhere, let alone a public park.

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