SAVE THE HILL TOP
A campaign for local parkland hosted by the Friends of Belair Park.
We are confronted by a blatant attempt by the developer ZhongRong to snatch a chunk of Crystal Palace Park for a huge commercial development in a Crystal Palace-type shell, backed by the Mayor of London with his somewhat arbitrary planning powers.
We are throwing down the gauntlet to our local politicians in the form of some fundamental questions which they – as our elected representatives – should be prepared to answer.
Question 1 – How can the public accept that the Crystal Palace consultation process is genuine?
After meetings called at Anerley Town Hall on Saturday February 1, 2014, by the firm Arup, to discuss the proposed new Crystal Palace, a Crystal Palace project spokesman responded:
“It is good so many people are taking the opportunity to find out more and contribute towards the proposed plans to rebuild The Crystal Palace as a cultural attraction and restore the surrounding public park.”
After this statement, which so conveniently glossed over sceptical, concerned and negative opinions expressed at the meetings, it would be very hard to trust the results of any consultation.
Amongst unacknowledged concerns was the following:
“Professional presentation but of course, skating round all the issues that matter. The stock response was (I paraphrase) ‘look this is the only way you’re ever going to get any money into the park.’ Things will no doubt get hotter as we learn more and more about what Mr Ni’s intentions are and as the local elections get ever nearer.”
John Payne (Chairman of the Crystal Palace Community Association) commented:
“We were concerned at the nature of the consultation event; the lack of adequate publicity; the limited time available for the question and answer session following the Arup presentation and the inadequate information about the proposal.”
Nick Goy, a local resident and long-term campaigner for public green space, was applauded when he reminded one of the meetings that we are talking about a public park. An exclusivity agreement between Bromley and ZhongRong was actually signed on November last year. It will be followed as soon as April 2, 2014 by a finalising Heads of Terms Agreement, under which Bromley would hand over about half of the Park on a long lease. Mr Goy has told us that this disposal of public green space (sale by long-lease of up to half the Park, not just the Hill Top) amounted to asset stripping. He points out that whilst Mr Ni of ZhongRong talks in metaphor about “planting a tree for the world to enjoy” his proposed development actually involves chopping down every tree between the bus terminus and the TV transmitter.
Meanwhile concerns that the development was seizing part of a public park – a dangerous precedent – and that that the proposed development, just like the multiplex, would impose enormous traffic problems on Crystal Palace and its surroundings, remain unaddressed in any serious way.
To all intents and purposes, it seems, the decision to build has already been taken. The promised consultation will almost certainly be a meaningless formality. We already know what the results will be. This consultation will show, conveniently, just as did the previous consultations for the multiplex and then the masterplan, that an overwhelming majority of local residents back the project. To see through the masterplan, Bromley hired a company specialising in pushing through tough planning applications – which then staged a mass consultation (which included holding a promotional display for the scheme). It was claimed, rather predictably, that an overwhelming majority of locals backed the masterplan. However, at the planning inquiry for the masterplan, objectors asked that this firm be required to produce the completed consultation forms. That way, we could all see for ourselves what locals had actually written. Risibly, the company said that it had lost the forms. The Inspector wasn’t worried. He backed the masterplan. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, London’s Mayor, had reneged on his firm pre-election promises to oppose a couple of housing developments on the Park. At least the housing estates do not figure in the current plans – at least not yet.