Bromley Unitary Development Plan

Proof of Philip Kolvin

Crystal Palace Park

Crystal Palace Campaign

Section 2

"The right to play is a child's first claim on the community. No community can infringe that right without doing deep and enduring harm to the minds and bodies of its citizens."

David Lloyd George


The Crystal Palace Campaign


The Campaign is an organisation which came into being in May 1997 to oppose a multiplex cinema on the top site at Crystal Palace Park. The building was to be 52,000 sq. m., being 285 x 60m on 3 floors, the top floor being a 950 space car park accessed by vehicle ramps passing across the front of the building; the middle floor being 14 pubs/bars etc. together with 2 commercial leisure units; the ground floor being a 20 screen multiplex cinema with 4,800 seats, together with a further commercial leisure unit. The building was widely opposed. Elevation drawings and a CAD illustration are shown at appendix 3.


The list of opponents to the development was an extremely formidable one, including a plethora of national, regional and local organisations. Perhaps most pertinently, it included 40,000 individuals who signed petitions against the scheme. It is worth setting out the list, as a reminder of the strength of feeling which a large commercial leisure use of this site has previously engendered.

National/regional organisations

  • Parliamentary Select Committee on Environment, Transport and the Regions
  • London Planning Advisory Committee
  • National Playing Fields Association
  • London Forum of Amenity and Civic Societies

Local government organisations

  • The London Borough of Southwark. The Council formally congratulated the Campaign on its success in defeating the multiplex proposal.
  • The London Borough of Croydon
  • The London Borough of Lewisham
  • The London Borough of Lambeth (which demanded, unsuccessfully, environmental assessment)

Elected representatives


  • Jean Lambert MEP


  • The Right Honourable Tessa Jowell MP (Dulwich and Norwood), Minister for Employment, now Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Her very strong views about the development are reflected in her letter to Bromley's[3] Chief Planner at Appendix 4.
  • Jim Dowd MP (Lewisham West)
  • Malcolm Wicks MP (Croydon North)
  • Geraint Davies MP (Croydon Central)
  • The four MPs who made up the Select Committee on the Crystal Palace Act 1990


  • The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone
  • Darren Johnson GLA, the Mayor's environmental adviser
  • Trevor Phillips GLA, Chairman of Greater London Assembly
  • Valerie Shawcross GLA, Head of London Fire Authority
  • Alexander Pelling GLA
  • Victor Anderson GLA, member of London Development Agency
  • Jenny Jones GLA, now Deputy Mayor

Local councillors

  • Hugh Malyan, Leader of Council, Croydon
  • Pat Ryan (Croydon)
  • Ian Payne (Croydon)
  • Kim Humphries (Southwark)
  • William Rowe, (Southwark)
  • Janet Grigg (Lambeth)
  • Gareth Compton (Lambeth)
  • Russell A'Court, (Lambeth)
  • Chris Best (Lewisham) Chair of Sydenham Community Regeneration Partnership
  • Liam Curran, Lewisham
  • Alan Pegg, Lewisham

Other politicians and political organisations

  • Lord Weatherill, former local MP and Speaker of House of Commons
  • Lord Warner of Brockley (now Minister in Health Dept, objected to licensing applications)
  • Steve Norris (Mayoral candidate)
  • Susan Kramer (Mayoral Candidate)
  • Nicholas Vineall, Conservative candidate, Dulwich and Norwood
  • Dulwich and Norwood Conservative Association
  • The Green Party

Local heritage, amenity, business and residents' organisations

  • Crystal Palace Foundation
  • Crystal Palace Triangle Community Association
  • Upper Norwood Chamber of Commerce
  • Dulwich Society
  • Sydenham Society
  • Norwood Society
  • Croydon Society
  • Herne Hill Society
  • Lambethans
  • Kingswood Estate Tenants Association

Organisations concerned with the environment

  • Friends of the Earth
  • The Council for the Protection of Rural England
  • London Wildlife Trust
  • Friends of the Great North Wood

Protest groups

  • Crystal Palace Campaign
  • Boycott UCI Group
  • Crystal Palace Protest
  • Ridge Wildlife Group
  • Friends of Crystal Palace Park


While, of course, the Unitary Development Plan inquiry is not the place to debate the merits of the multiplex scheme, it is instructive to consider the reasons why local people objected so passionately to the scheme, since this indicates the likely reaction to a further proposal for commercial leisure development of the site. Of course, different groups objected for different reasons, and the priorities amongst groups may have varied. Broadly, the reasons included the following.


The loss of open parkland. The ridge at Crystal Palace affords superb views over London, Kent and Surrey. It affords a sense of space and openness, unrivalled, probably, between here and Parliament Hill. The value of the Park as open space is reflected in its designation as Metropolitan Open Land.


The domination of the remaining area of the Park by a substantial building, standing at the head of the Park and occupying the main part of the ridge.


The introduction of commercial activities into what is seen as a community park. It is probably a truism to say that the Park has a park-like atmosphere. But it does have a tranquil air far removed from the bustle of urban living. The atmosphere of the Park is partly the reason why the major part of it it has long been designated a Conservation Area. Indeed, the areas around the Park are Conservation Areas, having been designated at separate times by four local authorities. The description in the Dulwich Conservation Area Statement of the climb through wooded streets to the ridge and the view beyond[4] will resonate with all who live in this area.


The Park is rich in history, having been the site of the relocated Crystal Palace. It moved here in 1854 from Hyde Park, and stood until it burned to the ground in 1936. The chief remaining features of that great project are Paxton's terraces, which are listed structures. The Park itself, which represents a major example of Victorian Park landscaping, and one of Paxton's major works, is a Grade II* Listed Park, on the English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. There was a widespread feeling that a multiplex cinema with a bowling alley, a health and fitness club and (possibly if not probably) a video arcade, is a wholly inappropriate response to the site's historical connotations. There is still a great feeling of local pride about the Palace, and many were simply heartbroken that the site could be used in this way.


There was a major concern about traffic. The Park stands in the heart of a residential area. There are no strategic roads feeding this development, and the site is approached by a series of narrow Victorian streets. While there is public transport to the area, it was undeniable that by far the greatest visitation to the site would have been by car. Indeed, for this reason, the Select Committee on the Environment singled out the Crystal Palace multiplex development as a particularly acute example of poor transportation planning.


The tree-lined ridge is the highest such ridge in London, and was protected as a skyline view by Bromley's Unitary Development Plan, adopted in 1994. The community was deeply concerned that the trees, and therefore the view, were to be lost and replaced with a high parapet wall, safety rails, lift shafts, car ramps, plant units and car roofs.


There was a widespread fear of night-time noise, disorder, litter etc. associated with late night uses.


The effect on local trade. The local high street, the Crystal Palace Triangle, is little more than a village high street, heavily dependent on its night-time economy. The traders were concerned that the multiplex, with its rooftop car park, would seriously impact on the trade which is the fulcrum of this local community. The London Planning Advisory Committee (the statutory body which, until 1st July 2000, advised the Secretary of State and the boroughs on strategic planning matters) advised that the development would overwhelm Upper Norwood.


The building was widely disliked. I have never heard anybody, even from Bromley, actually say they liked it. The building represented to local people a triumph of function over form. The huge, unarticulated, flat roof was dictated by the decision of the developer to save money by not digging out an underground car park. The windowless ground floor was because of the cinemas at that level. The huge, free-standing vehicle ramps passing around three sides of the building and up to the roof proclaimed the utilitarian nature of the structure. In a suburb of Victorian houses, a park and a village high street, this was a discordant intrusion.


The introduction of highways infrastructure into the Park was widely opposed. At the northernmost end of the development, there was to be a new road from Crystal Palace Parade into the Park, leading to a roundabout in the Park, so that cars could come round to the beginning of the ramp. From Anerley Hill, there was a major new entrance into the Park, involving the creation of extra lanes of traffic, a signal-controlled junction, a bellmouth entrance, a large concrete tunnel with retaining walls etc. The tunnel was to drive right through the Park so as to emerge onto the beginning of the southerly vehicle ramp.


Loss of ecological interest on site. I am unaware of any formal study having been carried out by Bromley, but the London Wildlife Trust carried out a study in 1997, demonstrating that the ridge top and upper terrace supports the highest diversity of wildlife in the Park, with over 150 species of vascular plant recorded, a rare habitat of acid grassland, 75 species of birds including Amber and Red List members, and 25 breeding species, four nationally Notable invertebrates and so on.[5]


The Campaign was a deliberately loose, unconstituted, grouping of individuals who built coalitions against the development and worked vigorously, though always lawfully, through legal action, direct action, media coverage, political lobbying and action etc., achieving national renown in the process.


The Campaign was extremely widely supported. I attribute this to four things. First, the strength of feeling about the issue itself. Second, the fact that we conducted an entirely lawful campaign, and were committed only to lawful action. Thus, individuals from all sectors of society felt comfortable in supporting us. Third, our commitment to a participative process in deciding what should be the future of the site. Fourth, the total unwillingness of the main protagonists, Bromley Council, London & Regional Properties and UCI Cinemas, to respond meaningfully to the profound concerns of the community.


The milestones of the Campaign were as follows:

May 1997

Campaign established by four Crystal Palace residents.

July 1997

Public meeting. Approx. 600 local residents attend to hear Bromley officers and scheme architect speak in favour of the development. Residents vote 600 to 1 against the development.

March 1998

Bromley grant planning permission.

March 1998

Public meeting. 600 attend. Public donate £25,000 to permit legal challenge to planning permission.

May 1998

Campaign, together with 9 other residential and amenity groups, publish the People's Park, a consultative document inviting partnership with Bromley to work up a sustainable scheme for the regeneration of Crystal Palace. The London Planning Advisory Committee supports it. Bromley ignore it.

August 1998

Campaign public meetings in Dulwich, Sydenham and Norwood on consecutive nights. About 1,200 attend.

October 1998

New web-site established. 55,000 visits so far.

December 1998

Court of Appeal dismisses legal challenge. The Crystal Palace Act 1990, which requires the new building to reflect the architectural style of the old, does not actually require the new building to look like the old.

March 1999

March to Downing Street, petition handed in

April 1999

Right Honourable Tessa Jowell MP asks Campaign to run public meeting for her to canvass local views. 1,500 attend and vote unanimously against the building.

July 1999

Party in the Park.

September 1999

Lord Weatherill offers support for Campaign at public meeting, together with Jean Lambert MEP.

September 1999

Developer writes offering stakeholders forum. It subsequently reneges, despite intervention by Tessa Jowell.

October 1999

March from Crystal Palace to demonstration outside UCI's Empire Leicester Square. 700 attend demonstration.

October 1999

Campaign establishes consultative process to take stakeholders forum forward. It forms a "group of groups" with a total of 14 heritage and residents' associations and amenity groups, speaks at local schools and invites views through newsletter drops and web-site.

November 1999

Jean Lambert MEP presents petition to European Parliament, on behalf of local people.

February 2000

National anti-UCI day. Protesters demonstrate outside over 30 UCI cinemas from Clydebank to Poole.

March 2000

Public meeting for Mayoral candidates. 1,000 attend. All mayoral candidates, including Livingstone (independent), Conservative, Labour, Lib-Dem., Green and Christian People's Alliance come out against the proposals. Livingstone, Phillips (Labour), Johnson (Green) attend meeting.

November 2000

Developer applies for 14 pub licences for development. Campaign organises professional opposition. One pub licence is granted, together with a series of restaurant licences.

January 2001

Campaign distributes Alternative Prospectus to 100 largest food and drink companies in UK, explaining the economic and PR deficits of renting space in multiplex.

May 2001

Developer withdraws, Bromley sues.

July 2001

Campaign, together with local groups, propose charitable Trust, to raise funds for Park and consult re. proposals. Bromley refuse to discuss.

September 2001

London Borough of Southwark formally congratulates the Campaign on the defeat of the multiplex and instructs officers to work with Campaign and others to ensure the Park's protection and enhancement in accordance with the wishes of local residents.[6]

May 2002

Campaign publishes results of large formal consultation exercise, 'Consultation Starts Here'[7], showing strong support for parkland uses of top site.

June 2002

Campaign inaugurates facilitated stakeholders forum. Bromley subscribes.

January 2003

European Commission announces it is to bring infringement proceedings on the Campaign's complaint against the UK Government in the European Court of Justice over Bromley's failure to direct Environmental Assessment at outline or reserved matters stage.[8]


After defeating the multiplex proposal, we deliberately wound down the Campaign, so as to concentrate on a small number of targeted objectives, the retention of the planning designation of the Park being the main one. However, when the Campaign was in full flow, the steering group consisted of approximately 12 local residents. Support then radiated out from there. For example, there were approximately 100 registered newsletter distributors, who distributed 40,000 newsletters approximately 3 times per year. There were over 2,000 financial supporters. We also worked with other groups. For example, we established a group of groups with heritage, residential and amenity societies so that we could pool our experiences and concerns relating to Crystal Palace: this was attended by approximately 10 local groups. We also worked with other protest groups on specific events, e.g. our Crystal Palace - Leicester Square march and our national Boycott UCI day, on both of which we worked with the Boycott UCI Group.


As a Campaign, we have always tried to find a positive angle to our work, and to build unity. We repeatedly invited the London Borough of Bromley to meet with us, and to see whether we could find common ground. The London Borough of Bromley declined such invitations over a number of years, preferring to forge ahead with its plans. During this period we carried out two exercises in public consultation, and even succeeded in persuading the developer to join a stakeholders forum, although the developer reneged shortly thereafter. We wrote a blueprint for the top-site "The People's Park", based around a sculpture park, to which nine local organisations subscribed. As stated above, we founded a "group of groups" to enable local amenity societies from around the Park to meet and discuss issues of common concern, and so on.


However, from the time the multiplex cinema was defeated in May 2001, we redoubled our efforts to build unity, fearing that otherwise the park would continue to languish. We proposed a community trust to raise funds for the Park and act as a consultation body for future plans, although we could not persuade the London Borough of Bromley to subscribe to the idea. We therefore realised that we would need, effectively, to take responsibility and carry out the role which Bromley should have been exercising, by conducting a large formal consultation exercise (see below) and founding a proper community forum.


We have at all times worked very hard to bring the political and residential community together. One of the main problems for the Park is that it lies on the fringes of five boroughs, and clearly is not a political priority for any of them. The fact that local authorities have no statutory responsibilities for park maintenance adds to its difficulties. This is exacerbated by the fact that the size and dilapidated state of the Park presents some acute problems. On top of that, it is fair to say that while the Park lies within Bromley, the vast majority of the users do not live there. Consequently, it has not always been easy for Bromley to understand the concerns and priorities of residents of other boroughs, and no doubt it is still harder to argue for a prioritisation of resources towards this inherited park. On the community's side, the Park serves residential areas of widely differing social circumstances, and with widely different needs. It is of course a large task to try to regenerate the Park in a way which meets the aspirations of all.


To try to address some of these problems, and to ensure that there is no repeat of the damaging conflict brought about by the multiplex proposals, we devised, financed and convened a workshop to which all stakeholders were invited, presided over by an independent facilitator from the Environment Council. The workshop has taken root, and has been running for over a year, financed by many bodies including the London Development Agency (using Single Regeneration Budget funds), the Campaign, the London Borough of Bromley and the other boroughs, and various heritage and amenity groups. The plenary sessions have been attended by representatives of several dozen groups and local, regional and national organisations, including English Heritage and Sport England. There have also been strategic working groups and management working groups which have looked at various issues concerning the Park and its future. To its credit, Bromley's then leader, Michael Tickner, committed the Council to working from a blank sheet of paper. Bromley's persistence in attempting to remove the protective designation of the top site and to designate the Sports Centre a Major Developed Site are an unfortunate contradiction to that assurance, but nonetheless its apparent commitment to the process of stakeholder working remains.

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[3] - Throughout this document, the London Borough of Bromley is referred to as Bromley.
[4] - See Section 8: Dulwich Wood Conservation Area.
[5] - Crystal Palace Park, A Survey and Assessment of the Nature Conservation Value of the Ridge Top and Upper Terrace, London Wildlife Trust, 2 ed., 1997
[6] - Appendix 7
[7] - Appendix 2
[8] - See Press release, Appendix 8

©Philip Kolvin