Since the plans for a 20 screen Multiplex cinema on the top site of Crystal Palace Park were withdrawn in May 2001 the future of the English Heritage Grade ll* park has been widely debated. Owned by Bromley since the demise of the Greater London Council, the park became very run down, and Bromley clearly did not have the capital or the revenue funding to repair and maintain the important features which give the park its listed designation.
In late 2003, Sport England announced that it was not prepared to renew its Lease on the 40-year old National Sports Centre (NSC) as it was no longer fit for purpose. With no money to upgrade this facility Bromley gave notice that the NSC would close for good in March 2004.
With London preparing to launch a bid for the 2012 Olympic Games, and with a lack of sports facilities throughout London the necessity of retaining a refurbished NSC as a training facility for elite athletes was obvious. The London Development Agency (LDA), the development and regeneration arm of the Greater London Authority, stepped in to take over the operating costs of the NSC and to work towards a Masterplan for the regeneration of the park as a whole.
Since March 2004 the LDA has engaged with local residents in what has been a long and, at times, tortuous dialogue. There have been two major consultations held within the park and a major exhibition in the old booking hall at Crystal Palace station to coincide with the submission of the Masterplan proposals to Bromley, last November.
The Sydenham Society has taken part in the dialogue process and Pat Trembath, on behalf of the Society, has attended the Park Working Group which has met regularly since 2002 to discuss, originally with Bromley and then with the LDA and its team of design consultants, the future shape of the park. Regular reports on the process have been carried in the newsletter over the past five years and information about the consultations and exhibitions has been provided and members have been encouraged to see the ideas for themselves. On September 18, last year, on the eve of the proposals being submitted to Bromley, the Society held a public meeting at which the Park Project Manager for the LDA, Roger Frith, gave a presentation to interested members and answered questions.
The Masterplan, some 10,000 pages long, with environment, traffic and sustainability impact statements and Business Plan is a daunting document. It can be found on the Crystal Palace Park website. The plans are very ambitious and may not all come to fruition. To regenerate the park will cost between Â£40m – Â£67m, certainly money that Bromley cannot even contemplate affording on one park within its borough.
Members of the Executive of the Sydenham Society have yet to discuss the Society’s formal response to the Masterplan. Overall our initial feelings are to welcome the plans for the park. There are concerns which we will register particularly about the proposals for housing on the Rockhills (Caravan Club) site.
The park is Metropolitan Open Land and the surrounding area has Conservation Area status. The decision about the suitability of any and all of the proposals will need to be taken, initially by Bromley as the Planning Authority, and ultimately by the Planning Inspectorate, as it is anticipated that there is likely to be a public inquiry. The LDA has said that if planning permission is granted it will take a 125-year lease on the Park and will seek out a suitable form of park governance. If permission is not granted the park will remain the responsibility of Bromley.
The consultation period has started and officially runs for 42 days, although Bromley has stated that it will continue to take comments and objections until early summer. Individual comments about the plans can be made to Bromley Council, Civic Centre, Bromley BR1 3UH, quoting 07/03897/OUT.