(A46) ZhongRong debacle, archive...2013 - 2015

(Archive - various articles)

CPC- Policy....

Crystal Palace Campaign - Editorial 5 November 2013 - Park Development ZhongRong-Arup (ZRA)

We've known since July that the Chinese developers ZhongRong Group have had their eye on Crystal Palace Park. Working with Arup they have been in consultation with the GLA and Bromley Council and have proposed a development on the Palace Terrace to resurrect the Crystal Palace building and provide sufficient funds to execute the Master Plan - what would be left of it.

The Crystal Palace Campaign was set up to oppose a cinema multiplex proposed by the developer London and Regional Properties. We succeeded in that, but are we now to set up the barricades again or is there some fundamental difference between the latest proposition and the multiplex which might suggest a different approach? In this new scheme we are perhaps not assailed by a plethora of cinemas, restaurants and bars but are promised some interesting cultural content, free public access to parts of the building and an attraction which will bring many more people to the area and the park. Also included is the funding for the Master Plan and a trust to manage the park.

There has been an outpouring of comment in the social media and the press trying to establish whether the advent of the ZRA proposition is good for the park, the people and both the local and London-wide economy. Many issues have been raised, all rather familiar to the Campaign. Will the influx of people generated by this huge enterprise swamp local road, rail and bus transport? Will there be sufficient free public access to the amenities on offer? Is the building simply too large for this built-up area and why repeat a design which was cutting-edge in the mid-19th century when we are well into the 21st?

The Campaign believes in listening to what ZRA have to say. On the face of it, their proposal looks quite attractive and there is no point in taking a stand based on a different past experience when there is, in reality, very little hard information to go by yet.

There are many obstacles in the way of making the proposition work, including legal protection relating to the Palace Terrace and, critically for many, the loss of green space. But it is unwise to pass over this opportunity without knowing the real story and without doing our best to influence the way the design progresses.

We have been promised a massive consultation process but, as I write, nothing has emerged. If a full planning application is to be submitted in autumn 2014, the applicants will have to get a move on or they risk losing community support already waning amidst speculation and a dearth of information.

The park was on course to get funding of £7.5million from the HLF and others (the GLA 10-point plan), some of which had already been earmarked for a structural survey of the subway. There is now concern that this could be jeopardised by the development.

In spite of all the potential difficulties ahead, the Campaign looks forward to participating in the consultation process and is keen to facilitate this engagement in order to maximise local influence. One of the Campaign's core principles remains the promotion of dialogue in the search for acceptable park regeneration. We want local people to participate fully in the consultation with ZRA and the advisory board set up by Mayor Johnson. Hopefully ZRA understand the importance of having local opinion on their side through meaningful public engagement.


Crystal Palace Rebuilt?
The dramatic story told.....at about 4 pm on 25th July 2013 the telephones began to ring! An email addressed to the Stakeholders had been launched by Bromley Council which suggested that secret negotiations were ongoing with a developer who was keen to rebuild the Crystal Palace...wow... learn more...


ZHONGRONG - Deadline passed

Bromley Council has just issued a press release containing the statement:

At the end of this 14 day period, the Council wrote to ZRG and concluded that there was not a realistic prospect of reaching an agreement.



News 22 February 2015:

20 February 2015 was the deadline set by Bromley Council for the exclusivity agreement with ZhongRong to be extended for a further six months. They had to respond to a number of conditions including the payment of a non-refundable deposit of £ 5million. At the end of business on the deadline day (last Friday) no communication had been received from ZhongRong so the exclusivity agreemet is now at an end and we must assume that the proposal is also now at an end.

There were no champagne corks popping since the feeling was more of relief than elation - remembering that the proposal caused the loss of a £ 7.5million HLF grant and one and a half years of 'regeneration time' for the park which has somewhat languished in the meantime.

There are some good things on the horizon; the £ 2.1 million GLA fund will go towards a number of projects in the park taken from the Master Plan proposals. The Community Stakeholder Group and the Environment and Heritage Group have both been involved in their selection which also included public consultation. These are expected to start early in 2016. In addition there is a £ 240,000 fund available for projects between £ 100 and £ 20,000 administered by a panel to be appointed shortly. (see link above 'Community Projects').

Governance: The Campaign has always had governance on the agenda and it is the last remaining objective of our 'core principles'. At a recent governance workshop great strides were made towards this goal - important devlopments will be reported in the coming months. Members of the CSG were spotted (by our intrepid reporter) in a local hostelry pondering about the future for the park and its challenges and hoping that they, with the help of the local community, could really 'make a difference'.

ZhongRong Development

is this the end of ZHONGRONG???


Bromley press release: However.....while Bromley Council are not bound by the exclusivity agreement any longer, talks with ZhongRong have not stopped; Councillor Carr stated -

"when there is something to say, we will keep them [local people and other interested parties] informed as we have sought to do all the way along this process and I thank them for their continued patience."

ZHONGRONG ONGOING.....................

Bromley Press release 2 February 2015 - End of exclusivity agreement

BBC1 - Sunday Politics news 23/11/2014: - - - - - FULL TRANSCRIPT - N72

Concerns about the land deal were raised by Darren Johnson at the (GLA) Mayor's Question time on Wednesday 29 January 2014

Questions such as:
"the park will remain in the freehold ownership of the London Borough of Bromley"...can you confirm that all of the land currently designated as Metropolitan Open Land including any built on by the developers would remain in the freehold ownership of the London Borough of Bromley?

See the whole set of questions and written answers here yellow arrow right

yellow rule

Open Letter expresses concerns about Crystal Palace Park land sale....

i.e. the process of the potential disposal of Metropolitan Open Land by a Local Authority to a private organisation for development.

"Dear Dame Tessa Jowell, Mr Dowd, Mr Reed and Mr Omana,

"We are writing to you, as residents in your respective constituencies, about our concerns regarding the land deal that is currently being negotiated as part of the ZhongRong Group’s (ZRG) proposal for a new Crystal Palace building..........."

Read the complete letter here.... yellow arrow right

A number of local people have been very concened that the sale (strictly, lease) of the Palace Terrace of Crystal Palace Park to the developer ZhongRong may be an irredeemable step in the complex history of the park. Public support has been growing in many ways including a petition which can be seen here yellow arrow right.

Since the deal is being discussed right now, with a possible deadline of the end of February (2014), the signatories of the letter and the petitioners believe that it is not too late to bring some transparency into the current process. A great deal of thought is needed to successfully set up such a deal - the letter highlights the issues and simply asks for care and clarity.

see also Inside Croydon: "Boris accused... Inside Croydon

Link to full document link to ZRG departure


Drop-in report 10/12/13

About 200 people attended the session at the Living Water cafe - a lot of coffee was drunk, and Arup was on hand to answer questions. In addition a questionnaire was handed out containing a range of questions essentially trying to test the water of public opinion. Click here to see the questionnaire and go to the ZRA website to look at their Q&A sheet.


A number of salient facts were pointed out by visitors to the drop-in session which don't auger well for the future (so-called) 'engagement process':

* although it was held in the charity shop (cafe), "Living Water Satisfies", no donation (or payment) was made by Arup nor was any tab set up for coffee (a bit mean, that!)
*there were not enough questionaires, so many people couldn't leave their responses
*there were not enough Arup people about to deal with everyone satisfactorily
*simple thing like... name-badges for the Arup representatives were missing
*there was no new information i.e. which was not in their brochure
*there is a feeling that essential ingredients were missing - like taking this process seriously and funding it adequately
*will the promised January and February sessions be better organised, have better information and generally fix the problems with the first round?


Architectural Competition


is being run by Colander Associates Ltd for ZRA - best judge for yourself if it has all the right constituents - the link takes you to their Architectural Competition web-page. This is one critical point in the ZRA process.
- Expressions of interest are required by 12 noon Monday 20 January 2014.
- Stage 2 selected competitors will be announced towards the end of February 2014.
- Stage 3 competitors to take part in the actual design competition will be announced in May 2014 and the
- launch of the competition in June 2014 with a
- winner being announced in August 2014.

Although there is a Jury Panel and advisory Technical Panel ZhongRong will have the final say.

Do the calculation, 6-8 weeks from selection at the Stage 3 point to the time when a winner is announced.... tricky!

For more details click the link above. Also look for the document named CP_emerging_design_principles.


ZhongRong - Arup
Plans for Crystal Palace Park

News here as it happens link to ZR-Arup news page
Bromley video of Mayor Boris Johnson after the press conference:

link to video

Link to ZhongRong - Arup information website

Heritage Lottery Fund
Application refused

The Heritage Lottery Fund

The Heritage Lottery Fund application was rejected because of the uncertanty created by the Zhong Rong propositiion. It would have enabled a total £ 7.5m (including some funding from the GLA and Bromley Council) to be available for completing the 10-point plan announced by the GLA at the October 2012 (see presentation 4) park conference. In spite of Bromley Council saying that it would be "business as usual", the consequence of the HLF decision seems to be that, for example, the structural survey for the subway will be put on hold.

A Bromley press release of the 8th January 2014 quotes the leader:

Councillor Carr added " I would like to thank the community groups who we worked with and supported the application. We now all need to remain focussed on the long term and re-examine potential options as to how best we can generate improvements in the short term which would also support the long term objectives."

An implied question difficult to answer is :why should there be any focus on the park if there is £ 100m available to tackle Master Plan items? Let the new proposition fix it all - at least that part remaining of the Master Plan amenable to regeneration. Perhaps it would be good for ZhongRong (and the park) if they were to fund, right now, some critical items of importance (such as the subway survey, mentioned above); this would show that they are serious about their proposition and engagement with the community.


Many of the park volunteers have expressed concern that their work is in vain except for the obvious benefits of the pleasure of just being out and about. Further, the rather poor management of the first engagement-with-the-community event organised by Arup on the 10th of December 2013, doesn't provide any confidence that the following events will enable the community to comment on the ZhongRong proposition in any meaningful way.


The announcement of the selection of the short list of architects and finally the announcement of the winners will happen in February and August 2014, respectively. It seems that only then will we know what to expect from the proposed building.

Land Lease

It is slightly worrying that the land lease negotiations are taking place in secret. Of course it could be claimed that commercial confidentiality is necessary but Bromley Council should be very careful of allowing, potentially, ZhongRong to have complete control of the land in such a way that it would weaken their committment to the local community and Crystal Palace Park. No doubt when the deal is known there will be some opportunity to scrutinise the result, but that may be too late and, in any case, it may not be public property.



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22/7/2015 Last Updated 22/7/2015