Attempts by one of Sebastian Coe’s companies to distance themselves from any relationship with China’s ZhongRong Group appear to be in vain after the Greater London Authority published its consultants’ brief and an interim report which demonstrate that any scheme for the National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace should “ideally complement” the £500million glass palace which the Chinese developers have proposed to build in the south London park.
The GLA report and commissioning brief confirm local activists’ beliefs that the proposals for the National Sports Centre were determined largely in the interests of the Chinese developers.
CSM is the sports marketing company hired by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to consult on the future of the NSC. Lord Coe is CSM’s executive chairman; he is also the former chairman of LOCOG, the London Olympics organising committee, and during his own stellar athletics career in the 1980s won two Olympic 1,500 metres gold medals. Coe even set a world record on the track at Crystal Palace.
The CSM-run public consultation concluded last month. It had created a furore when Coe’s role with the company was revealed, and that the consultation offered just four options for the future of the Crystal Palace athletics stadium. All four options involved the demolition of the stadium, none of them include any indoor training facilities, while just two provide for a running track for clubs, the community and schools to train on.
The publication of the GLA/CSM documents could be embarrassing for Coe, since today he launched his manifesto to become the next president of the IAAF, the international track and field governing body, one of the most powerful positions in world sport. The election is due to take place in August. In Beijing.
Last month, a lawyer acting for Lord Coe contacted Inside Croydon demanding that we “take down within half a hour”, an article we had published because the CSM-run “consultation has nothing to do with the ZhongRong scheme”.
“He would never bulldoze an athletics stadium,” they said.
We pointed out that the stadium is in the same south London park as ZhongRong’s proposed palace, that a GLA document we had seen referred to the two schemes in that same park being linked, and that all four of the options in the consultation proposed the demolition of the athletics stadium.
Our article has remained live on the internet ever since.
Under the headline: “Coe’s company was given brief to bulldoze sports stadium”, we reported that CSM “was given a brief to restructure the sports facilities at Crystal Palace to best suit the replica Palace development proposed by a Chinese billionaire industrialist”.
We also reported that the proposals in the CSM-run consultation for the National Sports Centre “… all include an access road, from Crystal Palace Park Road through the present stadium site, apparently for use by the £500 million replica Palace, built on public parkland and which the London Mayor has backed so enthusiastically.”
And we concluded: “It is clear from this GLA document that the on-going consultation about sports facilities at Crystal Palace is more about facilitating ZhongRong’s ‘new Palace’ than it is about sporting provision or observing the area’s agreed Masterplan”.
We linked to a GLA’s document, and quoted the authority: “The success of the proposed new Palace is inextricably linked to its wider landscape setting, and the two must work together to ensure that the Palace and park together offer a great day out. The addition of a major new cultural attraction in the park means that it is necessary to revisit the masterplan to test which elements should be reconsidered in light of the changed circumstances”.
The ZhongRong Group has until February to confirm its intentions for the development under an exclusivity agreement with Bromley Council.
Named in that agreement as a sponsor for ZhongRong Group is Lady Xuelin Bates, a prominent donor to the Conservative Party who has even attended “Leaders’ Group Dinners” with the Prime Minister.
Lady Bates is also an adviser to another Chinese corporation, ABP, which has secured a deal through the London Mayor’s office for the multi-million-pound redevelopment of the Royal Albert Docks. Last month, a former chair of a standards watchdog told Channel 4 News that the Albert Docks procurement process “has the smell of a semi-corrupt arrangement”.
There is no suggestion that Lord Coe or CSM have any involvement in the Albert Docks development.
But the requirement on CSM to work with ZhongRong Group was made plain in the consultants brief from the Greater London Authority for their work on the National Sport Centre.
Malcolm Beadle, a senior manager at City Hall in the GLA’s housing and land directorate, distributed an email this week, saying, “Following a number of requests, I can confirm that the original consultants brief (ITT) and a copy of the interim report from CSM (slightly redacted), have been uploaded to our website. They can be accessed via this webpage.”
Beadle provided this link: https://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/housing-land/land-assets/crystal-palace
There, you can find CSM’s own interim report on the National Sports Centre re-development, delivered to the GLA at the end of July. On page 43 of the 82-page document, under a heading “Planning/development context objectives”, CSM’s report-writers state that they should ensure that their “… plans do not compete with, and ideally complement, ZRG plans, whilst also being deliverable”.
At last month’s Mayor’s Question Time at City Hall, Boris Johnson appeared to indicate that the £500 million ZhongRong deal had all gone a bit Pete Tong. Since then, however, the leader of Bromley Council, Stephen Carr, has claimed that the Chinese have resumed contact and are working towards their February deadline with their own consultants, Arup, to take up their option to build across almost half a public park, which borders four other south London boroughs, as well as Croydon.
- C4 News: London Assembly to investigate Boris’s £1bn property deal
- Greens take a stand against Chinese takeaway of public park
- Assembly Member calls Chinese Palace plans a “fiasco”
Coming to Croydon
- David Lean Cinema, The Riot Club, Dec 4
- St Andrew’s churchyard gardening session, 10am, Dec 6
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- Croydon Philharmonic Handel’s Messiah, Fairfield Halls, Dec 6
- Coulsdon Yulefest, Dec 6-7
- Heathfield House Christmas charity bazaar, Dec 7
- Oval Tavern Folk Club, Dec 7
- David Lean Cinema, ’71, Dec 11
- Mayor of Croydon’s charity Christmas dinner, Dec 12
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- Concert of Christmas music, St Luke’s, Woodside, Dec 13
- Opera Soiree at Whitgift School, Dec 14
- Friends of the Earth Green Beanfeast, Dec 15 (book by Dec 1)
- Croydon Philharmonic Christmas concert, St Matthew’s, Dec 16
- Spread Eagle’s Christmas Improv show, Dec 17
- David Lean Cinema, Northern Soul, Dec 18
- David Lean Cinema, Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief, Dec 29
- David Lean Cinema, The Beat Beneath My Feet, Dec 30
- Norwood Society talk: Penge, the making of a suburb, Jan 15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
- Norwood Society talk: Crystal Palace and Dulwich, Feb 19
- Norwood Society talk: Charlies Dickens in Norwood, Mar 19
- Norwood Society: Balloons and airships at Crystal Palace, Apr 16
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