In a serious legal reverse for the hugely opposed giant multiplex planned for Crystal Palace Park, the European Commission in Brussels has taken a formal decision against the UK Government and the London Borough of Bromley which could perhaps halt the project altogether.

The Commission, acting after its own 1½ years' investigation of a detailed complaint by the Crystal Palace Campaign, has sent a letter of formal notice to the UK government concerning Bromley's failure to require that the multiplex developer conduct a prior Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). This is required by European Directive, and is binding in UK law. Experts construe this as a double whammy against Bromley Council and multiplex developer London & Regional Properties Ltd.

First, the notice finds that there appeared to be "considerable flaws" in the environmental consultants' report on which Bromley relied when deciding that there was no need for an EIA prior to any grant of planning permission in 1998.

Second, Bromley's October 3rd 2000 decision to approve the so-called "reserved matters" of final detail is being called into question, given that these additional details might also have environmental impact, but were also not the subject of an EIA.

The Commission's action, which follows a first round of responses by the UK authorities claiming to have acted lawfully, constitutes a rebuke not only to Bromley:

Philip Kolvin, chairman of the Crystal Palace Campaign, stated:

“This is an auspicious day for the Crystal Palace Campaign, but until this multiplex is halted our vigorous campaign continues. The UK Government has already attempted to defeat this complaint informally, so the Commission’s formal notice to the Government represents a huge show of support for the Campaign’s position. No planning authority could seriously have believed that to build the largest cinema multiplex in the South of England, and the largest rooftop car park in the United Kingdom, at the top of a strategic historic park, on the highest tree-lined ridge in the Capital, losing 200 trees in the process, would not create a significant environmental effect. Yet the London Borough of Bromley failed to demand an environmental assessment, as required by Directive, passed by the British government along with the other EU members. The Commission is empowered to ask why, and so far the UK has not given a satisfactory answer.

I believe the developer would be most unwise to commit funds to building anything following a permission whose legality is now under question in Europe. We hope that the UK Government will abide by the Directive, concede that Bromley’s grant of planning permission was unlawful, so bringing an end to this unhappy episode. If it does not, then options open to the Commission include suing the UK Government in the European Court of Justice. The ball is therefore very much in the UK Government’s court. One word from the government, and peace will be restored to Crystal Palace.”

The immediate effect of the decision is to stymie the developer’s plan to begin construction in the New Year. If the UK government fails to satisfy the Commission, the matter could end up before the European Court. The Campaign has requested that the Commission ask Bromley to desist pending adjudication.

The CPC's case with the European Commission is quite separate from last month's acceptance by the European Parliament of a petition against the multiplex by six local residents.


EC's letter to Philip Kolvin, CPC Chairman, received October 30. The Commission's decision was taken October 11 2000 and the text of the letter to UK authorities, as is common EC practice, has not been disclosed.
CPC’s Crystal Palace background statement – available on request to 020 8670 8486.

Available for interview: Philip Kolvin' Fred Emery

Statement by Mayor Ken Livingstone: please contact Catherine Blithell 020 7983 4714
Statement by Tessa Jowell MP: please contact 020 7219 3409
Statement by Jean Lambert MEP: please contact 020 7407 6280
Statement by Darren Johnson (GLA): please contact 020 7983 4429

Press Officer: Fred Emery 020 8761 0076 Mobile: 0794 117 2023
Campaign Website: www.crystal.dircon.co.uk
All correspondence to: Hon Secretary, 33 Hogarth Court, Fountain Drive, London SE19 1UY
Telephone/Fax: 020 8670 8486 E-mail: VA.Day@ukgateway.net

Note to Editors

Terminology The Commission's letter concerns the application to the Crystal Palace redevelopment project of a European Directive approved by the Council of Ministers numbered and titled: Council Directive 85/337/EEC On the Assessment of the Effects of Certain Public and Private Projects on the Environment.

April 1999 CPC complained over the lack of an EIA to the European Commission. The Commission wrote an informal letter to the UK Government. The Government replied, saying that this was a matter of discretion for Bromley.

The Environmental Directorate of the Commission was not satisfied with the reply, and told the UK Government so, but there has been no apparent change in the UK Government’s position.

11 October 2000, the full Commission met and decided to take the first formal step against the UK Government, the writing of a formal letter of notice [It is not EU practice to publish intra government correspondence].

Procedurally, what happens next?

The UK Government would be expected to comply with the European Directive. Procedurally, it has two months to reply to the EC letter. If its reply is still not satisfactory, the next step will be a reasoned opinion from the European Advocate General, which sets out in full the grounds of complaint relied upon by the Commission. The UK Government has 2 months to reply to that. If its reply is still unsatisfactory, proceedings may follow in the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The powers of the ECJ at that stage are declaratory, in that the Court would state that the UK State by its emanation Bromley Council has breached the Directive.

The ECJ’s ruling is part of our law, and a declaration against the UK is binding on the Government, and of course creates an enormous political embarrassment for the national authorities. It is thought that the UK Government would want to take steps to comply with the law, as adumbrated by the ECJ. It could only do so here by revoking the planning permission and restarting the process.

Top of page; Return to Meetings/Reports Index;

2 November 2000 Last updated 2 November 2000