The Crystal Palace Campaign (CPC) was established in May 1997 by a group of local residents who were alarmed and angered by proposals to place a mega-multiplex leisure development on 12 acres of the Grade II listed Crystal Palace Park (the listing means that the Park is entered in the English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Gardens as being of special historic interest).
The Park passed into the hands of the London Borough of Bromley following the demise of the Greater London Council. The April 1997 planning application for the Palace site at the top of the Park has been made by a private developer - London & Regional Properties Ltd.
As well as being Listed, the proposed development site is designated Metropolitan Open Land, which means that it has a significance as green open space to the greater metropolis - not just to the Borough in which it is situated. It also abuts the Crystal Palace conservation area. These points, together with others to do with traffic levels and perceived conflicts with the Borough's Unitary Development Plan, were raised as objections to the planning application, initially by a small group of people but,as awareness grew, by scores of people across all five of the Boroughs whose boundary the Park touches.
The Campaign was instrumental in this public response by virtue of the fact that it first began campaigning on the streets - gathering signatures for what was to end as a 3,500-signature petition - and then, in July 1997 , held a public meeting at the Queen's Hotel, which was attended by Bromley Council, Ian Ritchie the architect, the developer's project manager, and over 600 angry local residents. The meeting overwhelmingly passed a motion asking the Secretary of State to call in the plans and hold a public enquiry. On 29th July, the very day of Bromley's Development Control Committee meeting, at which the planning application would have been passed, the Secretary of State issued an Article 14 Direction. This holding order effectively prevented Bromley from granting permission whilst the Secretary of State considered the application. Instead, therefore, Bromley's Development Control Committee passed a motion to say that they were 'minded' to grant outline planning permission - and the application was put on hold.
During this period the Campaign raised issues to do with the lack of consultation, and lobbied adjoining Boroughs to have them formally object to the proposal. The result was that Croydon, Lewisham and Southwark did object, whilst Lambeth called for an Environmental Impact Assessment. Croydon, in due course, went further - calling upon the Bromley Council Leader to hold a referendum on the issue, using as its clarion call the words 'Let the People Decide'.
In March 1998, 11 months after the initial planning application, the Secretary of State lifted the Article 14 Direction having been satisfied that the proposal did not conflict with the 1990 Crystal Palace Act or the Borough's Unitary Development Plan, and that issues to do with traffic and urban regeneration had been satisfactorily addressed. Bromley were advised that they could determine the application 'as they think fit'. On 24th March the Borough's Development Control Committe did just that and gave outline planning permission for a building designed to contain an 18/20-screen multiplex, nine restaurants/bars, three cafes, three retail units and three 'leisure boxes' to contain activities such as ten-pin bowling and a 'family entertainment centre'.
Undaunted, the Campaign called another public meeting for 29th April to appeal for funds so as to mount a legal challenge to Bromley's grant of outline planning permission. The response was overwhelming and the appeal for funds led to an injection of around £25,000 in cash and pledges over a ten-day period. On 27th July a High Court Judge refused permission for a judicial review. However, the Campaign judged that its thousands of supporters wanted the fight to continue and called two more public meetings to ratify its proposed action and to look for further support from the community. The meetings - at the Queen's Hotel on 11th August and Dulwich Prep School on 12 August were the most ambitious yet undertaken by the Campaign and included a video presentation on the Park Royal Development (which had been used by Bromley as a model for the Crystal Palace proposal) along with a power-point display as a backdrop to the proceedings.
These meetings confirmed that further legal action was the correct course and so an appeal was lodged at the High Court and, on 2nd September, the earlier ruling was overturned and the Campaign was given leave for a judicial review on the grounds that there was room for an argument that Bromley Council may have misdirected itself when taking into account advice given it by the Royal Fine Art Commision, English Heritage and The Architect's Panel (its own independent advisory panel).
The Campaign has produced its own alternative to Bromley's plan. 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.
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Last updated 31/5/99