(R.3) Transcript of the Bromley Council Meeting on 6th May 1999

Convened to grant full planning permission to London and Regional Properties to develop the Crystal Palace Site - held at Bromley Civic Centre, Stockwell Close in the large hall - packed out.
As the meeting notes are transcribed the text below will be ammended and the index expanded:


Speech of Philip Kolvin - Chairman Crystal Palace Campaign
Speech of Jim O'Donnell - London and Regional Properties


Speech of Ken Lewington - Vice Chairman Crystal Palace Campaign
Speech of Angela Ransley - Martell/Tritton Action Group (a residents' association in West Dulwich)

-----------------------TOP SITE DEVELOPMENT -----------------

Councillor Paul Booth (Chairman): Next Mr Kolvin, please. (loud applause)

You have got 10 minutes and the orange light will go on after nine. Press the button there (microphone ON switch).

Philip Kolvin: Councillors, I want to make three narrow planning points and in view of the extra latitude allowed me I'm then going to make a broader and rather more political point.

Planning first of all. Number One: Traffic:

The figures which were given to you at the outline planning stage were wrong, as Mr Macmillan (Stuart Macmillan, Chief Planning officer) admitted, on oath, in the Judicial Review in the Court of Appeal. We have since uncovered further errors in the traffic impact work which show that the traffic projections were out by over 100% and there will be 17,000 new vehicle movements in this park every Saturday.

I am going to use one very small example. The developer assumes that the non-cinema floor space at Park Royal, the comparative development, and at Crystal Palace would be identical, whereas in fact at Crystal Palace the non-cinema floor space is 75% greater than at Park Royal, therefore generating 75% more cars. These figures have been set out in detail in our own analysis which has been professionally prepared with the assistance of consultants, has been placed before your own transport engineering department for the Director of that department, for comment and appraisal and your officers regrettably have refused to answer our analysis at all. (derision)

You, as a planning control committee, can exercise influence here. We have suggested a series of conditions in our own submissions. In addition, you are not compelled to accept the proposed size of this building which is 10% bigger than it was at the Outline Planning Stage, nor are you compelled to accept the number of cinema seats which comprise 700 more seats than there were at the Outline Planning Stage, nor are you either obliged to accept the number of car parking spaces. You can actually reduce the number of car parking spaces, so as to choke off vehicular demand. Please, please, if you do nothing else, exercise your powers so as to reduce reliance on car borne visitation to this development. It is an enormously important factor for people who live in Norwood and the environs. (applause).
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Two: Visual impact:

The tree-lined ridge on which this building will sit is protected by your own Community Development Plan and it is precious. The views from the west into that tree-lined ridge have never been professionally appraised which, with respect, is an abdication of responsibility. The views above the tree-lined ridge will comprise a 280m long safety barrier, above it one will see a line of 94 car roofs. That is very important. It has never been put to you before but I have the section drawings here which you can look at which show that the car roofs do in fact protrude above the parapet wall. Above the car roofs which will brood in the daylight and glint in the sunlight we will have the plant for the multiplex cinema and the lift shafts for the development as a whole. Below that we will see the vehicular access ramps.

This building will ineed be a landmark. It will be a landmark to the domineering influence of the motor car, it will be a landmark to the triumph of utilitarianism over aesthetics, the environment and common sense. (loud applause) On those grounds, at the very least, defer, in order to get an independent landscape assessment. You've never had one and when I've asked for one from Mr Robin Cooper (Heritage & Urban Design) I've been termed discourteous, distasteful and disingenuous. I don't accept those criticisms, this is merely an attempt on my part to ensure that there is a proper professional appraisal of those views. (applause) Point of reference

You undertook to Parliament that this building would contain a predominance of glass and metal. If one looked at the original Crystal Palace one saw nothing else. When one looks at the external surface area of this building one sees that 80% of it, the car park mostly, is concrete, 10% of it is boulders and about 10% of it is glass and metal. There is no trick of arithmetic or word play which can assist you here. If you grant planning permission you will be breaching your undertaking to Parliament. (applause)
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Three: The architectural style of the original Crystal Palace. Now you've made one decision about this but it is not final. The building before you is different from that which was before you at the Outline Planning Stage. Then, there were largely metal walls which the architect explained in his affidavit to the legal proceedings, were derived directly from the designs for the original Crystal Palace and which also, he said, were designed to reflect the sunlight rather in the manner of glass. Those metal walls are gone, they are now boulders. Nobody with eyes could look at this building and be reminded of a palace made of crystal which is our heritage. (applause) Looking at the question of style, please do so and reject the plans on those grounds. (applause)
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Members I'm not going to go further on our written submissions which have been extensive and no doubt you have had the opportunity to consider . May I please make a broader point?

The Crystal Palace Campaign is comprised of thousands of ordinary law-abiding people. According to your own Councillor Gaster (Chris Gaster, Anerley Ward, Chairman of Leisure & Community Services Committee) we are people who were never properly consulted on these proposals and when the dust settles, you acknowledge that local people have never been given a participatory role in working up the scheme, for what is after all, their park. (applause)

You have viewed this as a scrap of contaminated land previously occupied by a built form and now affording a real opportunity to regenerate the area. But it is greatly miscalculated. For local people, this is their place, it is their park, their landmark, their heritage, their skyline ridge, their peace and quiet, their village existence, their acre of wilderness. (hear hear)

Times have moved on since 1854 when the Victorians were able to place a huge building here because the motor car was not yet invented and the area was unpopulated. Even in the last ten years we have moved on, through the Rio Earth Summit, Agenda 21 which you espouse, and countless government policies we've come to see that parkland is precious and once built on it is lost forever. (applause) All over the country parkland is being regenerated, in a low key sustainable way. We, through the People's Park, and through correspondence with your leaders and officers have offered to discuss how such initiatives may proceed. We've made clear that we tolerate a built form provided that it respects its parkland position and also respects the history of the site. But we've been met with silence by both politicians and officers, evasion and cancellation of meetings, writs, bulldozers, police cordons and contempt. We are termed activists, romantics and pests. We know that to exercise your powers in the public interest. We are that public. (applause) We've been scrupulous in ensuring that our protest is lawful, that it is informative and that it is peaceful. We have so much to say, we have so much to contribute. Please, please, lay down your arms, defer this decision, mediate. Your objective is regeneration. Our objective is sustainable regeneration. Let's see if we can sit down and meet our objectives in a mutually satisfactory way. You, as a Council, I accept not as a planning committee but as a Council, have lost £26 million of funding for the regeneration of the Park. You've also lost the sympathy of this community. (applause)

We're simply saying that now is the time to give the scheme a fresh look and the alternative is conflict which none of us want. Please, please, sit down. Talk to us. (long loud applause)
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Cllr Booth: Finally - Mr O'Donnell who has also got ten minutes.

Jim O'Donnell: Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen. I am Jim O'Donnell of London & Regional Properties. I'm the Project Manager, responsible for the building of this particular building scheme.

Our application, before you this evening is the culmination of three year process of innovative design, discussion, negotiation and compliance (groans) with the Crystal Palace Act and many of the stakeholder bodies such as English Heritage, The Royal Fine Art Committee to name but two.

We are committed to the redevelopment of the former Crystal Palace site and to the determination of full consent from this committee.

London & Regional have continued to listen to all of the concerns raised during the Reserved Matter Consultation period (shouts of "rubbish") and here in this public meeting confirm our commitment to establish a local community forum with stakeholders who will positively progress the former Crystal Palace Site's Development.

The issues particularly to mind - and previous speakers have also raised some - are:

A general reduction in car parking both on and off the site, in line with Government policy. This may be done by reducing the dependence on the private car park by stimulating the modal shift, already discussed and towards an improved public transport services system.

We will work within local community groups to address their concerns within a solution culture.

We will revise the internal uses within our building particularly in relation to:

1. Provisions of permanent exhibition space.

2. Provisions of enlarged public space.

3. Provisions of meeting and performance areas.

4. Review of restaurant operations leading to limitation if not complete

prohibition of fast foods.

5. A reconsideration of the family entertainment and its replacement with,

for example, books, music shops, these such things (groans)

6. The introduction of an international class Imax facility.

A review of the opening hours and management of the facility and its environment.

And the review of the total of the cinema seats with the provision of reduction of these and the use of Art House and Community use of particular cinema gauges. (Much discontent in the audience throughout)

The present issue of the Anerley Hill access and the property opposite has been considered by London & Regional Properties and we will offer to finance whatever the solution is that is agreeable to all concerned.

I can also confirm that our landscaping proposals will include mature specimens of London Planes in an avenue along Crystal Palace Parade. By the public square individual mature sequoia trees will be complimented by the copper beech, oak and ornamental birch.

In conclusions we believe that our development will be a robust sustainable asset to the local community supporting the regeneration (derision) of the area and the park in particular.

We have a commitment to meeting all of our undertakings. We have committed to delay the start of our construction on the project until early year 2000 allowing every avenue of dialogue and mediation to be considered.

Thank you for listening (no applause, loud dissent)
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Cllr Booth: Are there any questions from the committee to Mr O'Donnell. (there were none) Thank you very much. (cries of "shame")

------------------------PARK DEVELOPMENT -----------------

Ken Lewington:

Mr Chairman, Members.

First, it is clear that, as this is a detailed application and is of immense scale on a park of national significance, an Environmental Assessment would be totally appropriate, and as the Palace development site is, according to your Chief Planner, ìintrinsically linked to the Park proposals then that too should be included in such an Assessment.

I am now going to read to you extracts from an internal Heritage Lottery Fund document. It is the expert advice given to the trustees in March 1998 by Dr Stewart Harding, the Fund's Policy Adviser on Urban Parks.

It is of the utmost relevance tonight because it was primarily this advice, from one of the country's leading authorities on urban parks, which resulted in Bromley being denied almost £26 million in funding for what is, essentially, the proposal in front of you this evening.

I hope that it will help you understand how the agency which holds the purse strings, views Bromley's plans.

"...there are a formidable range of objections which should cause serious concern to a heritage agency.

It is clear that your officers have expended tens, if not hundreds of thousands of pounds working up and presenting to you a scheme, which, as has been shown, is not worthy of funding. A clear case of the tail wagging the dog! And so, your officers must take these plans and, as at Mile End and other parks across the country, ask the local community to help you to find a solution which is sensitive, appropriate, respects this historic park and will therefore be able to attract the required funding.

I submit that, in order to retain your credibility as a planning authority, the support of thousands of Park users and the attention of the Heritage lottery and other funding agencies, there is only one course of action open to you this evening, and that is to defer this decision.

(I can let you have a copy of this document if you wish.)


Angela Ransley:

This presentation opposes the application for the Park on behalf of the Martell Tritton Action Group, a residents' association in West Dulwich, active since 1981. I have lived in this area for most of my adult life and at a transitional point in my career I worked in the Park, so I have a thorough knowledge of it.

I would like to begin by showing you the proposed changes on this map. Below the complex are the three terraces and on the top terrace there would be a canal the full length of the building. The middle terrace would not change, except that it would be used for car parking for special events such as concerts. The lower terrace is currently a car park and this would become a giant flower bed known as the colour swatch. At the bottom a cascade would proceed from the boating lake into a new lake. The café and maintenance are removed to two new sites and a new car park would go there.

You will by now be well aware of the conservation proposals to rework Paxton's design in a modern idiom and to unite the new Crystal Palace with the Park. The main problem with the Park proposals, as with the multiplex, is one of scale. Paxton was building at a time when land was cheap and plentiful and the population low. He built what became the country's foremost concert venue - Britain's Albert Hall before the Albert Hall was built. We are in a quite different situation at the turn of the 20th Century and it is not possible to give the Victorian scale priority. Pursuit of these plans would result in the loss of a great deal of land to the public. The question must be asked: What price conservation? Do we owe more to the dead than to the living? The scheme does not bring conservation and public amenity into a proper relationship and this must be done.

There seems to be a fallacy in Bromley Council that there is plenty of room in the Park: This is not the case as the population is not distributed evenly. During the week the park is used mainly by mothers or nannies with small children and those not in work. There is intensive use at the weekends and on public and school holidays with a concentration of the population at the Penge end. The paths are very full. The reason for this is that this is where the children's play area and the café are. It is also one of the few flat areas in the Park available for family games such as football or cricket. It is not difficult to see that if the top terraces are used as proposed, the top half of the Park would no longer be available for use by the public. If you build a cascade here and build a new lake an essential public amenity will be lost. Where are the public to go? I can foresee a time when it would be necessary to limit entry.

The second main problem is that no-one - Bromley, the architects or the landscape designers - have a thorough knowledge of the Park and seriously misread its character. I quote: "The overwhelming feeling is of a dream past. The dream has left many vestiges, but it is a lost dream, unconnected with today's world."

This is not true: its life is vigorous! It is primarily a family activity Park and of the three major local parks (Dulwich, Bel Air and Crystal Palace) it has the most provision, such as the land train which operates a circular tour, the shire horses which give rides up and down the Central Avenue, and the children's funfair. The designer wants to put these focal points, the play area and the café, on the edge of the Park: There are major flaws here:

1. The café and children's play area and the maintenance building would be at the bottom of these gardens and this is clearly unacceptable and unnecessary.

2. A café at one end of the Park would not serve people at the other end and your proposals include the demolition of the kiosk by the concert platform and the farm refreshments building which currently serve those people.

3. Putting the café with a terrace and the children's play area so close to the lake has safety implications.

Another preoccupation of the design team is with simplicity and as a result the Park buildings, described in the summary as high quality, are truly dreadful. They look like mousetraps. If they are of such high quality, why don't we like them? The summary is scathing about the existing structures but their replacements are not an improvement. It is the task of architects to produce designs with broad appeal.

All small buildings are to be demolished including one, the farm refreshments building, that has been erected at public expense in the last five years. The café was extensively refurbished at the same time and there was considerable outlay on a mural depicting Victorian life in the Park. The public have not had the full value from this expenditure. The result of this extreme demolition will be that there will only be Paxton's balustrades and futuristic buildings of a very inferior nature. This imposes an image on the Park foreign to its identity.

Your proposals aim to increase water areas considerably in the top canal and the scheme at the bottom here. The Park does not need more water. The boating lake is not greatly used and is partitioned off for fishing. The canal takes away from the public the beautiful walk and view. It would be desirable to re-introduce Paxton's flowing water but not at the cost of so much land. The canal is intended as a security barrier for the multiplex and along with the area around the museum seems to have been handed to the developers for nothing.

I mentioned earlier that the design team has not taken account of present Park usage and the proposed make-over would be a denial of its identity. The Park has been without the Palace for almost as long as the Palace was there and during that time has evolved a character that is an enormous success. One of its strengths is that it is not over-developed and offers inner city people a real sense of freedom and contact with nature. If you fill it up with paved paths and concrete terraces you will be introducing those very things that people wish to escape. You must understand that a park has a quite different significance in the inner city from the environment you know. Again, the conservation issue and the identity of the Park as developed by the community will have to be brought into balance.

The designer wants to take up the lower terrace with a giant flower bed intended to revive Paxton's fascination with colour and to show the changing seasons. Some of the ideas are bizarre and would not be understood by the average park user. I quote:

"In winter may be not always plants, instead a field of pinned down and crumpled heavy grade foil, catching the light, rain, frost, ice. Rows of magnetic recording tape flicker silver in the wind."

It is not necessary to show the colour of the seasons as nature does that for you already.

The current children's play area is very good and people come from miles around to use it. It is important to know that although not subject to planning regulations this quality is not going to be lost. Similarly, it is important to know that the capacity of the café is not to be reduced.

The car park for 65 cars contravenes metropolitan open land regulations. Your summary of proposals states that special circumstances exist but our group does not agree to this.

To summarise: there are a number of issues that need to be debated and brought into balance with each other:

All these ideas depend on securing funding and Bromley will strengthen its position with the lottery boards by improving its relations with the local community and weaken it if it is seen to be in conflict with it. It would, therefore, be in everyone's interest, including Bromley's, to accept Tessa Jowell's suggestion at the meeting on April 17, 1999 of a forum for debate and for voting on this application to be deferred. Thank you very much.
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