Athletics body condemns plans to bulldoze Palace track

Finally, the Lottery-funded national governing body for athletics has delivered a report which is strongly against the demolition of the track and field facilities at Crystal Palace. UK Athletics has delivered its views nine months after the start of a “consultation” commissioned by Boris Johnson’s Greater London Authority, apparently staged to justify the bulldozing of the athletics stadium, indoor training hall and other sports facilities.

Belatedly, UK Athletics has decided that it wants to keep Crystal Palace

Belatedly, UK Athletics has decided that it wants to keep Crystal Palace

Superseded since 2012 by the Olympic Stadium at Stratford as “the home of British athletics”, Crystal Palace was due to be a regional development centre for the sport under Olympic Legacy plans.

But those plans appeared to be discarded when the Tory Mayor of London hired a company, of which Sebastian Coe is the chairman, to conduct a consultation which appears to have had a single objective. Which is all a bit bitterly ironic, given the promises on sporting legacy made by Conservative peer Lord Coe when he was in charge of the London Olympic Organising Committee.

The confidential 22-page UK Athletics report, seen by Inside Croydon, makes the case for providing year-round training facilities in south London for as many people as possible – something which requires some indoor tracks, jumping and throwing areas, just as has existed for nearly 50 years at Crystal Palace.

The UK Athletics report says, “UK Athletics and England Athletics supports the retention of appropriate indoor and outdoor athletics facilities at Crystal Palace in order to service the considerable demand for athletics from registered clubs and members living in the South London area.” And to think it took them nine months to reach such a conclusion.

You can read the UKA report on Crystal Palace here.

Such findings may prove a tad embarrassing to the chairman of the British Olympic Association: Lord Coe, who is also the executive chairman of CSM, the company hired by the GLA and which has recommended the bulldozing of the indoor and the outdoor athletics facilities.

Despite the detailed report by UKA, because it was not delivered during the consultation period, none of its content was considered by CSM, and therefore none of it appears in the final report submitted to the GLA and which seems likely to determine the sports centre’s fate.

Later this summer, UKA will be proposing Lord Coe to become the next president of the IAAF, the sport’s world governing body. Their tardiness in dealing with this matter can only be coincidental.

London Mayor Boris Johnson points out to Seb Coe which bits of Crystal Palace he wants to be demolished. Apparently

London Mayor Boris Johnson points out to Seb Coe which bits of Crystal Palace he wants to be demolished. Apparently

The Crystal Palace Sports Partnership, the local lobby group which has led the opposition to the GLA plans, said it is “concerned” that the sport’s national governing body had taken so long to report on the issue.

John Powell, the Palace-based athletics coach who is chair of CPSP, said, “Without an indoor track dozens if not hundreds of athletes will be rendered ‘homeless’. It will be devastating for the sport.

“As the UKA report indicates, alternative training venues are virtually inaccessible to those commuting by public transport from this area. Meanwhile, an excellent transport hub serves Crystal Palace.

“The UKA report proves beyond doubt that there is a robust business case that would support the retention of some form of indoor training area. The loss of indoor athletics facilities alone at the Palace will be a disaster, leaving athletes from club to elite level trying to train in freezing British winters, which is nothing short of a disgrace.”

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2 Responses to Athletics body condemns plans to bulldoze Palace track

  1. Lewis White says:

    My sister, Josephine White, now living happily in the US, was a young Olympic running prospect who trained at Crystal Palace along with many other S London / Surrey and Kent athletes in the Ovett / Coe era. We lived in the South London -Surrey area, and Jo belonged to Mitcham AC. Crystal Palace is well placed for athletes from SW, S and SE London to train– being accessible by car or train or bus from a wide area. The site has hosted many fantastic athletic events, and no doubt, swimming events too. Its current run down state is very sad.

    However, the Crystal Palace Park as a whole is spoilt by the fact that the stadium and pool complex is planted like an alien spaceship bang in the middle of the park, along with its arid acreage of seldom-used car parking. The Sports centre is isolated, and does not integrate with the park at all, in my view.

    However! I think that, with sensible redesign of the complex and its car park, it should be possible to achieve the necessary integration. I would like to see a place that has the character of a Botanical Garden, combined with a superb outdoor / indoor swimming pool, surrounded by sunbathing terraces. It would be a marriage of Sport, Plants, and Leisure. It would be unique in the UK, and I think, should be a London facility, not Sports Council and Bromley Council. Imagine Kew Gardens, with a naturalistic outdoor / indoor super- Lido or Center Parcs, all interconnected, along with a superb athletics centre and a tree-planted car park– all integrated by beautiful landscaping into a fantastic parkland— there you have it, the Crystal Palace Park and South London Sports Centre we could have!. It would take a Lottery bid, and London wide tax to achieve it. I am sure it would be possible. Design the track also for dog racing and baseball. It surely must be possible. Thousands would go there to seek recreation, relaxation and health!

    Come on New Mayor–deliver us the Park we have needed for years!

    • We are where we are, Lewis.

      The alternative proposed by the Mayor’s consultation is to build a free school, and some car parking. Nothing quite as inspired as your grand plan.

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