Crystal Palace Campaign
1 February 2001
VERY URGENT - By fax and e-mail
Mr Alan Gray
LONDON SW1E 5DU
Dear Mr Gray
I understand that your unit is involved in organising the U.K. Government's response to the formal letter of notice by the European Commission arising out of the failure on the part of the London Borough of Bromley to require an environmental impact assessment of the proposed development at Crystal Palace, contrary to Council Directive 85/337. Should your unit not be involved I should be grateful if you would forward this to the officials who are responsible.
The original complaint to the European Commission, as you are no doubt aware, came from the Crystal Palace Campaign. As our complaint makes clear, the site of the proposed development is a tree-lined ridge, of great importance to the topography of London, since it is the highest tree-lined ridge in the capital. The ridge itself is supposedly protected by policy E15 in the Unitary Development Plan of the London Borough of Bromley. The land is Metropolitan Open Land. It is also a Grade II* listed park and abuts three conservation areas. Regardless of whether ultimately the land is cleared for the construction of a multiplex cinema, it presently enjoys multiple policy protection and is, moreover, well loved by local people.
A matter has now arisen in relation to this land, on which I would very much appreciate your most urgent assistance.
We have recently been reliably informed that the London Borough of Bromley were devising, in tandem with the developer, a secret plan to fell all 120 trees on and immediately surrounding the site in one surprise 4 hour operation, in short, to flatten the land. We have been told that the date planned is this Sunday, 4th February 2001 &endash; but it might now have been changed.
We were extremely surprised by this, because the developer, London & Regional Properties Ltd's, director Geoffrey Springer, recently stated on oath in Court proceedings, under cross-examination by our Leading Counsel, that there would be no construction work on site until October 2001. Thus, this mass felling would appear to amount to wholly unnecessary and precipitate work. It is impossible to understand why it is necessary to fell these trees now, when construction is not due to start for a further eight months.
We have taken the precaution of contacting both the London Borough of Bromley and the developer in order to give them the opportunity to make assurances that they would not fell trees until October, or at least until the European Commission procedures have been completed. We have been dismayed that neither the London Borough of Bromley nor the developer has been prepared to give us any assurances whatsoever. Indeed, the developer has told us he will not answer our letters.
We regard it as profoundly worrying that the London Borough of Bromley, which is after all an emanation of the State, would act in this way before the State has filed a response to the European Commission's letter. The London Borough of Bromley's only justification for the felling is the planning permission, yet if the legality of the permission is under doubt, it appears to be not just wrong, but grossly insensitive, to proceed with felling, particularly when there is no necessity to fell at this time.
A question of comity arises between the U.K. Government and the European Commission on this issue. In addition, we understand that the Rt. Hon. Tessa Jowell MP, the Mayor of London and Ms Jean Lambert MEP, amongst other elected representatives, are appealing to the London Borough of Bromley and to the developer to desist from felling at this stage. We are also seeking, on behalf of the 30,000 people who have signed petitions against this scheme, to halt felling at this time.
We hope that we are able to rely on your unit to make appropriate representations to the London Borough of Bromley as well as the developer on this subject, and thus to prevent felling for the time being. We trust that, while the legality of the underlying permission is under question, the U.K. Government would not wish to sanction irrevocable damage to the ecology and landscape value of this site, and to the topography of the capital.
I look forward to hearing from you at the earliest opportunity.
Last updated 4/2/01