(R.38) Crystal Palace Campaign - verbal submission 3 October 2000

Remarks on behalf of the Crystal Palace Campaign by Fred Emery (Crystal Palace Campaign Press Secretary) opposing final-detail approval by Bromley Development Control Committee of the proposed Crystal Palace Park multiplex/leisure development.

"Chair and members, I've usually observed politics from the sidelines -- either for The Times, which I left as acting editor after 24 years, or for BBC Panorama for 14 years -- but I thank you for this chance to enter the arena.

"Many people have told me that my task is hopeless, that your approval tonight is a foregone conclusion, but I don't believe it. I'm sure you'll have carefully considered the reasoned submission of the Crystal Palace Campaign and others, and will listen to me attentively.

"Of course we know that you have approved this unwanted multiplex, but we remain determined that it shall not be built --and ask respectfully that you decline to approve this final detail application.

"I ask you to do so mainly because -- as is quite clear from the documents here -- you don't know what it will truly look like. Consider this: any kitchen supplier will in a few minutes give you a computer-generated image of what your new kitchen will look like -- like mine here, in colour and perspective. You'll see that we asked the same thing in our letter, but RHWL, the replacement "delivery architects" --as Mr Macmillan termed them in speaking to the Architects' Journal over the Ian Ritchie affair that must have so embarrassed you &endash; RHWL, imply that new illustrations which they could have at the touch of a computer key aren't necessary. They refer you to these images supplied over 18 months ago.

"Yet since then &endash; as your own officers admit &endash; even the gabion walls have changed again. Now it says here that the developers have to supply samples? Have they? Have you seen them? I quote from your agenda "it is understood that the gabion" -- from gabbione, it says in my dictionary, the Italian for cage &endash; now will no longer cage its granite boulders inside steel mesh but will have "facing stonework on a structural framework". I dunno about you but it sounds like a phoney facade to me, suspiciously like "dumbing down" the project.

"But we can't know -- nor can you -- because we haven't been shown them.

"Now what about your own Advisory Panel for Conservation Areas. Page 6 of your agenda tonight. Gabion walls, See that. They speak of how "the overall effect of stones within steel mesh will be maintained." Hang on. Has nobody told this panel what your own officers are telling you -- that gabion will now no longer be caged inside steel mesh?

"The same panel again; look under vehicular ramps, those monster up-ways to the giant rooftop car park that will dominate the finest view of London from the south. The materials seem to have been altered, they say. Little information about gigantic steel supports -- we're very concerned about the visual appearance -- limited information on the ramp balustrades -- could so easily weather adversely hence essential very best materials used.

"Well again we the public -- and you -- cannot know because you haven't been shown anything except technical drawings from which its impossible to judge the impact of such a massive structure.

"But the most serious concerns of your advisory panel (APCA) have been left off your agenda altogether. Listen to this: "My colleagues express and continue to express considerable disquiet that certain of these details are being eroded possibly to save money." And it goes on "We strongly advise that this should not happen otherwise the Council will be risking severe criticism or even possible court action". Who this? It's an e-mailed letter from David J Wood, your own panel chairman, to Mr Evans, your development control manager -- those bits got edited out for tonight's agenda, even though the letter is on file.

"Possible court action he says. Councillors, do you really wish to risk your council taxpayers money yet again?

"You'll recall where you all came from. A design competition won by Chapman Taylor, then Ian Ritchie appointed to work with Chapman Taylor, though Ritchie turned the design upside down, putting the basement car park up on the roof. I ask you! Ritchie has now left and RHWL appointed (apparently without reference to English Heritage who so supported Ritchie). Ritchie walked away, he said, because the developer [London & Regional Properties Ltd] imposed "new budget, programme and procurement conditions… which we could not accept considering the status, sensitivity and high quality that the project demands". Well that sounds very like another bit from your advisory panel also excised from tonight's agenda "We emphasise the need to ensure this new building and its surroundings is completed to the very highest design [like the original Crystal Palace, one might interject] -- such that it will be admired rather than criticised after all the bad feeling directed at Bromley Borough..." You own David Wood, again.

"Now you wouldn't approve changes to the outside of your own house which you hadn't seen illustrated, would you? So clearly, sensible people that you are you cannot give the approval your officers suggest you have to give.

"I was told by a sometime leader of one of your neighbouring councils that they had never known such an officer-driven council as Bromley. Well, councillors I won't believe that, and furthermore you can prove it's not true tonight by declining to rubber stamp what your officers ask, and by telling them and the developers to go back and do their homework properly -- and prevent them from rushing ahead with what Architects Journal called a cheapened "design and build project" which you, your own advisory panel, and all of us could end up being ashamed of."

Press Officer: Fred Emery 020 8761 0076 Mobile: 0794 117 2023
All correspondence to: Hon Secretary, 33 HogarthCourt, Fountain Drive, SE19 1UY
E-mail: fred@syre.demon.co.uk Website: www.crystal.dircon.co.uk

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