It’s all gone a bit Pete Tong for ZhongRong’s Palace scheme

It’s all gone a bit Pete Tong for ZhongRong’s takeover of a massive chunk of Crystal Palace Park.

The stuff of Boris Johnson's dreams (and Crystal Palace residents' nightmares)

The stuff of Boris Johnson’s wet dreams (and Crystal Palace residents’ nightmares). An artist’s soft-focus impression of what the ZhongRong scheme might have looked like

Bromley Council has today issued a press release confirming what had been widely expected for some time.

The sweetheart exclusivity period provided to the ZhongRong Group, of China, brokered by London Mayor Boris Johnson, to build a £500million new glass palace atop the public park has expired, apparently without any real progress having been made for the scheme. Much to the relief of many local residents.

It won’t just be the residents of the five south London boroughs, including Croydon, which converge at Crystal Palace who will generally be glad to see the back of this latest wet dream of a vanity project from the Tory Mayor of London. Sources at City Hall suggest that in October 2013, when Johnson announced the scheme from the derelict terracing of the original Crystal Palace, one of the first on the phone were representatives of Westfield, wanting to know more about another landmark project which might detract from their £1billion Croydon redevelopment on behalf of the Whitgift Foundation.

If the ZhongRong scheme does evaporate into thin air, once again the local authority will be left without anything else on the table to resolve the dilemma of how best to use Crystal Palace Park’s “top site”, where Joseph Paxton’s original Crystal Palace stood until it burned down nearly 80 years ago.

Bromley Council is therefore keen to keep the door ajar to the Chinese industrialists, despite their failure to deliver any worthwhile plans in the 17 months since Johnson personally announced this pie-in-the-sky scheme.

“These have been and remain complex proposals,” said Stephen Carr, the leader of Bromley Council, who is known to have close connections with key figures in neighbouring Croydon.

“The potential to completely restore and improve the park as well as regeneration for the surrounding area is something we cannot ignore. Equally, the council is not going to agree to something without being confident about the proposals as we are custodians of this fantastic park.”

The Chinese takeover of the park has not gone away altogether, though. “Whilst we are no longer bound by an exclusivity agreement, the confidential discussions have not concluded and these continue with ZhongRong,” Carr said.

Today's Bromley Council press release: keeping the door ajar

Today’s Bromley Council press release: keeping the door ajar for ZhongRong

“Local people and other interested parties should know that when there is something to say, we will keep them informed as we have sought to do all the way along this process and I thank them for their continued patience.”

If anything, that almost seems as if the process, which has hardly been as transparent as it could have been, may become even more secretive.

But with Boris turning his attention to other, more important things than London – ie. his own political ambition and his Tory Party leadership challenge – it seems less likely that there will be anyone at City Hall acting as a driving force behind the half-baked Chinese Palace scheme, once described in the New Statesman as a “boondoggle” and as Johnson’s  “grandest, most pointless project yet”.

And with the notoriously under-used Dangleway, the over-heating Boris Bus, the ridiculous Orbit in Olympic Park and the costly Boris Bikes, there’s plenty of candidates for that unwanted accolade.


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