Bromley Unitary Development Plan

Proof of Philip Kolvin

Crystal Palace Park

Crystal Palace Campaign

Section 8

"All materiality merges into atmosphere."

Lochar Bucher, of the Crystal Palace.


Surrounding Area


The ridge at Crystal Palace Park is the highest point in South London. The land falls steeply away towards Kent and Surrey and the Downs to the South, and towards London to the North. There is a large catchment for this Park, as befits its regional status, the surrounding areas being chiefly residential of mixed affluence, including Dulwich, Sydenham, Penge, Anerley and Norwood.


It is noteworthy that the former Greater London Council characterised this as an Area of Open Space Deficiency, after assessing the size of the Park in relation to its catchment. In fact, in the first draft Greater London Development Plan, published by the Greater London Council in 1969 and finally approved by the Minister in 1976, the Council proposed "the extension of Crystal Palace Park and the provision of more facilities there."


No formal assessments of open space provision has been carried out by the London Borough of Bromley in this area, and the confluence of five boroughs at Crystal Palace makes it unlikely that such an assessment will be carried out.


However, as I demonstrate in section 9 of this proof, three of the boroughs abutting the Park are amongst the least green in the country, and have high population densities. This underlines the importance of green space to the inner London boroughs.


Although anecdotal, it is fair to say that the higher parts of the Park are viewed strongly by residents of Sydenham, Norwood and South Dulwich as their own. The residents of Sydenham tend to use the Park as a means of strolling through to the shops in Norwood. The residents of Norwood, through their amenity societies and otherwise, consider the upper parts of the Park to be their "village green".


A key feature of the Park is the sense of openness it gives as one approaches it from the north and west. If one approaches it from the Norwood Triangle, substantial views open up across the Park and into Kent beyond. Similarly, as one climbs to the Park along College Road, for example, one reaches the summit and is struck by the vistas and sense of openness. From further afield, there are long views across to the tree-lined ridge, which appears to continue down as far as Dulwich, owing to the green open spaces tracing the ridge down Sydenham Hill through, for example, Dulwich Upper Wood and Peckarmans Wood etc.


The historic nature of the surrounding area can be discerned from the number of Conservation Areas in the environs of Crystal Palace Park. These include:

Dulwich Wood Conservation Area


This Conservation Area lies within Southwark Borough. It was designated in 1995. The Statement[22] places a high value on the open space included in the Conservation Area, terming it the "largest expanse of predominantly open space in the Borough". It includes Sydenham Hill (including Sydenham Hill Wood) and, of relevance to this case, notes that the land "rises slowly southwards up the lower slopes of Sydenham Hill to climb dramatically to the ridge some 100m above sea-level. From this high point a panoramic view of London opens up to the north while glimpses of the Downs can be seen to the south. The ridge is a prominent landmark and an important visual backdrop to many views from within the borough and other high ground …."


The aspects of Crystal Palace Park which open out as one reaches the summit of Sydenham Hill are a strong topographical feature of South London, and would be severely constrained by substantial building on the top-site at Crystal Palace.

The Westow Hill (north side) Conservation Area.


This Conservation Area, which lies within Lambeth Borough, was designated in 1998, the report to Committee[23] making it clear that the character of the area had been influenced by the advent of the Palace in the mid 19th century. Again, the statement expresses what is particularly prized by local people - the sense of height and openness of the area.


"The setting of the conservation area is also important - it occupies a significant plateau position between Crystal Palace Park and the downward slopes of Gipsy Hill and Central Hill. There are several significant vistas and panoramas from Westow Hill …. where a view can be enjoyed right across South London to the cluster of towers in the City of London. The sudden transition from the bustling high street of Westow Hill to the green open spaces and trees of Crystal Palace Park is also an important one…."[24]


It is interesting to note that the London Borough of Bromley strongly supported this designation, and saw the various conservation areas acting together as an integral whole. The report noted that the London Borough of Bromley's Development Control Committee "strongly supported" the designation: "The report considered by Members described the areas as being of "high townscape quality and demonstrable architectural and historic interest, completing the protection of Upper Norwood Town Centre provided by conservation areas in Bromley and Croydon."[25]

Upper Norwood Triangle Conservation Area


This Conservation Area lies in the Borough of Croydon. It was designated in 1989.[26] The Upper Norwood Triangle is the smallest District Centre in London, consisting of a triangle of streets with a mix of Use Class A1, A2 and A3 and residential uses. Its retail function has declined over recent years, to be replaced by a reasonably busy night time economy of bars and restaurants.

Gipsy Hill Conservation Area


This Conservation Area lies in Lambeth and was designated in 1974. Its boundary was amended in 2000.[27]

Church Road Conservation Area


This Conservation Area lies in Croydon and was designated in 1974, "because of its considerable architectural interest and its strong associations with Norwood's past."[28]


It is fair to summarise the surrounding area as being of considerable conservation interest, much of it referable to the history of the Park.

Top of Section; Previous Section (7); Next Section (9); Contents


[22] - Appendix 14.
[23] - Appendix 15.
[24] - Para 3.5
[25] - Section 5
[26] - Appendix 16.
[27] - Appendix 17.
[28] - Appendix 18.

©Philip Kolvin