Crystal Palace Park is blessed with the highest wooded ridge in south London. The visual benefits of this open space and greenery merit protection since it provides a break in the urban fabric and a green spine in our built environment. No-one would think of cutting down trees in Kew, or even outside Sainsbury's without very good reason - and none exists here, save perhaps malice several months in advance of possible building works and before outstanding legal issues and European Commission misgivings are satisfactorily resolved. In more immediate terms, consider the sound-absorbing effect our trees have on traffic - to the benefit of local residents (on motorways, they plant trees; here they want to kill them in favour of concrete).
Since London & Regional Properties plans were made public in 1997, other single-issue groups have made their views known. The London Wildlife Trust, Friends of the Great North Wood, Sydenham Hill Nature Reserve and Southwark Friends of the Earth have all expressed their opposition to the despoiling of this site and the Campaign can provide copies of their correspondence on this subject. The Ridge Wildlife Group tried to create a nature garden amidst the trees; the Crystal Palace Protest has lent its support to a wide range of initiatives to save the site from destruction. Almost every local amenity organisation has made its views known - against the multiplex.
Bromley has had much to say about Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) - as this site is designated. The following is taken from a Bromley officers' report, dated 20th May 1997 to TAP (The Architectural Panel is Bromley Council's panel of independent architectural advisers. Set up in 1995, its members are nominated by RIBA South East Region):
Whilst the Council is actively pursuing the development through the development plan process and the principle has been established and accepted by Government Inspectors, it is evident that the proposal conflicts with the MOL policy and strategic guidance. It is not a form of open air recreation and cannot be seen as ancillary to the identified purpose of MOL, neither is it a use identified in Policy G.6 [of Bromley's Unitary Development Plan]. (our emphasis) The site may still be designated MOL if the trees are removed and a building put up, but it will no longer be open land &endash; just open for business.
Bromley's UDP Policy E11 is worded as follows:
The Council will not normally permit any proposals for high buildings which adversely affect strategically important local viewpoints, views of local significance, landmarks and skyline ridges.
Bromley's Draft Supplementary Planning Guidance, February 1997 says:
The ridge immediately to the west of the sports centre is an important skyline ridge, visible from much of the Borough. It affords strategically important views of Bromley and North Kent. The BBC transmitter on the peak of the ridge is identified as a local landmark (Bromley UDP, Policy E11). Proposals for new tall buildings that would break this skyline are unlikely to be successful for this reason.
And from the Bromley officers' report to TAP (see above):
1.3 the impact of this site on the remainder of the Park and its importance as the focal point of views both within and without the Park cannot be over emphasised.
6.28 The ridge at Crystal Palace is seen as offering strategic viewpoints and forming a major skyline ridge, shown on UDP map 9.1. Insensitively sited or designed buildings can intrude upon otherwise pleasing views which the Council endeavours to protect.
It is clear that this ridge, with its soft and undulating tree cover, being visible from many points in the Metropolis, Kent and Surrey is, indeed, pleasing. Replacing it with a building which is designed to create a car-topped plateau above what little would remain of the tree line (after some 140 trees have been felled) will do more harm than 'adversely affect' (Policy E11), it will break the skyline ridge and, in so doing, wreak irreparable destruction.
So our trees do matter. They have found a place in our Park and they have given us our sense of place, an anchor which we so desperately need in our 21st century world. Please help us to save the trees.
Notes by Ken Lewington - Vice Chairman, Crystal Palace Campaign
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31/1/01 Last updated 31/1/01