Bromley Unitary Development Plan

Proof of Philip Kolvin

Crystal Palace Park

Crystal Palace Campaign

Section 13

"Crystal Palace offers a unique opportunity to view sculptures against the sky."

Antony Gormley, sculptor.


National and Regional Guidance


In tandem with the more developed thinking associated with urban parks, national planning policy has been reinforcing the protection which they enjoy.

RPG 9 (Regional Planning Guidance for the South East)


This recognises that sustainable development must underpin modern approaches to planning, and that we cannot simply follow the models of the past.[90]


Policy Q2 states that the quality of life should be raised through significant improvement to the urban environment. A series of recommendations for development plans is given, including:

"maximise the positive contribution which trees, other planting and open spaces can make to urban areas in terms of their recreational, nature conservation and wider environmental and social benefits".[91]



"it is important to maximise the essential contribution which open spaces … can make to urban … areas in terms of their benefits for wildlife habitats, recreational and cultural value and wider environmental and social benefits."[92]


The Guidance reiterates the importance of Metropolitan Open Land.[93]

RPG3: Strategic Guidance for London Planning Authorities (1996)


The objectives of this Guidance include maintaining and improving the natural and open environment, including Green Belt and MOL, and improving the quality and attractiveness of the urban environment.[94]


The Guidance referred back to Sustainable Development - the UK Strategy, the growth of Local Agenda 21, and the need to ensure that future planning activity incorporates measures to contribute to sustainability.[95] Consequent upon this the Guidance sets its face against out of centre, car-dependent leisure and entertainment facilities.[96]


The Guidance specifically refers to its green spaces as being among London's greatest assets. It notes that the concept of Metropolitan Open Land was first recognised in 1989 regional guidance[97], and has provided protection to large areas of open land in London. It endorsed a positive approach to open spaces, in order to enhance their character and value.[98]


Important guidance is given in relation to Metropolitan Open Land:

"7.7: MOL has been recognised as land of predominantly open character which has more than a Borough significance, generally because of its size and catchment area. The main criteria for MOL designation are:
  • land which contributes to the physical structure of London by being clearly distinguishable from the built up area
  • land which includes open air facilities, especially for leisure, recreation, sport, arts and cultural activities and tourism which serve the whole or significant parts of London
  • land which contains features or landscape of historic, recreational, nature conservation or habitat interest, of value at a metropolitan or national level.

"7.8: Land of this importance should not be used for developments which compromise its open character and value to London's green setting. The principles of control over development in the Green Belt, set out in PPG2, also apply to MOL. There is a presumption against inappropriate development including development which would be harmful to the open character of the land. Such development should only be allowed in very special circumstances. However, as MOL encompasses a wide range of sites and locations, limited development to serve the needs of the visiting public may not be considered inappropriate development if clearly ancillary to the identified purpose of the MOL. Boroughs should assess the effects of such developments on the MOL and its environment, including the arrangements made for access by sustainable means of transport. Where proposals for other development are prepared, such as wider recreation facilities for which there is great public demand, they should be dealt with through a specific alteration to the UDP which enables all the issues to be clearly and publicly addressed."


It is worth noting that Crystal Palace Park fulfils all of the criteria for designation in paragraph 7.7. There is no evidence of "great public demand" for commercial leisure facilities, particularly of a substantial built variety, on the top site, in the sense set out in paragraph 7.8.


The Guidance advocates inclusion of land use policies in UDPs which support efforts to improve the nature conservation and landscape character and quality of MOL, and also policies which exploit opportunities for the outdoor recreational use of MOL, including increased public access.[99]


The Guidance set out the Government Office for London's suggested goals for promoting urban quality. These include: well-designed and visually rich; quality open space; distinctive place and identity; human scale skyline and wonderful views; a rich mix of uses; ease of accessibility; high amenity value especially in heritage areas; pedestrian-friendly environments; safe and sustainable environments; and well managed land. Crystal Palace Park has the potential to contribute to all of these goals.

PPG2 - Green Belt (1995)


The equation of MOL with Green Belt brings in the provisions of PPG2.


Paragraph 2.6 of PPG2 says that detailed Green Belt boundaries in approved development plans should be altered only exceptionally. It states that "detailed boundaries should not be altered or development allowed merely because the land has become derelict."


The importance of this is obvious. The proper policy response to degraded Green Belt land is not to build over it, but to work to improve it. In particular where means and mechanisms are available for this to happen, there can be no justification for simply removing MOL designation.

PPG12 - Development Plans (1999)


This Guidance stated that development plans should be drawn up so as to take environmental considerations comprehensively and consistently into account. As part of that, it stated that there should be policies and proposals for the improvement of the physical and natural environment, making provision for open spaces.

PPG17 - Planning for Open Space, Sport and Recreaion (2002)


This guidance reflects some of the thinking over the last decade, pointing out that open space provision can support urban renaissance, social inclusion and community cohesion, health and well-being and sustainable development.[100]


It recommended proper needs assessments and audits of open space, leading to clear strategies.[101]


Para 10 gives a salutary message:

"Existing open space …. should not be built on unless an assessment has been undertaken which has clearly shown the open space … to be surplus to requirements. For open space "surplus to requirements" should include consideration of all the functions that open space can perform…. Developers will need to consult the local community and demonstrate that their proposals are widely supported by them."


Further, para 11 states that open space that is of particular value to local communities should be recognised and given protection by local authorities through appropriate policies in plans. It has been unequivocally demonstrated over the last 6 years that the open space at the top of Crystal Palace Park is of particular value to the local community.


The following guidance is also highly pertinent:

"Parks …. must not be regarded as "previously developed land" as defined in Annex C of PPG3. Even where land does fall within the definition of "previously developed", its existing and potential value for recreation and other purposes should be properly assessed before development is considered."[102]


In the case of Crystal Palace top-site, Annex C of PPG3 would in any event have excluded it from the definition of "previously developed." It states:

"Also excluded is land that was previously developed but where the remains of any structure or activity have blended into the landscape in the process of time (to the extent that it can reasonably be considered as part of the natural surroundings) and where there is a clear reason that could outweigh the re-use of the site - such as its contribution to nature conservation - or it has subsequently been put to an amenity use and cannot be regarded as requiring redevelopment."


Paragraph 16 of the Guidance warns against insensitive or incremental development. Proposals should be considered in terms of loss of open space as against benefit to the community. Small-scale facilities supporting the recreational use, such as cafes and toilets, might be supported. All proposed development should be sensitive to the local context.


Para 17 provides:

"Local authorities should:


avoid any erosion of recreational function and maintain or enhance the character of open spaces;


ensure that open spaces do not suffer from increased overlooking, traffic flows or other encroachment….


consider the impact of any development on biodiversity and nature conservation."


Paragraph 18 indicates that where provision is of poor quality, this should not be taken to demonstrate an absence of need. Local authorities should work to improve the value of existing facilities.


It is right to point out that to take an area of non-town centre open space of heritage value which is highly prized by the local community and to designate it for built commercial leisure development without a study either of demand in the borough or demonstrable local support is inimical to the entire thinking of regional and national planning policy. When that land is also designated MOL, and the proposal involves the stripping away of its designation, one would require to see a very high level of justification, which is completely absent here.


A further dimension has arisen through the London Mayor.


The Mayor published the draft London Plan in June 2002. The introduction stresses that the South East and Eastern Regions have strongly emphasized the need inter alia to protect green field sites. The underlying philosophy of the Plan is therefore to accommodate growth within London's own boundaries and "without encroaching on London's own precious green spaces."[103] This philosophy is reflected in the policies of the Plan.[104]


Policy 3D.8 sets out the Mayor's policy of protecting London's network of open space, and to realise the current and potential benefit of open space to communities. It exhorts boroughs to encourage functional and physical linkages within the open space network and to enhance accessibility, based on local and strategic need.


The commentary not only underlines the many benefits of open space, but makes the important point that, as London becomes more compact and intensive in its built form, the value of the open spaces will increase. In that context, it is worth pointing out that the Plan specifies a target for additional homes in the five boroughs around the Park of 104,260 over the period 1997-2016, 23% of the total housing target for London.[105] The commentary also stresses that poor quality is no reason in itself to justify the loss of open spaces.


Policy 3D.9 encourages boroughs to use standards, as set out in the open space hierarchy, to identify broad areas of public open space deficiency.


Policy 3D.10 is unequivocal in its protection to Metropolitan Open Land:

"The Mayor will and boroughs should resist development on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) unless it is clearly ancillary to the enjoyment of the open space. Ancillary uses will only be acceptable where they do not have an adverse impact on the openness of MOL.….."


The Policy also advocates the protection of Green Chains.


The commentary sets out a number of criteria for the designation of areas of MOL:[106]

  • contribution to physical structure of London by being clearly distinguishable from the built up area;
  • inclusion of open air facilities, especially for leisure, recreation, sport, arts and cultural activities and tourism, which serve the whole or significant parts of London;
  • contains features or landscapes of historic, recreational, nature conservation or habitat interest, of value at a metropolitan or national level;
  • land that forms part of a Green Chain and meets one of the above criteria.


Crystal Palace Park in fact satisfies all of the above criteria for inclusion as MOL.


The Examination in Public Panel Report agreed the general thrust of the policy, while making a number of suggestions regarding drafting.[107] In paragraph 2.31, the Report stated:

"There is strong support for the policies protecting MOL, which is clearly regarded as essential to maintaining the quality of London's environment."

London: Cultural Capital (2003)


The Mayor's draft Culture Strategy strongly reiterates the high value placed on London's parks as places for social activity and relaxation. It deplores the pared back maintenance of such spaces and advocates their regeneration, not least because they are an important part of London's heritage and cultural life. It recommends ensuring that planners fully appreciate the economic and social benefits to be obtained from creating and preserving green spaces.[108]

PPG6 - Town Centres and Retail Developments (1996)


This Guidance advocated a sequential approach to retail development, starting with town centres, then edge of centre, then out of centre locations accessible by a choice of transport. The approach is applicable to commercial leisure uses.[109] The Guidance advocates that the sequential approach should be reflected in development plans, after considering the need for new development.[110] Thus, before concluding that it is proper to designate a non-town centre site for commercial leisure, there ought to be research or some other finding that such uses cannot be accommodated in the town centre. I am unaware that any such study has been carried out by Bromley.


Of course, national policy advocating a sequential approach and national policy advocating protection of parks and open space go hand in hand. It is by shepherding intensive commercial uses to town centres while preserving Green Belt and MOL that we produce sustainable environments for the benefit of all.

Top of Section; Previous Section (12); Next Section (14); Contents


[90] - Para 2.5
[91] - Q2, a vii
[92] - Q2 b iii
[93] - Para 6.5
[94] - Para 1.14
[95] - Para 1.30
[96] - Para 3.27
[97] - In fact, it originated in the Greater London Development Plan in 1976: see para 17.2 below.
[98] - Para 7.2
[99] - Para 7.10
[100] - Introduction
[101] - Para 1
[102] - Para 14
[103] - Introduction paragraph 17
[104] - Appendix 32.
[105] - Table 3A.1. Lambeth 28,910; Southwark 29,530; Lewisham 17,350; Bromley 11,450; Croydon 17,020. Total for London 457,950.
[106] - Para 3D.47
[107] - Appendix 33.
[108] - Pages 115-116. Appendix 34.
[109] - Para 1.15
[110] - Para 1.10

©Philip Kolvin