Bromley Councillors, ignoring warnings from their own advisory panel of possible new court action if they tried cost-cutting changes to the controversial Crystal Palace multiplex, last night confirmed the building’s new façade will be cheaper than originally proposed. By a unanimous vote Bromley’s Development Control Committee gave approval of final-detail planning, despite serious misgivings put to them by English Heritage, among others. Present in the public gallery, where noisy protest was expressed, was Darren Johnson, London Mayor Ken Livingstone’s environment advisor, who is implementing the mayor’s pledge to do all in the Greater London Authority’s power to halt the multiplex.

Mr Johnson expressed his “deep disappointment” at the councillors’ decision and said he would be consulting the London Mayor on the next steps. Mr Johnson remarked that Bromley acted inconsistently regarding the multiplex, which was at the northern extremity of Bromley, compared with their sudden environmental concern for their heartland constituents’ interests in the Biggin Hill airport development.

At last night’s meeting it was disclosed that David Wood, chairman of Bromley’s own Advisory Panel on Conservation Areas, had warned the council in the following terms: “My colleagues expressed and continue to express considerable disquiet that certain of these details are being eroded possibly to save money. We strongly advise that this should not happen otherwise the Council will be risking severe criticism or even possible court action”. However this passage was excised from the report to the committee. The panel’s letter revealed that its members were clearly unaware as late as September 1 of major changes to the façade walls of the bottom half of this massive 300-yard long building.

Yet Bromley’s chief planning officer Stuart Macmillan revealed to councillors that in spite of the panel’s warnings a cheaper option had been taken. The proposed façade change from granite boulders caged in steel mesh (so-called gabion) to “facing stonework on a structural framework” was, said Macmillan “cheaper and more sustainable” than the original Ian Ritchie design.

The proposed 20-screen cine-multiplex on Crystal Palace Park’s green ridgeline dominating London faces intense opposition from local residents and from most of the other four councils adjacent to it. Developer London & Regional Properties Ltd cannot begin construction until all outstanding legal matters are resolved. Still pending is a judicial review appeal by local single mother Diane Barker. Other legal actions are also being considered.

A CPC spokesman said:

“That Bromley councillors voted without having seen any samples of the massive structure’s finish or any meaningful illustration of its gross impact on the London skyline and surrounding residential area is lamentable, but typical. They wouldn’t dream of it doing it to their own homes, so their callous disregard shows again they care nothing for the local community, and only think of Bromley’s coffers. The fight goes on. We are determined that this unwanted multiplex, which will desecrate a grade II* listed open park space of national as well as local import, shall not be built.”

Note to Editors: Under the banner “No Licences, No Multiplex” The Crystal Palace Campaign is also leading a full legal challenge to the developer’s application for 14 liquor licences which is to be heard by Bromley magistrates on November 27 and 28.

Press Officer: Fred Emery 020 8761 0076 Mobile: 0794 117 2023
All Correspondence to: Hon Secretary, 33 HogarthCourt, Fountain Drive, London SE19 1UY
E-mail: fred@syre.demon.co.uk Website: www.crystal.dircon.co.uk

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4 Oct 2000 Last updated 4 Oct 2000