ZhongRong’s deadline for paying Bromley a non-refundable £5 million deposit to maintain their preferential status as developers of a £500 million “exciting glass-house proposal” (© Boris Johnson) for the top site in Crystal Palace Park expires later today, with the local council leader not expecting the Chinese industrialists to fulfil the requirements he has laid down.
Meanwhile, a report on the redevelopment of the National Sports Centre, on an adjacent part of the park, may not now be published until the end of May at the earliest, according to sources close to the Greater London Authority.
A GLA-commissioned consultation last autumn caused controversy when it offered four options for the future of the Crystal Palace athletics stadium, which had served as the home of British track and field for half a century. All the options offered proposed the demolition of the spectator stands around the track, and only two options suggested keeping a running track at all.
Even Bromley Council leader Stephen Carr condemned the proposals for failing to maintain Crystal Palace as a regional sports centre, and also for including a scheme to build a Free School in the centre of a public park.
But sources close to City Hall have told Inside Croydon that the GLA has gone back to the drawing board, and spent time in December and January compiling research on the number of users at the NSC, particularly those on the athletics track and in the indoor training area, which was also scheduled to be demolished under the consultation.
The plans in the consultation provided for the building of a major service road through the middle of the park – and the athletics stadium – apparently principally for the use of the vast replica glass palace at the top of the hill proposed by ZhongRong and personally backed by the London Mayor, Boris Johnson.
But with the Chinese group’s exclusivity agreement expiring on February 1, and with them seemingly unlikely to pony up with the £5 million guarantee or meet other terms laid down by Bromley, it appears that the GLA is prepared to reconsider how it deals with the National Sports Centre, possibly more in line with previously agreed local masterplans.
According to our source, the consultants’ NSC report will reflect the widespread protests from local clubs, coaches, sports groups and national governing bodies which “stunned” deputy mayor Richard “Dick” Blakeway with its ferocity when he encountered the public lobbying last year.
“The report might surprise you once it’s published,” our source said.
But that may not be until the end of May at the earliest: with a six-week period before the General Election on May 7 affecting politically loaded announcements such as this, it is increasingly unlikely that the GLA will be ready to release the NSC report’s findings before the purdah begins.
And Bromley’s Carr is not expecting to hear anything from ZhongRong any time soon, either, and certainly not before today’s 5pm deadline.
Inside Croydon outlined the additional conditions which Bromley laid out for the Chinese earlier this month after they had failed to provide fuller and further details of their proposals during their 16-month exclusivity period: as well as a £5 million deposit, ZhongRong must provide a business plan, full details of the size and content of the development, a viability assessment, and a string of other guarantees.
“I’m not sure they’re going to meet the timescale,” Carr said in an interview with local broadcast journalist Chris Humphris (@ChrisChatsStuff). Seeking to appear conciliatory, Carr added that he is “sure ZhongRong Group will be keen to deal with the London Borough of Bromley in the months coming forward”.
But even if that proves to be the case, the Chinese – including their London-based Tory Party donor sponsors – will no longer have the hefty commercial advantage of exclusivity to negotiate over this prized packet of public property in a Grade II-listed London park that London Mayor Boris Johnson appeared so keen to hand over to them.
Bromley, Carr said in the interview, has seen some “interesting plans from some internationally known groups”.
This one looks likely to run and run; a bit like the Crystal Palace athletics track.
- Previously from Inside Croydon on this subject:
- Two years of secret meetings for world’s largest ‘glass-house’
- Lord Coe’s company plans to bulldoze athletics stadium
- Bromley leader Carr attacks Boris’s Palace consultation
- Assembly member calls Chinese Palace plans a ‘fiasco’
- City Hall documents confirm Palace schemes were linked
- Boris accused over ‘secret’ £500m Chinese giveaway
- Inside Croydon Events: for dates and links to what’s happening in and around Croydon, updated daily, click here
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