On Tuesday 9th December 2008, Bromley Development Control Committee considered the London Development Agency Masterplan outline application for Crystal Palace Park. In a provocative attempt to divide anticipated opposition, Bromley held the meeting in the Council Chamber rather than the Great Hall. With the seating capacity of the public gallery insufficient for a meeting of such importance, public attendees were 'diverted' into an overflow room and seating on the floor of the chamber.
After lengthy discussion, the LDA application was approved by a majority (11 to 5).
Prior to this decision, CPCA Chair John Payne made the following objection:
From the CPCA Letter of Objection and your officers' report, it is quite clear that the LDA application fails to comply with MOL legislation, Bromley UDP, the Mayor’s London Plan and statutory planning policy. While supporting the principle of improvements to Crystal Palace Park, the CPCA strongly opposes sale of public parkland for private housing.
Bromley’s only Grade II* Registered Park is held in trust for the use and enjoyment of its taxpayers and Park stakeholders. Before approving the disposal of precious public parkland, Bromley should consider the LDA’s financial commitment to this Park.
Despite their substantial financial resources, the LDA have publicly stated "The long-term implementation costs of the Master planning designs for the Park will need to be found from a mix of public and public money. The public contribution will be limited. This means that any large-scale works would need commercial investment".
The LDA has previously said it will fund basic Park improvements by selling areas of parkland for blocks of luxury flats. Will this be the way public parks are funded in the future?
Bromley DCC members had previously expressed strong concerns on the housing proposals where Councillor Adams said "we shouldn’t be selling parkland for housing… it really is a dangerous precedent". Bromley Planning Department records confirm the level of public opposition to housing in the Park, as does the LDA's own stakeholder consultation, the 85% opposition to housing in a newspaper poll, and the 7000 signature petition to the London Mayor.
In an attempt to stifle overwhelming public objection, the LDA retained public relations consultants 'local dialogue' whose cynical remit was given on their website as "to maximise support for the scheme and to minimise opposition."
All four neighbouring Boroughs are opposed to the sale of public parkland for private housing;
Lewisham "is not convinced there are 'very special circumstances' which would justify this notable reduction of MOL and the large number of homes that would be built on this MOL".
Southwark said "The proposal would result in substantial new residential development on MOL and on land adjoining MOL".
Croydon Planning Committee expressed its concerns to Bromley about "…the principle of residential development on MOL, and in particular the Rockhills residential scheme".
Lambeth Council warn "...there is real concern that such a proposal would cause a precedent for other MOL in London".
To allow housing on MOL the LDA must demonstrate 'very special circumstances' which, in the view of the CPCA, they have so far failed to do. Falsely and misleadingly, the LDA claims that publicly accessible parkland will be increased. The Park is defined as that land within its boundaries, the nature and use of which can change at any time. Construction of 8, four and five-storey blocks of luxury flats will be irrecoverable loss of precious public parkland.
Nicholas Pearson Associates were commissioned by Bromley Council to review the LDA’s Environmental Statement. They identify the unsubstantiated statements and highlight 44 issues that require clarification from the LDA before a decision can be made. Pearson Associates warn that if the Environmental Statement does not include the full environmental information required, any planning permission granted runs the risk of being quashed. They quote case law supporting this.
The CPCA urges members of this committee to abandon party politics, use their initiative to respect the concerns of their constituents who oppose housing, refuse this application and insist that the LDA return with a more moderate and sustainable scheme that does not rely upon, as a funding strategy, the sale of protected parkland for commercial exploitation. If large areas of our parks are sold off for housing, future generations may ask who were they that allowed this desecration of our heritage".
Other compelling statements of objection were made by:
Alastair Cameron of the Joseph Paxton Society who said
Steve Sawko made a powerful case on behalf of Ledrington Road residents who were
CPCA committee member Jon Digby-Rogers, a banker specialising in project financing and well qualified to comment on the LDA venture proposals, said he was
Mr Digby-Rogers warned that
Jason Cunningham of The London Bat Group said
Ken Lewington made objection on behalf of the Crystal Palace Foundation. He was concerned that any proposed museum would not be open for many years, removal of retaining walls and trees and tons of soil might change the configuration of the landscape resulting in increased volumes of surface water ending up in Ledrington Road and that tons of spoil might be used to place round the National Sports Centre, in detriment to the appearance of this listed building.
Ken Lewington calculated from the applicant’s own tree survey, that of the 470 trees proposed for removal, 387 of them cannot be diseased or represent a health and safety risk because each one falls within one of the categories under which a tree should or could be retained. Following exposure of this blatant contradiction, perhaps not only the Environmental Statement but all statistics given within the LDA application should now receive further close scrutiny?
Following the approval by Bromley Development Control Committee of the LDA Park master plan, John Getgood, Councillor for Penge and Cator ward posted the following online statements:
"There was a fair turn out of objectors but nowhere near as many as promised. The overflow rooms were not needed."
"Many of the objections were unfounded or misguided."
"On balance the plan was approved. Some members voted against - not sure how many. They got a round of applause from the gallery but it was on false pretences. They weren’t intending to vote against the plans but wanted to hide behind a deferral."
"None of the proposed building is on land currently open to the general users of the Park."
"There is no precedent for building on park land here. In any case, in planning law you cannot argue that because a principle was allowed once, it should be allowed again."
"The legal agreement between the Council and the LDA ensures that all money raised by the sale of housing will be ring fenced for use in the first phase of improvements."
"As the only member of the committee with residents close to the park, I was convinced that the plan gave people in Penge the best hope of a park they can be proud of."
It is to be hoped that Councillor Getgood’s overall perception of the massive LDA application is sounder than his misapprehensions identified.
CPCA legal challenge over Park housing Posted - February 2012
The Crystal Palace Community Association is challenging the decision of the Secretary of State to approve sale of protected public parkland for construction of luxury apartments, under London Development Agency Masterplan proposal for Crystal Palace Park.>> Full story here
CPCA responds to Bromley's 'Core Strategy' consultation Posted - December 2011
The London Borough of Bromley has begun the process of producing their 'Core Strategy' document for the Borough. This document will help determine the long-term planning strategy for the Borough and its conclusions will be incorporated into their Local Development Framework (LDF) - a replacement for the current Unitary Development Plan (UDP).>> Full story here
Upper Norwood Library faces closure and sale after Croydon withdraw funding Posted - November 2011
The unilateral decision by Croydon Council to 'terminate' the Upper Norwood Library Joint Agreement was, according to Croydon, the direct consequence of '...fundamental breach of the agreement by Lambeth Council'. Such breach, according to Croydon, was the refusal by Lambeth Council 'to attend the last Annual General Meeting and failing to co-operate at the 2010 meeting.'>> Full story here
Re-run AGM farce as Croydon refuses to honour Joint Library Agreement Posted - September 2011
Croydon Council's continuing failure to meet the terms of their partnership agreement with Lambeth Council, caused yet another meeting of The Upper Norwood Joint Library Committee to be abandoned last Thursday, the 15 September, when more than seventy people attended the Library Annual General Meeting, where the future of the 111-year old Library was to be considered.>> Full story here
CPCA to challenge Secretary of State's approval for 180 luxury flats in Crystal Palace Park Posted - January 2011
Following the Secretary of State's Formal Decision to grant planning permission to the LDA Masterplan application for Crystal Palace Park, the CPCA have been advised that there are powerful legal grounds to challenge this in the High Court. It is currently preparing evidence and other material to tight deadlines and urgently considering the matter of costs.>> Full story here
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