The People's Park is a consultation document for discussion within the community, local authorities, businesses, schools and grant-making bodies. It is an attempt to provoke ideas, stimulate the imagination and form the beginnings of a partnership which will produce a site we will be proud to leave to future generations. The suggested elements are:
The People's Park will give us a proper memorial
to the Palace itself, help us celebrate the new millennium by
thanking those who contributed most to the last, and respect the
status of the park as an historic, listed site and Metropolitan Open
Land. Most of all, it will save the park as a place to relax away
from the bustle of urban life and mark the passage of the
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The original Crystal Palace was a celebration of the proudest achievements of our society. It was a focus of national pride, and a source of affection and identity for the local community. It served an educational purpose and was a place of active leisure. We should strive to perpetuate the spirit that built that palace, and leave a memorial to the palace itselft which was the People's Palace, and which, 60 years after its destruction, gives its name to the area.
As we approach the new millennium, we may also pause to reflect on the individuals from these islands who contributed most to the shaping of our society, its institutions, its culture and its achievements.
Any development on this site must also respect the history of the site, its status as a grade 2* lised park on the register of historic parks and gardens, abutting a conservation area and enjoying the protection of Metropolitan Open Land designation. The development must create a place of active leisure, education and commemoration, while preserving its openness as parkland and as a break in the urban fabric.
This vision achieves these fundamental criteria.
The vision is of a park containing statues of some of the key individuals of the last millennium, those whose influence may still be felt in the way we live, work, learn and play. But, since this is the People's Park, those individuals must not be fixed on plinths above us, larger than life. They are to live amongst us, life-size, caught in moments of leisure, enjoying the park, or engaged informally in park activities.
In realising this conception, there is room for flair, wit and imagination, even anachronism, bearing in mind that individuals from different eras are all to be caught in a modern urban park. Here are some ideas. They are only ideas, because no part of this scheme must be started without the fullest public consultation and participation, as described below.
Darwin (a local resident) is squatting, looking at a squirrel. HG Wells (another local resident) is strolling, looking at his fob watch, except that the watch reads 1066. Capability Brown is leaning on a balustrade, surveying the landscape. Turner is teaching Churchill to sketch. Stephen Hawking is coming along the path in his wheelchair. Beveridge, the architect of the welfare state, is arguing with More, the author of Utopia. Lennon is sitting on some steps strumming a guitar, Elgar is singing. Hitchcock is walking dogs. Alan Turing (the mid-century computer genius) is working on his laptop. Mrs. Beaton is unwrapping her sandwiches. Chaplin, with a small child, is feeding pigeons. Newton is sitting under an apple tree. Frank Whittle (who invented the jet engine) is flying a kite with his child. Charlton is playing keepy-up with Stanley Matthews. Bell is talking on his mobile. WG Grace is hurrying somewhere with his cap and pads. Baird is taking a photograph of the Crystal Palace mast. Fleming is picking mushrooms. Pankhurst has chained herself to the railings. Caxton (who invented the printing press) is reading the Mirror. Wordsworth is carrying a bunch of daffodils. Pepys is writing a diary. Laurel is making Shakespeare laugh. Drake is playing bowls. Florence Nightingale is bandaging a skateboarder's knee. Raleigh is carrying a toy sailing ship.
There might also be statutes representing movements, or peoples, for example: the abolitionist, First World War soldier, the Tolpuddle Martyr, the trade unionist, the miner, the suffragette, the influx of people from the Caribbean, India, Eastern Europe.
At the centre of the park, at the heart of the original Crystal Palace, is the subject of the initial planning application. Paxton has built a working model of his plans for the Crystal Palace. The model is of sufficient size to demonstrate its design, the brilliance of the structure and the intricacy of the elevational details. He is showing it off to Brunel, who has incorporated the water towers, and perhaps also to Wren or Hawksmoor. It is in the region of 6 feet high by 50 feet long (i.e. 5% of the original), although this is a matter of detailed design. Thus shall we commemorate Paxton and his great masterpiece.
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The works will create a new point of focus at the head of the park. Subject to consultation, there may be an argument for recreating the Victorian railings on Crystal Palace Parade, and a new entrance to the park from the Parade. The Paxton terracing and statuary should, of course, be restored.
The statue park should be contained within an ecology park, in consultation with local amenity groups, such as the Friends of the Earth, Ridge Wildlife Group and London Wildlife Trust. This will be a learning and ecological resource for all levels of expertise, from the new learner to the research expert.
Paths will be created through the park to make it amenable to the disabled. The toy train may extend its route to link the top and bottom of the park.
There is certainly room for some, limited, commercial development designed to serve the fundamental needs of the park. For example, a low-rise cafe/restaurant would be an added service for the top site, perhaps in the style of an orangerie, so successful in Kew, Kenwood and Holland Park. This would be for public use during the day, and perhaps for private functions at night, so as to raise funds for the park.
The orangerie may also sell literature etc. regarding the park and the palace. It may also house a gallery representing the best of local art, design and sculpture, including from children.
The terracing may also be the site of an arts and crafts market on the weekend, a feature so successfully employed in, e.g. Paris, Amsterdam and Barcelona.
With the addition of the statues, the ecology park, the model of Crystal Palace to the existing features of the museum, the zoo, the dinosaurs, the concert platform, the park will become an unrivalled educational facility. It would contain far more than could be covered in a day by visiting schoolchildren.
Thus, there should be an interpretative centre, as an adjunct to the museum, where classes from the five boroughs abutting the park may base themselves for several days at a time. There may be classes in conjunction with museum staff, park rangers, amenity groups, artists and animal carers. Projects may be undertaken, and the fruits exhibited within the centre itself, and within the orangerie, and also project work towards the national curriculum.
Attached to the interpretative centre, there may be a modest-sized auditorium, capable of housing lectures, films and even live performance, to be used for educational purposes during the day and for community or public functions at night.
By these means, and through the public consultation referred to below, this park will become a focus for learning, activities and play for the next generation of children of south-east London.
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No development in this park is ever likely to achieve public approval, far less affection, unless realised with the fullest public consultation, not when plans have already been finalised but when they are at a formative stage. Moreover, as guardians of this park for this and future generations, we must not presume to know what people want, but to ensure that public wishes are reflected in the development of the park. The aim must be, so far as possible, to make a park which has been conceived, designed and built by the people for the people, so as to earn the soubriquet, the People's Park. This involves public consultation and participation at every stage. Public involvement is something specifically advocated in the publication Park Life: Urban Parks and Social Renewal, and should be the watchword here.
The following ideas illustrate, but certainly do not exhaust, the possibilities.
A competition for schoolchildren of all ages within the five boroughs, either to write essays as to who merits inclusion in the statue park or to draft designs for all or part of the park itself.
A competition for the design of the park within the profession and in all the schools of art, architecture and design.
A debate stimulated in the national press, with individual writers (academics, politicians, artists) invited to write pieces justifying their own shortlists, with the public being invited to respond.
Full consultation of amenity groups, e.g. Friends of the Earth, Ridge Wildlife Group, Crystal Palace Campaign, Dulwich Society, Norwood Society, Sydenham Society, Crystal Palace Triangle Community Association, Upper Norwood Improvement Team etc. together with residents' associations.
All five boroughs should be consulted for their views and, equally importantly, invited to consult with their own residents.
The plans must be publicized in general through public library displays, and a series of public meetings within the five boroughs. There may be a "battle bus" to take the plans directly to residents in order to seek their views. A web site may be established to invite comments from a wider public.
There should be a steering group consisting of officers from the planning, leisure and education departments of all five boroughs, leaders of the five boroughs, amenity groups, other voluntary groups and business organisations. It is absolutely essential that the group is selected and managed for its capacity to listen to the results of the consultation and to act accordingly.
There should be an advisory panel of experts to judge the competitions and advise as to the contents of the statue park.
Nature conservation groups must be given a prominent role in planning the ecology park, as must organisations representing the disabled, particularly in terms of mobility, sight, hearing and learning.
So far as construction of the park is concerned, there is a vast fund of goodwill in the community to draw from. Local groups will offer labour, as may charities such as, for example, Community Service Volunteers, young people enlisted through youth trainee and/or welfare to work programmes, young offenders, schoolchildren undertaking projects or holiday work etc. Businesses may offer sponsorship for individual statues or buildings. Local or national building companies may be asked to offer materials, or the benefit of labour. Elsewhere, youth trainees those on probation, community service have worked with enjoyment towards greening initiatives in their communities.
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Funding is from five main sources: the boroughs, business, the public, charities, national institutions. There are many examples in the publications cited below of major parks projects being funded in this way.
It is likely that a project of this size will require not only a project officer but also a fund-raising officer.
The boroughs themselves may each contribute such sums as they are able from their existing resources. They may also give over facilities, such as concert platforms, theatres etc. for fund-raising activities.
Business sponsorship may be sought from local businesses. But national businesses may be asked to sponsor what is likely to be a major artistic achievement, a focus of national pride and a significant tourist attraction. Schemes elsewhere have attracted money from developers as part of planning gain.
The public must play a direct part in the funding of this scheme. It has shown its commitment through its support of the Crystal Palace Campaign. It will do so again in its support for a positive project which will benefit residents and generations to come. Not only should there be a direct appeal, but individual associations, groups and schools should be invited to run their own fundraising activities, such as social functions, quiz-nights, raffles, sponsored activities etc. Individuals may also wish to sponsor individual items, such as a bench or a statue. Funding of a particular level may also purchase an inscribed paving stone along the main avenue of the park. An organisation, Friends of Crystal Palace, may be established as a source of ongoing funding.
There should be an appeal to charitable foundations supporting the environment, education, regeneration and the arts. This may be arranged through the project and fund-raising officers. This would include London Wildlife Trust itself and the Urban Wildlife Trust, as well as charitable arms of corporations.
National institutions whose criteria will be met by these proposals include the Urban Parks Panel of the Heritage Lottery Fund, SRB Challenge Fund and also the Arts Council. Other parks projects have benefited from the Millennium Green money administered by the Countryside Commission, City Challenge, English Partnerships, the Environment Agency and TECs. The Department of Education and Science may also contribute to the specifically educational aspects of the scheme. EC funding may be also be explored and has been granted elsewhere.
In view of the recent loss of funding from the Urban Parks Panel, a different scheme, more consonant with the retention of the park as a park and the restoration of the historical elements, may be attractive to that Panel.
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The vision is consistent with national, regional and local policies for the park, and also with national thinking both as to the use of urban parks and as to community involvement in their development.
This important report was produced with the assistance of Bromley officers, and gives salutary messages.Many people take great pride in "their" park and it is often the meeting place and focal point of that elusive notion of "community" Parks are often a source of local continuity and "sense of place" in a rapidly changing urban scene... The park is both a sanctuary and a place where many people mark the passage of their lives.
This has been demonstrated to be the case here. Development of the park should respect the wishes of the community, which has set its face against urbanisation of this park.Parks may make ideal settings for the development and siting of new educational, social and cultural facilities - such as nursery schools, educational interpretation centres, ecology centres, arts centres and museums; and that the very best will only be achieved by different sectors working together.
This is precisely the policy advocated here.There is a dire need for a more sophisticated, open minded and responsive methods of involving people in decision making. As well as consultation some have high hopes that the adoption of Agenda 21 [at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992] can also precipitate more flexible, less bureaucratic and much more radical approaches to funding community groups and activities.
These proposals have this exhortation in mind.What will this generation leave in the way of exciting, diverse, rich and sustainable places in our towns and cities? Where will future generations find a sense of continuity, of relief from the pressures of urban living, places to be in touch with the natural cycles of the seasons, and of wildlife, and places both to be alone and to celebrate with others. This is the challenge set by the Park Life report.
This is a challenge which the local community is ready to take up.
This report highlights the benefits of protecting, managing and maintaining green areas, other than simply improving their appearance. Such initiatives offer long term social, economic and environmental improvements, and in particular:
- helping inward investment and business retention by improving the image of an area;
- environmental benefits, including pollution control, enhancing biodiversit,v and contributing to sustainable development;
- enhanced quality of life for people living and working in the area;
- educational, social and cultural advantages, improving leisure and recreational facilities;
- providing a positive environmental image for businesses and encouraging tourism;
- contributing to healthier lifestyles and communit,v development.
The People's Park delivers each of these key benefits. The report stresses that greening must be at the heart of the planning processes and regeneration strategies. It also makes it clear that the contribution of the local cornrnunity is critical to effective design and sustainability of initiatives, and points out that:Greening activiues may offer a particularly effective way to engage local people and thus contribute to the development of more cohesive communities. The need to involve local people in environmental initiatives is a core element of sustainable development.
It is a central tenet of the People's Park that the people should work together, and also in partnership with their local authorities, so as to produce a scheme which will facilitate cohesion. The report also states that cornmunity partnership in green initiatives can provide a focus for Local Agenda 21 programmes, and that "community consultation should begin as early as possible, and cover the widest possible range of issues." The report notes that most projects owe their origins to a committed individual, or group, acting as "animateur". The People's Park is a proposal by a number of groups, representing a wide cross-section of the cornmunity.
This report also encourages reliance on:a wider mix of resources, whether directly financial through other funding programmes, private sector sponsorship; or perhaps most importantly, through the active, voluntary participation of local community and environmental organisations whose interest and sense of ownership will ultimately determine the success or failure of contemporary open spaces.
It reminds us that:before initiating debates on particular parks, local authorities should explore, sensitively and in detail, the potential range of public interests and sensibilities.
It is only by carrying out consultation that a real consensus may be found.
As for uses, the report encourages imagination. They can be:
- adapted for educational uses;
- tied into health policies;
- used to expand opportunities for leisure, sport and to provide varied play for children;
- places that allow for voluntary involvement and conservation and many other projects;
- sites for community facilities;
- a focus to strengthen local connections, networks and experiments in projects to enhance local democratic control;
- used as places for training, even possibly creating some employment opportunities and commercial enterprises.
The People's Park takes all of these suggestions to heart. It also bears in mind the encouragement of local democracy emerging in interaction between local authorities and citizens, through citizens' juries, consensus conferences, interactive town meetings and festivals. The report particularly encourages new partnerships with community groups.
This seminal document makes it clear that creating and protecting green space is part of sustainable development, which should guide all town planning.
The main policy governing this site is G6, dealing with Metropolitan Open Land, under which the only uses generally considered acceptable are (amongst others) public and private open space, woodland, nursery gardens and schools in large grounds. The vision is entirely consistent with that policy.
Policy G7 provides that the Council will seek to maintain the open character of the land and that built development associated with G6 uses should conserve and enhance the open nature and character of the land. These proposals follow that policy entirely.
Policy El 1 provides that the Council will not normally permit proposals for high buildings which adversely affect skyline ridges. Crystal Palace sits on one of the ridges defined in the Plan, consisting of a practically unbroken line of trees extending from Norwood into Dulwich and beyond. It is one of the most attractive pieces of rural landscaping in the capital. These proposals preserve it.
This important Council document is the local implementation of the recommendations of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. For the natural environment, it is a key objective:to conserve, manage and enhance the Borough's natural environment, increase community involvement and partnership in practical action....
As the report says, the reasons for protecting the natural environment include:
- a moral obligation to conserve species and habitat while handing on a rich envuonmenl to the next generation.
- the benefns to society for recreation and inspiration
- the role played by natural processes in protecting our planet
- economic value for ... tourism.
These benefits are reflected in the People's Park. Most importantly, the Policy states, unequivocally:Open land will continue to be protected
The People's Park is a ringing endorsement of that pledge. It also fulfils the Council's objectives, which include:to increase community involvement and partnerships in practical action towards sustainable use of the natural environment
to promote awareness of and interest in the natural environment to people of all ages and backgrounds, particularly young people.
To this end, the Council has committed itself to action to encourage liaison between it and voluntary groups, encourage participation in community action projects, promote sponsorship and grant aid, and encourage "Friends of...." schemes. It is hoped that the People's Park will be the beneficiary of that commitment.
RPG3, published in 1996, therefore since the UDP, strengthens the protection accorded to Metropolitan Open Land with this unequivocal expression of policy:Land of this importance should not be used for developments which compromise its open character and value to London's green setting. The principles of control over development in the Green Belt, set out in PPG2, also apply to MOL. There is a presumption against inappropriate development including development which would be harmful to the open character of the land....[L]imited development to serve the needs of the visiting public may not be considered inappropriate development if clearly ancillary to the identified purpose of the MOL.
Again, this proposal is guided by that policy statement.
PPG2: Green Belts, applies to Metropolitan Open Land. The guidance is categoric: the most important attribute of the land is its openness, with the objective (amongst other things) of providing access to open land, and outdoor recreation near to where people live, to retain attractive landscapes and to secure nature conservation interests. These proposals achieve those precise goals.
PPG15: Planning and the Historic Environment requires planning authorities to protect registered parks and gardens in determining planning applications. These proposals restore and commemorate the elements of the park which led to that listing, and enhance the park as a place of open air leisure, recreation and education.
(1) There are no local, regional or national policy objections to the proposal. In fact, the proposal closely reflects the modern understanding of the role and purpose of an urban park.
(2) The Prime Minister recently stated, in "Leading the Way: a new vision for local government (IPPR):".... we have to harness the contribution of business, public agencies,voluntary organisations and community groups and get them working to a common agenda."
(3) The People's Park is an opportunity for Bromley Council to demonstrate that it leads the way in its commitment to urban greening and community participation.
(4) The Council is therefore invited not only to grant the planning application for the scale model of the Crystal Palace, but to give a warm endorsement to the entire proposal, and to set about creating a genuine partnership with the community so as to turn it into reality.
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Update: 4/Sept/2006 improved image/