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Parks

Crystal Palace National Sports Centre

On Saturday, 14 May, Pat Trembath, Ruth Locke, Emma Blagg and Kathleen Towler attended the main group meeting of the Crystal Palace Park dialogue process, facilitated by the Environment Council and Nigel Westaway & Associates on behalf of the London Development Authority (LDA).

Top quality facilities
The LDA will take responsibility for the sports centre in 2006 and, potentially, for the park as a whole by 2009. The LDA are committed to providing top quality sports and leisure facilities in the capital as they know how much this can do to boost health and regenerate neighbouring areas.

Mayor of London lends a hand
The National Sports Centre receives nearly a million visits a year and is the focus for many London and national sports bodies. But parts of the park are in poor condition and the sports centre will need major works within the next few years if it is to keep running. That’s why Mayor of London Ken Livingstone and the LDA have stepped in to help secure the future of the sports facilities and to see how the park can be rejuvenated and made an even more vibrant place than it is today. They want to help the park fulfil its founding principles of being a place for education and recreation and for promoting commerce, industry and the arts. The LDA want to do this in a way that not only has local backing, but will also benefit communities around the park.

Olympic hopefuls training
We are delighted that London will host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The LDA is committed to regenerating the sports facilities in Crystal Palace Park in particular to make them accessible for the local community, so our budding Olympic hopefuls will have somewhere decent to train. And one lucky Olympic team will have a state of the art training facility in Crystal Palace in 2012.

Exciting proposals
One of the most ambitious and exciting proposals for the park is a combined indoor/outdoor sports facility. The proposed new indoor sports facility would be located near the edge of the park and integrated with the existing athletics stadium. It consolidates the car parking and access roads and would involve demolishing the existing ugly, raised walkway.

A new indoor athletics area beneath the west stand of the stadium would be created and the current National Sports Centre building would either be demolished or released for other uses.

Cons…

  • Potential loss of listed building
  • Extensive works while new facilities are built

Pros…

  • Uses space efficiently and cuts back on the amount of space used
  • Fully integrates Sports Centre, Stadium and Park Landscape, allowing better promotion of Crystal Palace as an International Sports Venue Provides the possibility to provide other sport and community uses, such as a health centre, creating more revenue
  • New building provides continuous provision of sports facilities during construction and maintains jobs
  • It will be located nearer public transport and roads with shorter access roads through the park
  • It opens up centre of park or releases National Sports Centre for other uses
  • It is a holistic approach providing a new vision for Crystal Palace and may attract other funding

Reviewing the options
The purpose of the meeting on 14 May was to review a range of draft options for the park which a smaller Task group, including Pat Trembath, has been working on since December 04.

It was compiled by using, as a base, all of the comments that were received during the public consultation at the end of 2004, as well as other reports generated previously by the dialogue process. The draft proposals were then voted on during the meeting and the results of this will be fed into a draft Planning Framework.

Benchmark for future applications
The Planning Framework is a document against which any future planning applications are judged. The proposals for Crystal Palace are being developed to support the long term improvement of the park and its sports and other facilities. They will also be an important contributor to the regeneration of the wider area.
The Planning Framework is being prepared and will provide a context for these proposals and help ‘flesh out’ some of the details. It will provide specific guidelines on issues such as use, urban design and townscape. All work will have to take proper account of planning, building listing and other legislation, policy and guidance.

Public Consultation in October
The draft Planning Framework will be presented by the LDA to Bromley Council (the owners and planning authority) by September. This will form part of a public consultation, currently scheduled to take place within the Park in two locations – the top and bottom – during October, when various options and their financial drivers (i.e. commercial requirements to make each possible) will be put out to Public Consultation as part of the Planning process

Crystal Palace Park update

Preliminary results from the October exhibition on the future of the park and National Sports Centre (NSC) show a high degree of support for the core principles which constitute the vision for the Park programme.

Most of the options for the park also received general approval. But the possibility of residential building at the Upper Norwood entrance was the main exception to this and the London Development Agency is currently rethinking this part of the proposal. If they decide to go ahead with housing, they will need to work hard to demonstrate the rationale to Bromley’s planning department.

The dilapidated sports centre, with the risible prefix “National”, was on the brink of being closed down in March 2004. The London Olympic bid concentrated the minds of politicians and sports bodies on the lack of international sporting facilities within the capital. The proposal to create a state of the art 21st century sports centre provides the impetus for the regeneration of the whole park. In the build up to the Olympics, the new sports centre, hopefully ready in 2010, will become a focus for elite training and competition in London and a training camp for one of the Olympic teams in 2012.

The timetable is very tight. An international architectural competition for the new NSC and surrounding landscaping is planned for February with the short-listing of entrants in March.

The scheme chosen will be announced in the summer. The proposals will be assessed by September and a planning application submitted to Bromley, the planning authority, by November.

The demolition of the current NSC, a Grade II listed building, will be required since it is not practical to find a further use for it. The land it currently occupies will be landscaped into the park. Sports activities will continue at the NSC while the new centre is being built. The listing of the present NSC does present a difficult hurdle and is currently the subject of negotiation with English Heritage. It is hoped that the outcome will be favourable and that the time taken in providing a satisfactory case will not delay the start of the new building. Public consultations will continue throughout 2006.

Exciting future for Crystal Palace Park

Exciting times lie ahead for Crystal Palace Park and the National Sports Centre (NSC). The recent consultation exercise held by the London Development Agency (LDA) showed ideas being developed as a result of September 2004’s exhibition in the park which was used to gather the views of local people about what they wanted done to improve the park and the NSC.

LDA takes over March 2006
The LDA takes over the responsibility for the NSC in March next year and is already working on an international design competition for a new regional sports centre to be sited near Crystal Palace Station. If all goes to plan, the new facilities will open in 2010, in time for our elite athletes to train for the Olympics and to be the site of a Training Camp for one or maybe two overseas Olympic Teams in 2012.

The old NSC building will be demolished when the new centre is open, and the site will be landscaped back into the park. Also to go is the athlete’s accommodation in the tower- block, the concrete high-level walkway and car parking in the centre of the park. The LDA estimate that the proposals they are putting forward will create 18 acres of new parkland and that 22 acres of existing parkland, currently inaccessible, will also be opened up.

Controversial funding ideas
Some controversial ideas to assist in funding some of the park improvements include the re-siting of the Caravan Club (perhaps to Stratford in east London) and a small development of mews houses built on the corner of this site known as Rockhills, but allowing 4.2 acres of additional parkland to be opened up. Additional housing (filling the gaps due to bombing in the last war) down Crystal Palace Park Road is also part of the scheme.

Options for Norwood Triangle Gate
The LDA have come up with four options for the Norwood Triangle Gate. These range from a fairly major five-storey housing development and 150 space underground car park, to no new development, apart from a piazza and an extended museum. This area is likely to be the most contentious and hotly discussed part of the whole plan.

125 year lease and £300,000 per year
The LDA is likely to sign a 125 year lease on the park itself sometime between 2006 and 2009, but in the meantime they have budgeted for s300,000 per annum for the coming 3 years for minor park improvements. These could include the site clearance and provision of safe access to the subway and clearing the fly-tipping on the closed lands of the hilltop and thus make them accessible to the public.

If you missed the park exhibition, the Roadshow will be visiting Sydenham on 19/20 November between 10am and 5pm. The venue is yet to be confirmed. A further public consultation is being planned for next summer.

Crystal Palace Park Consultation
The Crystal Palace Park consultation exercise is in full swing, as several members of the Sydenham Society found out when they visited the consultation marquee at the Penge entrance to the park on an unseasonably sunny Sunday morning.

The exhibition space was a hive of activity, with local residents busily filling in questionnaires and discussing the various plans and ideas being presented to them.

The exhibition laid out their vision of a sustainable park with a wide variety of benefits for different groups within the community. Also detailed were different options for developing areas within the park with the relative advantages and disadvantages of each.

This enabled visitors to make informed views about which most effectively balanced the need for commercial viability whilst at the same time retaining parkland and heritage. Encouragingly, the exhibition was hosted by familiar faces from the LDA and the consultants, who are managing the process.

Comments overheard from visitors included:

  • A very professional and clear bright ideas for the sports centre
  • the housing development is surprisingly conservative and in keeping

Whichever options are chosen, it seems that, at long last, the future of Crystal Palace Park looks very bright indeed.

Park users prepare for new Sydenham Parks regime

There is an upsurge of grass-roots interest in how our parks are run, which co-incides well with Lewisham’s need to renegotiate its parks management contract in 2009.

Friends of Parks
Sydenham seems to be seeing an upsurge of grass-roots interest in how our parks are run, with the creation of new ‘Friends of’ parks groups playing a leading role.

For many years there has been a ‘Friends of Mayow Park’ and the Sydenham Wells Park Improvement Group. This year the ‘Friends of Alexandra and Cator Park’ and ‘Friends of the River Pool Linear Park’ were also started, while a ‘Home Park Strategy Group’ has emerged from the newly established Fairlawn Park Residents’ Association’, which may well develop into a ‘friends’ group in 2009.

Friends of parks groups exist to represent the views of park users to their salaried managers, to channel voluntary efforts for improvements, and to encourage people to use the parks, sometimes arranging social events in them. With the exception of Alexandra Park, all our parks are in Lewisham, where the maintenance contract was awarded to Glendale under a Private Finance Initiative that expires in 2010. Being in Bromley, the contractors for Alexandra and Cator Park are English Landscapes under an arrangement that started this year and in which the Council takes a more direct control. FRPLP are liaising with Lewisham Council and Ward Councillors to improve access for disabled persons and helping to clean up the River Pool.

The Challenges and Rewards
As always in the voluntary sector, there are challenges as well as rewards for members of Friends groups. The challenges are balancing the need, on occasion, to keep the managers on their toes with being able to work with them to get the improvements park users want. Another challenge is sometimes to represent fairly the interests of different groups of park users. The rewards are to see the improvements that can be achieved, and the sense of engagement that comes from working with others and together getting things done. With the upcoming renegotiation of the management contract for Lewisham parks, there is a particular challenge now to help make the next contract as flexible and responsive to park user requirements as possible.

It may be easier for contractors to work to fixed schedules treating all parks in much the same way, but working out how to engage the energy of volunteers will deliver better value. We would also like to see a plan for each park, setting out not just how money will be spent on it, but also a vision of what other developments would be welcomed. If park users through their ‘Friends of’ groups can subsequently point to ways of realising these ideas, or delivering any other new and compelling vision for the park, the arrangements should be flexible enough to allow these, and so deliver best value.

  • Sydenham Wells Park Improvement Group : Alma Hunt – 8291 7027
  • Friends Of Mayow Park: Hilary Jarrett – 8778 9560
  • Friends Of Alexandra and Cator Park: friends.cator-and-alexandra at live.co.uk
  • Home Park Strategy Group: anthony.scully@ukonline.co.uk
  • Friends of the River Pool Linear Park 8699 5510, frppusergroup at googlemail.com
  • Glendale: 8318 3986

Where else are Friends of Parks Needed?
There are also several smaller bits of park and open spaces that do not have their own Friends of groups (that we know of) – for example Baxter’s Field, Beaulieu Avenue Gardens. We would be interested in hearing from such groups if they exist, or sharing ideas with anyone who would like to start a group. Please contact me on 8659 6137 and I’ll try to put interested parties in touch with each other.
Tim Lund
Chair, Sydenham Society

Friends of Mayow Park
The good news on the horizon for Mayow Park, noted in my report in the Sydenham Society Autumn Newsletter, has moved closer. The proposals in the business plan for sports in the Park, produced by Peter Ranken of Envirowork, have been accepted by Lewisham’s Green Services. We hope that organised cricket, i.e, available to schools and youth clubs (and later, possibly football) will start in the not too distant future in both Mayow Park and Hilly Fields.

This still leaves the provision of accommodation for the Bowls Club to be resolved, as the original planning application has been withdrawn. Green Scene has commissioned Groundwork to plan a consultation exercise concerning the future of Mayow Park. As part of this, there will be a ‘walkabout’ in the park on November 15th from 10.00am to 12noon. Local residents and other interested parties are invited to discuss what they would like to see in the park and how it might be made a better place for the enjoyment of all. One interesting suggestion already made is to use the bowling green as a skating rink in the winter as happens elsewhere! Another welcome initiative is the Lewisham consultation concerning dog control orders in local parks and open spaces.

The Sustainable Communities Act was passed into law on 23rd October 2008 giving central government a legal duty to assist local authorities in promoting sustainable local communities. However, local authorities have to opt in to the legislation and readers may wish to lobby their local councillors on this (see www.localworks.org.uk). The Act also specifies that local authorities cannot make suggestions to central government without involving ‘local people’. With the growth of user groups involved in parks and open spaces, I hope that the new legislation will provide such groups with a say in the way parks and open spaces are managed. This is particularly relevant in that the contract for Parks and Open Spaces management is due for renewal/renegotiation in February 2010. Could it be that this time local voices will be heard? Are other models of management to be considered? Is the current emphasis on Green Flag status the best way forward for all parks and open spaces? How can local groups /volunteers be engaged in this process?
Finally, FOMP and Glendale plan a Tree Dressing to mark National Tree Week on Saturday November 29th from 11.00am to 12.30am. All are welcome.
Hilary Jarrett
Chair, Friends of Mayow Park
8778 9560

Sydenham Wells Park
Two years on and the sensory garden is still incomplete. Once it was clear that solar panels could not be made to work the water feature, a trench had to be dug to carry a cable to the nearest power supply. Now this has been connected and the base secured, so trickling water should be there for all to see and hear.
Better links between the wildlife/nature reserve and the rest of the park were recommended by the Green Flag judge and, after careful consideration, it was agreed that a wildlife corridor would be useful along part of the Longton Avenue boundary and extending further into the park. The first community working party will take place towards the end of the winter when hazel, hawthorn and other trees and shrubs will be planted. This is also the site chosen for the bird cherry (Prunus padus) to mark Pat Trembath’s 14 years as Chair of the Sydenham Society.

It is vital that all Lewisham’s parks and open spaces should be considered when the new contract begins in 2010. Ahead of borough wide consultations the Sydenham Society has convened a small preliminary group to consider what park plans should contain and to find out what local people want. Early in 2009 meetings will be arranged giving anyone who wants to become involved the opportunity to contribute their ideas and express their concerns.
Alma Hunt
Chair, Sydenham Wells Park Improvement Group
8291 7027

Local Nature Reserves in Lewisham
Our nature reserves have been attracting a lot of interest lately, and two of them, Dacres Wood and Devonshire Road, are both on sites of the old Croydon Canal. The former nature reserve belongs to Lewisham, and the latter to Railtrack, who lease the site to us.

Dacres Road has not been open to the public since 2003, due to extensive fly-tipping and vandalism, but our future plans include setting up a user group for the site, and also looking at the BCTV Green Gym relocating from Creekside to the Field Study Centre Building. Creating a user group would mean that they would act as champions for the site, and could ensure greater public access; and if the relocation of BCTV is successful their officers could facilitate and supervise regular weekly openings. Since 2004 the site has a designated ‘Local Nature Reserve’ status and many school nature study visits involving hundreds of local children have taken place.

Devonshire Road Nature Reserve has been developed and managed by the Friends of the Reserve since 1998; their key objective is to ‘promote, maintain and enhance the indigenous wildlife and botanical value of the reserve and its educational use for the public.’ The reserve was awarded a Green Pennant National Green Flag this year, and was recently nominated for a Biodiversity Protection Award, but was unsuccessful – maybe next year!

A chalcidid wasp, Brachymeria tibialis, (Walker) has also been confirmed as a species new to Britain when it was discovered last year as a resident at the Grove Park Nature Reserve at Hither Green. Brownfield nature reserves are being increasingly recognised as important sites for invertebrate fauna, and we are fortunate in Lewisham to have them in the corridors provided by the local railway system. I hope this gives you a flavour of the nature reserves in the borough, and encourages you to visit them. Further details can be found on the Lewisham Council website
Cllr Susan Wise
Perry Vale Ward and Cabinet Member for Customer Services.
8699 6520
Cllr_Susan.Wise@lewisham.gov.uk

Crystal Palace Park update
The Strategic Planning Committee determining the London Development Agency’s (LDA) Masterplan for the park is postponed until 9 December (presumably Bromley Planning Department is drowning under the sea of paperwork £- 10,000 plus supporting documents!). The decision, if approved, is likely to be the subject of a call-in. It is known that English Heritage, as statutory consultees, have written an ‘almost unprecendented’ glowing endorsement of the Masterplan.

Following the May 2008 London Mayoral elections the LDA is undergoing a major ‘re-structuring’. Whereas previously there had been a firm commitment that the LDA would take a 125-year lease on the park if the Masterplan is agreed, this position cannot be confirmed at present, although Mayor Boris Johnson has committed himself to protecting green spaces generally.

Refurbishment of the National Sports Centre (NSC) is ongoing. Originally due to be re-opened in October, this date has been postponed on two occasions and the latest date being given for the re-opening is April 2009. The delay has caused major financial problems for the country’s diving team which is having to travel great distances to practice its sport.

The Modern Pentathlon Games World championships are being held in Crystal Palace Park in 2009 and, in 2010, the ‘Senior’ Modern Pentathlon Championships will also be held in the park. There is pressure from some quarters for the Olympic Modern Pentathlon Games to be wrested from the current chosen venue, Greenwich, for various reasons:

all the sports could take place on one site within the NSC (except for the cross country running which would use the whole park). Based at Greenwich the different disciplines would have to be spread as far as Stratford (swimming) and Woolwich (shooting).

the opening of the East London Line will mean that Crystal Palace Park will be within 45mins of Olympic Park and will fall within the travel boundaries set by London Olympic Games Organising Committee. Work on upgrading the East London Line at Crystal Palace Station has already begun.

over the past six months there has been a financial revue of the organisation of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Crystal Palace will have proved its worth by 2009 and 2010 with the two major international events so why not the Olympic event? If the park were to become an Olympic venue this would be very much to the Park’s benefit for future funding and refurbishment.

The Girlguide Maze centenary project is going apace. A public exhibition was held on 6 November as part of pre-application public consultation for a planning permission for the project, which is fully supported by Bromley Parks Department. The deadline remains for completion by early September next year in time for the centenary rally.

Update on Crystal Palace Park

The Masterplan
There is still an opportunity to comment on the Masterplan and time for local park users to send in observations to Bromley Council about the proposals, favourable or otherwise. These will form part of the report to the Planning Committee in the late Autumn. Comments should be sent to Bromley Council, Civic Centre, Stockwell Close, Bromley, BR1 3UH or to planning@bromley.gov.uk quoting 07/03897/OUT.

National Sports Centre
Refurbishment works continue at the National Sports Centre (NSC). A number of new items have been discovered including additional asbestos and problems with tiles in the main pool. The cost of removing the asbestos amounts to £4.2m. These works are likely to extend the schedule a little but disruption has been minimised. Most major events planned at the NSC have been accommodated within the available facilities, or have been postponed until the building is ready. Meanwhile the relocation of the gym to another building at Crystal Palace has meant that membership of the centre has actually increased. The London Development Agency (LDA) has also made additional funds available to increase the size of the main pool to FINA Olympic standards and to carry out cosmetic work in some areas of the centre. These extra works will be completed alongside the refurbishment and are not expected to extend the schedule. The NSC is due to re-open in September.

Olympic Training Camp bid
The NSC has been included in the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games’ list of training venues for a wide variety of sports. The Pre-Games Training Camp Guide will be sent to all Olympic and Paralympic teams inviting them to base themselves at the different facilities. Sports at the NSC include: archery, athletics, swimming, diving, synchronised swimming, badminton, basketball, boxing, fencing, trampoline, handball, judo, modern pentathlon, table tennis, triathlon, indoor volleyball, weightlifting and wrestling.

Events at Crystal Place Park
Despite an offer of increased grant funding from the LDA the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has decided not to proceed with a further season of concerts as they feel the financial risk for them is too great. The Norwich Union Athletics Grand Prix will go ahead as normal and the London Youth games will also take place but some events will be transferred elsewhere due to continued asbestos removal at the NSC (see above). A Pyrotechnic Spectacular, not associated with 5 November, is also planned for later in the year.

Girl Guides Public Art Project
The Girl Guide movement began in Crystal Palace Park in 1909 and to celebrate their centenary the Girl Guide movement will be applying to Bromley Council for permission to restore the Maze by re-establishing the hedging and to introduce a permanent interaction art feature within the maze. Prior to submitting the application they will be holding public workshops with the local community as part of the consultation process.

Capel Manor College
Capel Manor Farm is open to the public from 12.00 – 4.00 weekends and between 10.30 – 2.00 and 2.00 – 4.00 during the week. It is closed on Wednesdays. Capel Manor is an educational and teaching facility and teaches animal husbandry, arboriculture and horticulture to 300 students.

Crystal Palace Park masterplan

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 £40m – £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.