(P.37) Bosses throw out £40m plan for sports stadium

by Marcus Thornley, Croydon Guardian 30 May 2000

Hopes of restoring Crystal Palace to its former glory as a major national athletics venue have been shattered after a £40m redevelopment scheme was rejected by sports bosses.

Sport England, formerly the Sports Council, announced his week that a multi-mullion pound proposal to breathe new life into the ageing stadium vas "too ambitious and expensive".

The decision has sparked recriminations from councillors and users of the historic stadium who were expecting top class facilities on their door step.

Hugh Malyan leader of Croydon Council said: "The failure of the bid is a huge disappointment to the people of Upper Norwood and Croydon. Over the years those responsible for the stadium have allowed it to become more and more run down.

"The borough of Bromley, along with those responsible the National Sports Centre now needs to rethink its strategy and talk more to its neighbours."

Campaigners protesting against Bromley's plans for a multiplex cinema in the park branding the situation a complete "shambles".

"All their schemes are now in tatters," said a spokesman for the Crystal Palace Campaign.

The multi-million pound project which was kicked off in 1996 aimed to refurbish the listed indoor arena and provide new indoor tennis athletics and swimming facilities.

But Sport England's lottery panel says competition for funding is so intense they cannot justify spending that much money on Crystal Palace.

Chairman Des Wilson said: "Bromley has worked hard to develop an exciting scheme but unfortunately circumstances have changed and there is no demonstrable strategic need for the range, scale and mix of facilities proposed.

"We were already concluding their project was too ambitious before Crystal Palace was rejected as the site for the National Athletics Stadium.

But when that happened and UK Athletics decided that their number one English Institute of Sport had to be at Picketts Lock, it was clear we could no longer consider the Bromley proposal in its present form."

The sporting body is now holding talks with a range of organisations to define a new role for Crystal Palace. This is likely to include some swimming, athletics and elite access for elite performers.

Co-leader of Bromley Council, councillor Chris Maines said: "This is a bitterly disappointing and frustrating decision.

"The scheme had the full support of neighbouring boroughs, users, clubs and sport governing bodies.

"Something has to be done to arrest, the decline of this major, internationally known and well used sporting venue."

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