The Local Guardian
12th July 1999
Crystal Palace Park
The Crystal Palace Campaign is not against everything, as your anonymous correspondent misguidedly claims (July 8). It is in favour of a process of proper community participation in the regeneration of this site, creating a proposal which respects its parkland location, its illustrious history and the sensitivities of the residential surroundings.
Mr. Anonymous believes we have no argument. But our views are shared by: the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Environment (which decries the flouting of Government environmental policy here); the London Planning Advisory Committee (which believes this scheme will overwhelm Upper Norwood); the London Boroughs of Southwark and Croydon (who believe the scheme to be, well, a travesty); the London Borough of Lambeth (who criticise the failure to carry out environmental assessment); the Dulwich Society, the Norwood Society, the Sydenham Society and the Croydon Society (who support the Campaign's call for a public/private/community partnership for the regeneration of the site); the Crystal Palace Community Triangle Association; the Norwood Chamber of Commerce (which fears that the multiplex and the 17,000 vehicle movements it will generate down our narrow streets each Saturday will decimate its trade); and Friends of the Earth, the London Wildlife Trust and the Friends of the Great North Wood (who mourn the loss of 200 trees and 12 acres of protected open parkland). Not to forget the 20,000 local residents who have signed petitions against this scheme. Mr. Anonymous rejects all this as hysteria, a strange epithet for the considered views of so many.
Mr. Anonymous claims we deny free speech: remarkable, since it is only the protest movement which has held public meetings and attempted to give the community a voice. At a recent meeting called by the Minister for Public Health Tessa Jowell MP, not one person of the 1,500 attending spoke in favour of the multiplex, despite my repeated invitations from the chair. Contrast Bromley Council, which has attempted to suppress free speech, by ignoring the views of the overwhelming majority of local people, excluding us from the working parties on the future of the park, unlawfully failing to consult on the enclosure of the land, evading meeting with us, banning events supportive of the protest, failing to respond to requests for information, issuing writs against Campaign officers, and publicly threatening legal action against anyone so much as speaking up for the eco-warriors.
Mr. Anonymous' remark that the community is unable to agree on an alternative plan is simply disingenuous. Unlike Bromley Council, we believe that the community should be instrumental in planning the future of this site. We achieved a broad measure of support for our blueprint document the People's Park and then sent it to every Bromley Councillor. Not one of them responded. They should learn from the superb Mile End Park regeneration project, funded by public, private, charitable and community money. There, over 200 public consultation meetings have moulded a consensus and yielded a park which is the source of pride for East London. This could happen here. Instead, Bromley Council permitted fly-tipping on the park for 10 years, then termed it derelict and proposed the largest rooftop car park in England atop the most visible tree-lined ridge in the capital. Bromley still terms itself the Green Borough, presumably with a straight face.
Finally, our Campaign comprises working mums, pensioners, professionals, the out of work, students, business people, academics, architects, captains of industry, politicians, musicians, artists, in short the whole community. We care very much about social issues, contrary to Mr. Anonymous' presumptuous accusation. Fifty years of planning policy and experience have taught us that parks should remain parks, and schemes such as this belong in the town centre, where they stimulate the economy and create jobs, without harm to the environment. As it is, over 50 new screens are already planned in town centres within 20 minutes of our park, each of which will create opportunities for the ushers and popcorn vendors which Mr. Anonymous so craves. At Crystal Palace, there is a genuine opportunity to create a sustainable, ecological, national treasure on this once-great site, which will play its part in regenerating our area and creating proper jobs. Let's not blow it.
Chairman - Crystal Palace Campaign
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Last updated 13/7/99