Hackney Olympic legacy argument continues

Artists impression of the regeneration pic: Olympic Development Agency

Hackney Council is in disagreement with the Olympic Park Legacy Company’s plans for the local area after the end of 2012.

The row is a continuation of the controversy already surrounding the Olympic Legacy plans for Hackney, which had so far been focused around the Media Centre, which it is feared may lay empty after the event.

Hackney Council have now expressed concern that the OPLC’s plans for the Olympic Park do not fit with the council’s own plans for regeneration of the borough and in particular the Hackney Wick and Fish Island area.

Hackney Council has set out a list of 10 objectives for the park, including that it should be “employment-led,” with a clear relationship to the “existing concentration of creative industries” in Hackney Wick/Fish Island, and should create a hub of employment space around Hackney Wick station, with space for cultural, leisure and dining venues nearby. The council said there should be a mix of housing, including affordable family accommodation, and at least 10.1 hectares of public green space should be returned to the council as “high quality coherent parkland”.

However, at a planning sub-committee meeting on November 17, there were worries that these obligations would not be fulfilled. Planning officers have said that there is “no coherent vision for the Hackney part of the site” and that the scheme is “based around a ‘traditional’ model of development, rather than the creation of a genuine sense of community”.

Vincent Stops, Labour councillor for Hackney Central, who chaired the meeting, had questions about the provision of parkland after the games, saying: “Is it the same quality of open space, or are we being cheated?”

Will Teasdale, Hackney 2012 regeneration manager, said that the land being returned to Hackney had previously been industrial units with no public access, so this was an improvement and, as an entertainment venue, it could hold up to 9,000 people.

However, Stops was unimpressed that the view of the park area will be largely obscured by the buildings in the new development.

Another issue raised was that the main road that will run through the area will be used to drive traffic to Westfield Stratford City in neighbouring Newham, rather than benefit the local community.

Other concerns about public transport were also raised. Part of the agreement between OPLC and Hackney Council is to regenerate Hackney Wick station, however planning officers have said that there is “little commitment” to improving it. Teasdale explained that the problem was partly with Transport for London, “who do not like to look more than 18 months in advance,” he said.

All these issues follow from the continuing controversy over the future use of the Media Centre in the north of the Hackney Olympic site, with the Greater London Assembly, Hackney Council and the OPLC all wanting different uses for the buildings after the events. Consultations are set to continue into the new year.

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