Bromley Unitary Development Plan

Proof of Philip Kolvin

Crystal Palace Park

Crystal Palace Campaign

Section 14

Near a population weary of labour yet thirsting for knowledge.

John Ruskin, of Crystal Palace Park.


Other UDP Policies


There are many policies in the draft Unitary Development Plan which are supportive of the preservation of green space, the enhancement of the natural environment, and the protection of heritage assets. These policies are themselves strong arguments for retention of the top site as Metropolitan Open Land and attaching to it a strategic statement which recognises and fosters its green and heritage credentials.


In paragraph 2.20 of the Plan, reference is made to the basic principles of sustainable development. These are said to include an emphasis on town centre locations for most forms of retail and leisure development and a stronger emphasis on protecting and, where opportunities arise, improving the natural environment. It is also said that in the longer term sustainable development will mean seeking to live more within the area's environmental capacity and enhancing environmental resources for future generations. The top site at Crystal Palace Park is a location where this basic approach might be tested. If the Council's preferred designation prevails, these basic principles will have been violated.


Paragraph 2.23 refers to the Council's Local Agenda 21 Strategy, Blueprint for a Better Bromley, to which I have referred in section 10 above.


Chapter 3, para 3.6, sets out the Council's Green Belt and Open Space objective, to protect Metropolitan Open Land and the Green Belt from inappropriate development, encourage greater access, and promote their use for outdoor recreation. This is irreconcilable with a commercial leisure designation. The objective is also to enhance Metropolitan Land through active management and advice. That, unfortunately, is not a precept that has been followed by the Council in respect of the top site. Had it been, and had the top site been sensitively woven into the fabric of the Park, I very much doubt whether there would ever been this debate as to whether it should now been built upon.


Similarly, paragraph 3.7 sets out the Council's recreation objectives, which include the maintenance, promotion and enhancement of public access for enjoyment of the Borough's open land. Again, this is a principle which ought to be followed in respect of the top site.


The protection of green space of course goes hand in hand with a sequential approach to the location of shopping and commercial leisure facilities, the sequential approach being emphasised in paragraph 3.9.


Policy BE11 of the Plan, and the supporting text, refers to historic parks and gardens and shows Crystal Palace Park as the only Grade II* Park in the Borough. It recognises inclusion in the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historical Interest as denoting parks of importance, in the national context, to England's cultural heritage, and to encourage their appreciation, maintenance and enhancement. It recognises that Grade II* Parks are those of great historic interest. It would be of surprise to most, I think, to learn that the Council was proposing to remove all open space protection from a large, prominent plot in such a park, while promoting a commercial leisure development in its place. The refusal to give a site description which pays any heed to the heritage or parkland importance of the site may be considered perplexing.


In Chapter 8, Green Belt and Open Space, the Council reiterates its commitment to the preservation and enhancement of such land. Paragraph 8.6 was subject to an important revision during the evolution of the Plan:

"Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) is land of predominantly open character within the built up area which has more than a Borough significance, generally because of its size and catchment area (RPG para 7.7). The presumption against inappropriate development which applies in the Green Belt, applies equally to MOL (RPG para 7.8). In accordance with draft PPG17, the Council intends to provide the strongest protection for open space that is, or that has the potential to be, of value to the community."


Even leaving aside the current designation of the top site as Metropolitan Open Land, its value to the community has been forcibly demonstrated through over six years of passionate defence by the community of this site, which has been to every level of Court in the land, the UK Parliament, the European Commission, European Parliament and European Court of Justice, amongst other places. Bromley's insistence, in the face of such an articulate show of care and affection for this open space, flies in the face of its UDP commitment to protection of such sites.


Paragraph 8.7 recommends that green chain sites, of more than Borough significance, should be designated MOL. Thus, were the top site not already designated MOL, the suggestion is that it should be so designated. To remove the designation clearly runs counter to this advice.


Paragraph 8.17 refers to paragraph 7.7 of RPG3, which sets out criteria for designation of MOL.6 As I have already indicated, the top site meets all of these criteria.


Chapter 9 of the Plan deals with Recreation, Leisure and Tourism. Policy L2 supports recreational uses on MOL sites, particularly in the Green Chain. This again echoes the Council's commitment not to abandon MOL designations but to reinforce them by promoting appropriate outdoor uses. Paragraph 9.10 sensibly states that such land is a significant resource for meeting informal, low-key recreational needs.


Policy L9 refers to areas of Open Space Deficiency, and states that the Council will seek to secure improvements in the amount and distribution of, and access to, open space in areas of deficiency identified by the Council.


Paragraph 9.22 states that the old London Planning Advisory Committee hierarchy had been used7 and that the areas of open space deficiency were shown on the Areas of Local and District Park Deficiency Map. I queried with the Council what analysis of deficiency it had carried out. On 16th September 2003, I was informed in writing by the Council8 that the relevant map was the last in the A3 proposals map booklet of March 2001. However, that map is a map showing Areas of Local Park Deficiency only. There is no reference to District Parks. This does seem to be a lacuna and inconsistency in the Plan.


Be that as it may, the map does show areas of deficiency to the east and south of the Park. While I acknowledge that these relate to local parks, nonetheless it does not seem to be a counsel of perfection to remove any accessible open space from areas of deficiency.


Policy L10 sets out a sequential test for indoor recreation and leisure. The Council has plainly carried out no sequential test before attempting to designate the top site for commercial leisure. I know of no compelling reason for breaching that approach here, particularly where it involves the concomitant removal of a Metropolitan Open Land designation.


Chapter 11 deals with town centres and shopping. Policy S6 sets out a proper sequential approach, whereby retail and leisure development outside existing town centres are not normally to be permitted, unless it can be shown that there is a need for the proposal which cannot be met within town centres. No such need has been demonstrated or, seemingly, analysed by the Council before electing to designate the top site for commercial leisure. The policy continues by stating that even where the sequential test is met, proposals should not be sited on MOL, or even on Urban Open Space. The succeeding commentary reinforces that general approach, placing the onus on the developer to demonstrate why the town centre cannot be used for the development, requiring the developer to demonstrate need, pointing out that there is sufficient scope within the town centres to accommodate retail and leisure floorspace, and requiring flexibility in terms of format, design, scale and parking requirements. I do not understand how the Council can, on the one hand, apply these strictures to a developer while, on the other hand, failing to apply them to itself.


In summary, the Council's proposals in respect of the top site produce a disjuncture with the fundamental thrust of the remainder of the Plan. It appears that the Council has taken an a priori decision to designate the site as it has, without first seeing whether it can be reconciled with the other Plan policies. When such an analysis is undertaken, it is quite plain that reconciliation is impossible. The proposed designation makes a mockery of the Plan, and requires to be reversed.

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[111] - Para 2.5
[112] - Q2, a vii
[113] - Q2 b iii

©Philip Kolvin