(P.73) Crystal Clear

Campaigners are calling for a showdown over plans to ruin the people's park

says Mira Bar-Hillel -

Evening Standard Property News February 2000

HUNDREDS of Crystal Palace residents are expected to take part in a protest at the weekend against the development of a massive leisure centre in the historic Crystal Palace Park.

As part of the campaign which is backed by Lord Lloyd Webber, demonstrations will take place simultaneously on Saturday outside 30 UCI cinemas from Glasgow to Norwich, Cardiff and Poole.

Residents fear the destruction of the Park and their nearby streets. Developer London & Regional has planning permission for the controversial flat roofed complex with 1450 parking spaces from Bromley Council, but there has been no work on the site. Protesters have told UCI, the multi-complex operators, that they will boycott their leisure centre and 18 cinemas.

Campaign secretary Lorna English told Homes & Property: "We are protesting because we cannot make people listen in other ways. We want UCI to understand that parks are for people not large commercial developments.

Campaigners are not opposed to the principle of some development in the park but insist that "it respects the parkland location, the history of the site and the residential surroundings". They want all proposals to be subject to full local consultation and environmental impact studies.

Last September the developer suggested such a consultation forum to consider the future of the site with "a clean sheet of paper". But there has been no progress since then.

The residents are also seeking to have the leisure centre site declared a "village green" by proving its use as a recreation site over many decades. If they succeed the development would be prevented.

The site was occupied for a year by eco warriors supported by local people and Bromley Council spent £2.7 million - £50,000 for each ecowarrior - on clearing the park for the benefit of the developer, although L&R has not yet paid for the site. Lord Lloyd Webber said the park's loss to "a huge commercial operation is totally inappropriate"

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1/2/01 Last updated 1/2/01