TO EUROPEAN COMMISSION concerning
CRYSTAL PALACE TOP SITE
To be added...
Appendices and drawings will be added shortly.
This is the unabridged main text of the submission.
1.1 This case concerns a proposal to place within protected parkland at Crystal Palace, at the highest point in South London, the largest multiplex cinema in the south of England and the largest rooftop car park in the British Isles. A picture of the building appears at appendix 1.
1.2 In section 2, we set out the extent of local opposition and explain the role of the Crystal Palace Campaign.
1.3 In section 3, we establish the importance of Crystal Palace Park.
1.4 In section 4, we recount the various actions of the London Borough of Bromley ("the Council") which amounted to breaches of Directive 85/337, in that the actions were not preceded by an environmental assessment.
1.5 In section 5, we set out the details of the proposed building in terms of size, uses and ancillary features.
1.6 In section 6, we relate the environmental effects of the building.
1.7 In section 7, we deal with the domestic legislation, contained in the Town and Country Planning (Assessment of Environmental Effects) Regulations 1988.
1.8 In section 8, we deal with the European position, in Directive 85/337.
1.9 In section 9, we set out a possible defence from the Council, before rebutting it.
1.10 In section 10, we set out our conclusions.
2: CRYSTAL PALACE CAMPAIGN
2.1 The proposals for the multiplex development have met with widespread opposition.
2.2 Well over 15,000 people have signed petitions against the proposal.
2.3 The outline planning consent was also opposed by the other four local authorities who abut the park: Lambeth Borough Council, Croydon Borough Council, Southwark Borough Council and Lewisham Borough Council. The former demanded an environmental assessment, but this was not required by the Council.
2.4 The outline planning consent was also opposed by the London Planning Advisory Committee, the statutory body with responsibility to advise the boroughs on strategic planning matters.
2.5 All the relevant environmental organisations opposed the outline consent, including the London Wildlife Trust, Friends of the Earth, the Ridge Wildlife Group and Friends of the Great North Wood.
2.6 The scheme is opposed by a number of community organisations, including the Dulwich Society, Norwood Society, Croydon Society and Sydenham Society.
2.7 A number of ad hoc community protests were established, including the Crystal Palace Protest and Friends of Crystal Palace Park. The site was occupied by " eco warriors " who created tunnels and tree houses within the site, and were evicted in a huge police opera
2.8 The Crystal Palace Campaign was established to act as an umbrella for the community protest. It has over 1,500 helpers on its database and over 2,000 identified donors. It holds regular meetings, which are often attended by up to 600 people. It produces a regular newsletter (sample attached at appendix 2). It is not anti development but pro sustainable development, and believes that an environmental assessment would expose the environmental deficits which would be caused by this scheme.
2.9 Most recently, the Minister for Public Health called a public meeting on the issue. It was attended by 1,500 people, who oppose this building, chiefly on environmental grounds, unanimously.
2.10 The issue has been the dominant feature in the local press for the last 2 years. It has received a high degree of national press. Sample articles from the national press are enclosed at appendix 3.
3: CRYSTAL PALACE PARK
3.1 Crystal Palace Park is the strategic park for South East London. It is protected by three separate designations:
3.1.1 Metropolitan Open Land.
This is the highest form of open space protection given to urban open space. The policy of the Government, expressed in Regional Planning Guidance Note number 3 (RPG3) is:"Land of this importance should not be used for developments which compromise its open character and value to London's green setting. There is a presumption against inappropriate development including development which is harmful to the open character of the land. Such development should only be allowed in very special circumstances."
3.1.2 Conservation Area.
The great majority of the park and surrounding area is a conservation area, so designated under what is now section 69 of the Listed Buildings Act 1990 because it is an:"area of special architectural or historic interest the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance."
Quite naturally, any substantial building can be expected to have an impact on the surrounding conservation area, not just within the park but outside it too.
3.1.3 Grade 2* Listed Park.
This signifies that the park as a whole is on the Register of Parks and Gardens of Historic Interest. The Government Policy Guidance PPG15 signifies that this signifies a park of "great historic interest."
3.2 The head of the park is a substantial tree lined ridge, which is the highest point in South London as well as being the most prominent tree lined ridge in the capital. It is itself recognised by the Bromley Unitary Development Plan' ("UDP") as a "Major Skyline Ridge" and therefore of strategic importance for South London. The UDP policy is that the Council will not normally permit any proposals for high buildings which adversely affect such ridges. Due to the height of the ridge in comparison with the remainder of South London, any built form on the ridge can be expected to exercise a significant visual impact over a very wide area.
3.3 The ridge is the apex of the park, and the park falls steeply away to the east. To the north, west and south are extensive residential areas."The Unitary Development Plan occupies a central role in U.K. planning law and practice, because section 54A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 provides that applications for planning permission are to be made in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise."
3.4 The ridge used to be occupied by the Crystal Palace, the great 19thcentury building of glass and metal, which burned to the ground in 1936. Since then, part of the ridge has been taken up by a TV transmitter and a caravan park. But the or part of the ridge, known as the to site, which occupies 5 hectares, has returned to burgeoning woodland, and contains a total of 150 trees. For many years it has been part of Crystal Palace Park and is used by local people for general recreational purposes.
3.5 From the top site there are widespread panoramic views over London, which are particularly valued by local people. There is an ecological value in the site, as one would expect, which has been charted by the London Wildlife Trust, although not recognised by any formal ecological designation.
3.6 From the ridge, the park, which totals 80 hectares, falls away steeply. The park has been eroded by the National Sports Centre, a caravan park, car parking and housing, so the total amount of green space within the park is considerably less than that. Indeed, the area was recognised by the last strategic authority in London, the Greater London Council, as an area of open space deficiency.
4: ACTIONS OF LONDON BOROUGH OF BROMLEY
4.1 Since 1986 the landowner, as well as the planning authority, has been the Council.
4.2 In 1990 it sought and gained Parliamentary approval to build on the top site a hotel and leisure centre. This was not a planning permission, but was needed because of a previous Act of Parliament which controlled the use of the land.
4.3 In 1994, the Council adopted its Unitary Development Plan. This reflected the intended usage of the top site as a hotel and leisure centre, although the fact that it was Metropolitan Open Land, abutting a conservation area and part of a Grade 2* Listed Park was also noted in the UDP. Again, there was no environmental assessment.
4.4 In December 1996, the Council as landowner entered into an exclusive development agreement with London Regional Properties to lease the land for the purposes of constructing a multiplex cinema. Again, there was no environmental assessment. Such agreements are necessary for the project to proceed because without access to the land, granted by the Council, the project cannot proceed.
4.5 On 24th March 1998, the Council as planning authority granted an outline planning permission for the multiplex cinema. A neighbouring authority, Lambeth Council, demanded an environmental assessment, but none was directed by the Council.
4.6 On 6th May 1999 the Council intends to grant a detailed planning permission for the multiplex, again without an environmental assessment. It also intends to grant a lease of the land to the developer again without an environmental assessment.
5: THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT
5.1 The proposed building is shown at Appendix 1.
5.2 The illustration was prepared by an architect on behalf of the Crystal Palace Campaign. The Council has always refused to publish an illustration of the building taken from the western, road side, of the building taken during the day. It has published an obscured illustration of the building taken at night.
5.3 The building is 285 metres long by 60 metres wide by 20 metres high.
5.4 It will have parking for 950 cars on the roof, at the highest point in south London.
5.5 It will have vehicle ramps passing up the sides and front of the building.
5.6 At the northern entrance to the site there will be a road and a roundabout within the park.
5.7 At the southern entrance to the site there will be a road and tunnel built within the park.
5.8 There will be major increases in road junctions around the development, together with illuminated road signage to direct the traffic, all within conservation areas.
5.9 There will be three illuminated advertising "totems" at the front of the building.
5.10 The building consists of 53,000 sq. metres of commercial floorspace.
This will comprise approximately 18 cinemas with 4,800 seats, 9 restaurants, 3 cafes and 3 leisure boxes. The developer has refused to specify their contents, but previous suggested uses have included Family Entertainment Centres (i.e. video arcades) and bowling. The planning permission does not restrict the activities that can be carried on, whatever level of visitation they may attract, provided that the use falls within the description of "leisure" The only restriction is that it cannot be a night club. However, were it to be, say, a rock venue with 20,000 seats, nothing in the planning permission can prevent it.
6: ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS OF THE DEVELOPMENT
6.1 Visual impact
6. 1.1 The building will have a significant impact on the skyline ridge.
6.1.2 At present, the view of the ridge for several miles around, principally from the west, is of a prominent tree lined ridge. Once the building is built, the view will be of vehicle ramps and the services to a vast roof top car park. These include a 285 metre long blue lighting strip, protruding above the tree line, above it a stainless steel safety barrier, above that lift shafts, and above that stainless steel boxes housing plant.
6.1.3 The building will dominate the conservation areas within and outside the park.
6.1.4 The impact of the building is evident from Appendix 4.
6.2 Loss of open space
6.2.1 The loss of open space, and its replacement by a building the size of two football stadiums laid end to end, is a significant environmental impact in its own right.
6.2.2 The previous strategic authority for London, the Greater London Council, considered this to be an area of open space deficiency. The loss of 5 hectares of open space is a matter of significance.
6.2.3 It is also relevant that the area in question is Metropolitan Open Land and a Grade 2* Listed Park.
6.3 Ecological impact
6.3.1 The loss of 150 mature trees, together with burgeoning woodland, is a matter of significance.
6.3.2 The ecology on the site, albeit not designated, is of local interest, and its destruction is also of significance.
6.4.1 A parking study carried out by the developer contained a series of errors not appreciated by the Council at the time.
6.4.2 A copy of the Campaign's traffic appraisal has been put to the Council and not as yet refuted. The appraisal is contained at appendix 5.
6.4.3 The Campaign's appraisal suggests that there will be 16,733 new vehicular movements within the park and surrounding areas every Saturday.
6.4.4 Whether or not the roads can cope with the influx is as yet unknown. But the sheer quantum of extra cars will have an environmental impact by reason of noise, congestion and pollution.
6.5.1 The building will contain 4,800 cinema seats. But the cinemas occupy only one third of the net lettable area of the building, with the remainder including licensed premises. The building will be open until 2 a.m. It is surrounded by residential areas on 3 sides.
6.5.2 It is inevitable that the building will cause night time noise and litter from those leaving the building in their thousands through residential streets.
7: TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING (Assessment of Environmental Effects) Regulations 1988
7.1 Regulation 4(1) of the Town and Country Planning (Assessment of Environmental Effects) Regulations 1988 prevents a planning authority granting planning permission without a prior environmental assessment in certain circumstances. Those circumstances include Schedule 2 applications, which are those for developments likely to have "significant effects on the environment" by virtue of factors such as nature, size or location. The proposed multiplex is certain to have significant effects on the environment.
7.2 The Secretary of State for the Environment has (Circular 15/88) published indicative thresholds as to when significant effects may occur as a result of urban development projects. The indicative thresholds are:
7.2.1 10,000 square metres gross of commercial uses. Here, there will be over 50,000 square metres of such uses. Le. the threshold is exceeded by a factor of five.
7.2.2 Site area of over 5 hectares in an urbanised area. This threshold is met.
7.2.3 More than 700 dwellings within 200 metres of the site boundaries. This threshold is also met.
7.3 This proposal is for the largest multiplex cinema in the south east of England and the largest rooftop car park in the British Isles, occurring in highly protected open space and historic parkland. It is obvious that it will have significant environmental effects and that an environmental assessment should have occurred before the grant of outline planning permission.
7.4 Notwithstanding the above, the Council failed to direct an environmental assessment prior to determining the outline planning application.
7.5 Further, the Town and Country Planning (Assessment of Environmental Effects) Regulations 1988 are severely limited in scope, because they do not require environmental assessment prior to:
7.5.1 the allocation of the site for development in a Unitary Development Plan;
7.5.2 the decision by the public authority to initiate the project by signing an Exclusive Redevelopment Agreement or the signing of that Agreement;
7.5.3 the grant of a detailed planning consent for a building, which the Council plans to give on 6th May 1999;
7.5.4 the signing of a Development Agreement and Lease to enable the project to be possessed.
7.6 In those respects, the Regulations fail adequately to transpose the Directive into domestic law.
7.7 Further, the Regulations do not require environmental effects to be assessed cumulatively. This is of crucial importance here, because there are proposals:
7.7.1 for construction of a very substantial new tennis centre for major sporting events within the park, which will add to the environmental and traffic impact of the multiplex scheme;
7.7.2 for construction of a 500 space car park on a covered reservoir within the park, adjoining the multiplex. This is Metropolitan Open Land and part of the historic park.
8: DIRECTIVE 85/337
8.1 The terms of the Directive will be familiar to the Commission.
8.2 Article 1 classifies "development consent" as the decision of the competent authority which entitles the applicant for authorisation for a private project or the public authority which initiates the project to proceed with the project.
8.3 Article 2 requires Member States to adopt all necessary measures to ensure that before consent is given, project which are likely to have significant effects on the environment by virtue inter alia of their nature, size or location are made subject to an assessment with regard to their effects.
8.4 The Council is an emanation of the State and is bound by the Directive.
8.5 The building is an urban development project within Annex 11.
8.6 Here, in breach of the Directive no environmental assessment has taken place at any stage.
8.7 The systematic collation of environmental data of the kind required by Annex Ill was entirely lacking, as was a non-technical summary.
8.8 Without prejudice to the generality of the complaint, it is particularly important in a project of this sort that there be a non technical summary of the information provided under the headings in Annex 3. Some of the information, e.g. regarding traffic, pollution, drainage etc. is of a highly technical nature. For example, it is clear that not only did the community not understand the complex traffic impact assessment work, but nor did the Chief Planning Officer of the Council. It is integral to democratic participation and consultation in a project of this importance that all are enabled to understand the environmental effects as a result of a discernibly independent study and to comment on the same. This has not occurred.
8.9 Further, under the Directive, the project is properly taken to mean the whole project, including the multiplex and the tennis centre which are part of an overall conception for development of the park. This is one respect in which the 1988 Regulations have not sufficiently implemented the Directive, in that the Regulations are driven by each separate planning application, whereas the Directive views the project as a whole.
8.10 A further respect in which the Regulations have failed properly to implement the Directive is seen at paragraphs 7.5 and 7.6 above. There are various decisions made by the Council, some already made and some yet to be made, which under domestic law do not require to be the subject of an environmental assessment, but under European law they do. The principle needs to be established that the Directive encompasses all of the decisions in those paragraphs and that the Directive has been imperfectly implemented.
9: POSSIBLE DEFENCES
9.1 It is fair that the Crystal Palace Campaign points out a possible defence by the Council.
9.2 In 1997, the Council commissioned a discussion paper from Chris Blandford Associates, which advised that on balance there was no need for environmental assessment (appendix 6). But the report was seriously flawed in that, for example:
9.2.1 it made no attempt to appraise what the visual impact of the development would be on the skyline ridge;
9.2.2 it failed to consider the open space value of the site;
9.2.3 it failed to consider the significance of the loss of 150 trees;
9.2.4 it failed to consider noise and litter nuisance;
9.2.5 it failed to consider the type and quantity of expected residues and emissions;
9.2.6 it proceeded on the basis of traffic figures now known to be erroneous;
9.2.7 it considered each head of suggested harm separately, reaching a conclusion as to whether each was significant. Obviously, it ought to have considered the whole position together in order to decide whether it revealed a possibility of significant harm;
9.2.8 it failed to consider the project as a whole, but divided the project into three constituent elements and assessed the environmental effects of each. The cumulative effects ought to have been considered. Advice given to the Council was that the number of visitors per year was likely to increase from 2 million to 6 million. The increase was bound to create significant environmental effects;
9.2.9 it concluded, in respect of the multiplex cinema, that its capacity was likely to confer economic benefits and "therefore" its scale appears acceptable and should not trigger the need for an EA. No commercial building would ever be built if it was not thought that it would confer economic benefits. The test is not one of economic benefit but of significant environmental effects. It is only when such effects have been properly identified by the environmental assessment that they can be fairly weighed in the balance with any economic benefits deriving from the project.
9.3 Finally, the Council was advised by its officers that even if an environmental assessment was required, most of the work which would be involved in an environmental assessment had been done in any event. This represents a misunderstanding of the cardinal principle of environmental assessment, that it should lead to a non technical summary so that the public in general may be given a fair opportunity to understand and comment upon the contents of the assessment.
10.1 Nobody considering the matter sensibly could conclude other than that a building of this type and gargantuan size placed in this sensitive location would have significant effects on the environment. Those effects ought to have been properly and systematically considered and presented in non technical form for public consultation and comment.
10.2 For the above reasons, the Commission is respectfully requested to bring infringement proceedings against the Council. It is also requested to ask the Council to desist from proceeding with the project until the question of its infringement has been adjudicated upon.
Crystal Palace Campaign
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Last updated 13/6/99