Mayor of London Boris Johnson has finally abandoned his ill-considered plans to demolish Crystal Palace’s athletics stadium and indoor track, following the deeply flawed consultation conducted by a company which has London’s Olympic hero, Seb Coe, as its executive chairman.
We also reported the link between the demolition proposals for the ageing National Sports Centre and Johnson’s vanity project which involved handing over a large chunk of public property, one-third of the Grade II-listed park, to a Chinese billionaire who wanted to construct a pastiche of Paxton’s original Crystal Palace.
These reports led Lord Coe’s high-powered lawyers to call Inside Croydon Towers and threaten us because our reports were “potentially libellous”. Oh how we laughed! But we have never heard from them again.
And things have not gone so well for his Lordship since, because despite being elected to be head of world athletics, the former world record-holder has run in to a spot of bother, over allegations of drug test cover-ups and bribery by other senior officials, all conducted during the period he was a member of the international governing body’s ruling council. Poor old Seb, he says he was completely unaware that any of this was going on.
So the scrapping of CSM’s proposals is probably the least of Coe’s problems right now. But it represents yet another example of how Tories like to carve up public money and property and hand it out to their mates. Garden Bridge, anyone?
Back in October 2014, the Greater London Authority (which runs the National Sports Centre and its grounds) began a consultation to demolish the athletics stadium, build a free school in its place, remove the raised walkway and the indoor training area beneath it, remove a teaching swimming pool, and end Crystal Palace’s role as a nationally significant sports centre that had lasted for more than a century.
Crystal Palace had been earmarked by the national athletics governing body to be a strategic centre for the sport as part of the Olympic “legacy”.
But this was ignored by the consultation by the CSM, the company run by Coe, who had made many of the promises of a sporting legacy for the capital when he was running the London 2012 organising committee.
But with the consultation process dragging on, and opposition from Bromley’s local council, City Hall officials have been quietly allowing the whole ill-considered stitch-up to fade away.
Subsequent publication of the contract documents for CSM’s appointment, for a fee of £68,000, demonstrate clearly that from the beginning a key requirement for Coe’s company’s consultation was to collaborate with Arup, the designers working on the ZhongRong Chinese Palace.
This required “Close working with the Arup led advisory team on the wider site redevelopment project will be important to establish alignment between the projects. We work with Arup on a regular basis and will work in partnership to identify mutually beneficial opportunities,” CSM stated in March 2014.
Earlier this month, City Hall finally conceded defeat when it announced that no decision on the consultation will be made this side of Mayoral elections in May, giving the new Mayor a chance to take a different approach. And to find the money to pay for the work that is desperately needed for some of the crumbling concrete structures around the stadium.
Internal board papers state that “the long term strategy for the NSC will be developed with the new Mayoral team following the forthcoming elections. In the interim, the current leisure management contract with GLL will be extended until 2018 and improvements made to reflect the results of the public consultation exercise.” GLL – Greenwich Leisure Limited – had a contract which expired in April this year.
Darren Johnson, the Green Party’s London Assembly Member, plans to press Johnson on how he plans to spend the remainder of the £326,000 budget for the current financial year, and what he will do about the car parking fiasco in Crystal Palace Park, where hard standing parking is closed off but commuters from Kent have been driving in and usuing grass verges to park their cars while they take the train into London.
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