Might the Chinese industrialists and their Tory backers who wanted to privatise Crystal Palace Park on the cheap now be eyeing the main chance in Croydon instead?
Inside Croydon poses the question after Lord Bates, the Tory peer who helped to launch ZhongRong’s audacious but ultimately failed Chinese takeaway of a south London park, was spotted in Croydon last week, offering his support to Gavin Barwell’s election campaign alongside hapless chief whip Michael Gove.
Conservative MP Barwell is defending a slim parliamentary majority in Croydon Central. He has frequently boasted of his “behind the scenes” role in the £1billion redevelopment of central Croydon by Westfield and Hammerson. But Barwell has tended to be more coy about his insider position on the board of the Whitgift Foundation, the major landowners and beneficiaries of the Hammersfield scheme.
Lord Bates is understood to have been behind a reception at the Houses of Parliament for the launch of the ZhongRong Group’s replica Palace project, when London’s Tory Mayor Boris Johnson tried to handover almost one-third of Crystal Palace Park to the Chinese industrialists, and later commissioning another Tory peer, Sebastian Coe, to conduct a lip-service consultation to justify the demolition of the neighbouring athletics stadium.
The “sponsor” for ZhongRong’s exclusive dealings with the Greater London Authority and Bromley Council in all this was Lady Bates, who married Michael Bates in 2012. Originally from China, Xuelin Bates is an architect and property developer who has lived in Britain for 25 years and has recently been a generous donor to the Conservative Party. The couple are minuted as attending GLA meetings as ZRG’s representatives.
Last weekend, Michael Bates was pounding the streets of Croydon, handing out leaflets for Barwell, who is at risk of emulating the peer’s record as a one-term MP: Bates was MP for Langbaurgh in the north-east from 1992 to 1997.
Lord and Lady Bates’s friends at ZRG, having been thwarted in their attempt to spend £500 million in one part of south London, may well be seeking other property “opportunities” nearby. And Barwell knows very well what prospects there might be in Croydon, thanks to all his self-professed “behind the scenes” work.
- Bromley goes public on ZhongRong’s 500-year Palace dynasty
- Boris aides make a meal out of London Mayor’s Chinese giveaway
- MP Barwell backs road scheme which could see Waddon park bulldozed
- £50m deal clears away objectors to Hammersfield
- Lord Coe’s company plans to bulldoze athletics stadium
- Assembly member calls Chinese Palace plans a ‘fiasco’
- Boris accused over ‘secret’ £500m Chinese giveaway
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