Time to scrap Boris’s Crystal Palace vanity project, say Greens

Time is running out for one of Boris Johnson’s vanity projects, the £500 million Chinese Crystal Palace which although unbuilt, has cast a dark shadow over the park and the National Sports Centre there, and blighted planned improvements and developments in the area ever since the Mayor of London took it upon himself to try to foist the scheme on south London more than a year ago.

"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 last year's  announcement for the new Crystal Palace

“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 the announcement for the new “Crystal Palace” in October 2013. Little progress has been made since

On Sunday, February 1, the exclusivity agreement between Bromley Council and the ZhongRong Group will expire, 16 months after it was signed. To date there;s been no public indication of a deal from either party.

Today, the Green Party has called on Bromley Council – signatories to the exclusivity agreement and the former managers of the park – and the Greater London Authority to abandon talks with the ZhongRong Group and to shelve any plans to build a massive commercial facility on Crystal Palace Park. Consultation about the scheme has been poor and details sketchy, but the Chinese are believed to have proposed building a large 6* hotel, a precious gems trading floor and a conference centre.

London’s Tory Mayor wanted to flog off the public land in the park cheaply, on a long lease to the private developer, ignoring all other considerations surrounding the Grade II-listed parkland.

“The idea of building a huge hotel and conference centre on our park was wrong, the consultation process was hopeless, and the consequences have included community groups blocked from improving our park, the loss of millions of pounds of Lottery funding, and a huge amount of anger and resentment among local people,” Tom Chance, the Greens’ parliamentary candidate for Lewisham West and Penge, which includes the park.

“Bromley and the GLA need to stop messing around with fantasy projects and send the ZhongRong Group packing,” Chance said.

“If they set-up a Community Land Trust to govern the park’s future, this could find viable ways to implement the adopted masterplan incrementally, without losing large areas of the park to private ownership and commercial buildings. The council could also work with local environmental groups to turn the scrub and woodland on the hill top into a popular local nature reserve within the next six months, instead of denigrating it as a waste of space and trying to concrete it over.”


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2 Responses to Time to scrap Boris’s Crystal Palace vanity project, say Greens

  1. Time would only be running out for Boris and his Chinese chums if there was someone else waiting in the wings to step into the breach; there isn’t.

    I have very fond memories of Crystal Palace Park stretching back over decades and I am sad to see how it has been allowed to decline in that time; like some elderly relative now gone to seed.

    I have seen numerous cunning plans come and go for the refurbishment of the park; some defeated by local dog-walkers who object to any change on principle; others that have run out of steam when fickle member of the Greater London Council or latterly Bromley Council diverted funds to some alternative project.

    The park is a valuable green lung in an area of increasingly dense population and should be valued as such: it is not a site for a future school; nor one where we should preserve in aspic a truly carbuncular sports complex.
    The site was chosen by an eminent Victorian architect for a grand building and a park in which to show it off. It is shameful that nearly 80 years after the original structure was destroyed by fire, we are still faffing about in our self-important way, raising inconsequential objections to a replacement that might be made to solve the problem of park maintenance costs in perpetuity while providing a suitable focal point for the area.

    There has been no public money forthcoming for the restitution of the park in past decades, when times were less hard. There will certainly be none available in the foreseeable future.

    • As ever, David, am in broad agreement.

      Thing is, the Chinese Crystal Palace was never really a serious contender as a project, expect in the fetid imagination of Boris. The Back To The Future approach is certainly not what is required to start to bring the park back to something of its former glory, but to serve the 21st, rather than the 19th, century.

      But you are wrong in a very important point of fact. There has been millions of pounds of public money available for restoring aspects of the park, money that has been lost as a direct consequence of London’s meddling Mayor and his vanity project. In January 2014 the Heritage Lottery Fund rejected an already well-advanced application from Bromley, the GLA and local groups for £4.5 million, all because of the uncertainty created by the ZhongRong plans.

      Well done, Bozza!

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