Crystal Palace – ‘Information Project’ Debate Held



Crystal Palace Park. Pics: Qianru Wu & Laerke Nielsen

The Information Project, a local organisation promoting public opinion on the future of Crystal Palace Park, held its first public debate this week.

A new proposal for the Crystal Palace Park was announced in July 2013 when the Chinese Company,  ZhongRong Group, introduced a plan to redevelop the Crystal Palace that burnt down in November 1936 .

According to a Q&A document accessible to the public ZhongRong Group’s vision is that:

‘The Palace will be a major new destination in the capital with a bold and ambitious cultural vision at its heart. The Crystal Palace will be set in the context of a restored 21st Century park of national importance which reflects Joseph Paxton’s original ideas and responds to the needs and aspirations of local residents.’

In October 2013 they wrote in an open letter to the local resident’s that ‘the views of local people would inform the development of Crystal Palace Plans’.

According to the company Arup‘s homepage they have been appointed to develop the project along with the local communities.

In spite of their good intentions for all involved the plan has stirred up public criticism.

The Crystal Palace ruin is a Grade II listed site and with the complex structure that leads up to four councils and almost a fifth being concerned with the maintenance of the park and the financial funding by individual investors has been criticised for slowly nipping away pieces of the green areas of the park.

Already in December 2013 the Inside Croydon blog revealed that the neighbouring locals felt that not enough public information had been given to make the scrutiny of the plans more transparent.

Along with an open petition letter from local residents to the surrounding Council’s MPs saying ‘it has been confirmed to us by the appointed agent of ZRG that they require 100% control over both the land and the building in advance of committing to undertake their proposed development.’

The local residents do not feel that they have been informed and involved according to promises.

This has kick started a locally organised and on going debate coined Information Project that wishes to assure that the public has its say in the matter.

The first debate was held in the Salvation Army Worship Hall in Crystal Palace under the title ‘Who owns culture? Park, Space, Building‘.

East London Lines went there to speak with one of the project organizers, Noreen Meehan, chair of the arts festival Crystal Palace Overground Festival, about what they hoped to gain from the debate.

According to Noreen Meehan the Information Project’s intention with its first debate,  was  to stimulate a discussion about what culture is in the 21st century.

Other aspects concerning the future of the park, such as its ecological environment, will be brought up in the other debates.

The debate was hosted by Cany Ash, founding partner of multi-award-winning architects Ash Sakula, as the chairman, introducing:

Val Shawcross (London Assembly member for Southwark and Lambeth) Douglas Murphy (architect and writer) Gus Zogolovitch (managing director of Solid Space) and Tom Brown (author).

They began the debate with an introduction of the five representatives in the panel sharing their opinions about the plans and their view on what culture in the 21st century is.

During the debate the local participants expressed their wish to preserve empty spaces in the urban environment for multipurpose function and allowing the ruins of previous cultural monuments to remain as a historical footprint.

More practical matters that seemed to worry  people, were how commercializing a public leisure area and the then potential increase in traffic would impact on the lives of the local residents, along with the imposition of a large building invading the view from the nearby housing facilities.

However the most important factor seemed to be how  the local residents could gain more influence in the planning process of the park.


The debate: Who own’s the culture? Park ,space, building. Pics: Qianru Wu & Laerke Nielsen

Bromley Council  has announced that the  planning process will be confidential, but they are aware that the council is obliged to involve the locals in any final decisions made on the renovation of the park.

It seems that until the final proposal is announced by Arup and the ZhongRong Group, meeting their deadline in 2015, the public will only be involved in so far as they can attend the Arup drop in meetings arranged by the ZhongRong Group to keep the public informed.

To ensure that the locals have their say in the matter, the Information Project will arrange several further debates, discussing other topics regarding the parks future, to generate more awareness about the plans and organize the knowledge gained from the debates so that it may impact on the developmental scheme for the park when the final proposal is to be approved.

A comment from one of the local residents present at the Information Project’s debate.

Over the years a strong residential opposition have hindered other proposals made for the park.

If you wish to participate in future debates the next meeting will be on 28th May at 7.30pm at the Salvation Army Worship Hall, Westow Street, Upper Norwood.

The topic will be ‘Play/Space: Innovation in the 21st Century Metropolis’

For more information about the plans and the activity concerning these new plans,  follow the links below:

Developers Site

Bromley Council Pages on the Crystal Palace Park Rennovation

Website of the Crystal Palace Campaign

Petition on the appropriateness of the disposal of Metropolitian Open Land in the park. 

Jerome Frost’s presentation on the proposed Crystal Palace development at Anerley Town Hall 1st February 2014




Leave a Reply