Park Regeneration planning application submitted  March 2020

Bromley Council has finally submitted its outline planning application for the regeneration of Crystal Palace Park (search for application reference 20/00325/OUT on Bromley Council Planning Portal - The regeneration includes a bewildering number of initiatives, including the conservation and repair of heritage assets, new housing at Rockhills (the caravan site at the top of the Park) and Sydenham Villas, a cultural venue, a community centre and a new building for Capel Manor College.

The regeneration plan is the descendant of the GLA master plan, against which the CPCA fought a protracted, and ultimately unsuccessful, battle all the way to the High Court. Like the GLA plan, this one relies on new housing to generate capital receipts. The main objection from the CPCA to the original master plan was that open space would be lost to housing. Unfortunately, the High Court did not support this objection, ruling that the circumstances justified departing from the usual presumption against developments on metropolitan open space.

The new regeneration plan has come forward now for two main reasons. Bromley Council wishes to hand over the running of Crystal Palace Park to a Trust, but without a dowry from new investment, the Trust will struggle to generate enough income to cover running costs. Quite separately, Capel Manor College wants better teaching space than their current quarters in the Jubilee Stand, and, more importantly, has funding from the Mayor of London to pay for it.

Although the scope of the Regeneration Plan is huge, it does not cover the National Sports Centre. The future of the NSC future was subject to a consultation exercise carried out by the Mayor of London last year. The results of this are no doubt sitting on a shelf somewhere in City Hall, but no plans have been put forward by Mayor Khan.

Leaving aside whether it is justifiable to build new homes in the Park, for this battle has been lost, there are many other issues with the regeneration plan. Never truer was the cliche that the devil is in the detail. Amongst issues that have been highlighted are the following.

  • The location of the new Capel Manor College building, next to Crystal Palace Museum, is controversial. Although the space is undeveloped, it was originally mooted for a tram terminus and could yet be required for this purpose.

  • Plans for a wetland to replace the lake by the concert platform look ill-conceived. Where will excess water go?

  • New housing is too high in relation to neighbouring buildings

  • New farm buildings are much taller than the existing ones and would be obtrusive

  • Fencing and vegetation around the intermediate lake (currently used by anglers) will be removed, destroying its peace and privacy.

  • Loss of the camping site

  • Against all of this, Crystal Palace Park is in dire need of regeneration, as anyone who has witnessed its steady decline over the past twenty years would acknowledge. The task now for the local community is to engage constructively with Bromley Council to persuade it to improve the regeneration plan.