(R112) - Letter from London's Mayor, Ken Livingstone, in response to Park Working Group concerns about postponement of new NSC: 6 September 2006


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Our ref: MGLA180806-3448
Date: 06 September 2006


Working Group members within the Crystal Palace Dialogue Process

c/o Nigel Westaway
The Environment Council
212 High Holborn
London WC1V 7BF

Dear Working Group Members,

Thank you for your letter of 16 August.

I am sorry to hear that you are concerned by the London Development Agency's recent announcement that the sports facilities at Crystal Palace will be retained until 2012 to allow for continuity of provision for elite and school level athletics in London in the run up to the 2012 Olympics. Coupled with that announcement was an assurance that the continuity of provision of swimming and diving facilities (currently nearing the end of their life) would be guaranteed through the provision of new, temporary facilities, and that early works would commence to begin the process of decluttering and greening the centre of the park.

I would like to reassure you that in making this announcement, my Agency was not seeking to undermine or devalue the collective dialogue process which they are both funding and participating in. Rather they were seeking to add certainty as to our ongoing commitment to a new sports centre in the light of English Heritage's recent announcement that they would like us to retain the listed NSC building, which will cause considerable delays and a need to review our existing plans. Such a review will be undertaken as part of the masterplanning process, in which the dialogue group has been represented as part of the selection panel.

In terms of the specific points you raise in your letter. The delay is due in part to the need to retain an ongoing Athletics facility in London, both for international elite use and schools prior to the construction of new facilities in the Lea Valley. This provision would have been seriously disrupted by major building works. I am not aware of an alternative venue, but if you do have ideas on this please let me know, bearing in mind that there are a number of support and training facilities that we also need to ensure have continuity of provision. The delay is also due in part to the decision by English Heritage that they would oppose the demolition of the listed National Sports Centre building and would seek to insist on its preservation for future use.

This has an impact both on the possibilities to retain that building for sporting use (although English Heritage accepts that it has no future in its current role) and on the wider plans to rejuvenate the central area of the park. It also has an inevitable impact on the amount of land within the park that can be used to accommodate a new building, given that the park has the protected status of Metropolitan Open Land, and only a limited area is available for development. We need to examine these issues carefully through the Masterplanning process about to get underway and in discussions with the Dialogue group.

I can guarantee that I remain committed to the provision of new sporting facilities at Crystal Palace which is why the LDA is bringing forward immediate plans for new swimming and diving facilities in the Park in spite of the fact we have an unavoidable delay as we determine how the existing building can be retained while the sports facilities and park are enhanced. (You should be aware that the new swimming facilities will effectively be permanent facilities located in a temporary building and capable of being transferred into the new sports centre when it is built). If we do nothing now there is a possibility that the existing plant will fail and the area will be left with no swimming and diving facilities at all.

We hoped that local people would find the announcement reassuring, rather than a cause of concern. I am sorry to hear that you have been upset by this development although I do feel your concerns are unfounded. Nevertheless I would be happy to meet with a small number of local representatives to discuss the issues in more detail if you feel that would be helpful.

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4/9/06 Last updated 4/10/06