Andrew Gilligan

Andrew Gilligan: Greenwich Park Olympics Works Will Affect Park for Five Years

December 9, 2009 by  

GREENWICH Park will not be fully restored to its current state after the Olympics until 2015, the planning application documents, published on the council's website on Tuesday, show.

Areas of the park will be closed off from February or March 2010, meaning that the park has less than four months of full public access left. The total duration of the Olympic-related works and closures in the Park will be five years. The total duration of the events themselves is two weeks.

The length of the work period, far in excess of expectations, is one of a number of very unpleasant shocks from the planning application documents. The principal document, the Environmental Statement volume 1 (ES), is downloadable in two parts from this document list

(it is about three-quarters of the way down the list of documents). References which follow are to ES paragraph numbers, except where indicated.

Lorry and vehicle movements

Construction and removal of the main 23,00-seat showjumping arena will create an estimated 6,420 lorry movements to the park - an average of 43 to 58 per day .(ES 3.4.17). This phase will close large parts of the park for a total of eight months in 2012, from April to November inclusive (ES 3.2).

Other items of plant in the park will include 160-tonne mobile cranes, 5 tonne mini-excavators, bulldozers and JCBs (ES 3.4.23).

The events themselves will create 35,960 vehicle movements by competitors, officials and media to the park, an average of 625 a day. (ES 3.4.32). The park will be almost completely closed for four weeks (ES 3.3.7) and largely closed for longer.

Heritage impact (archaeology, historic buildings, etc.)

The overall permanent impact on the park's heritage features is assessed as "likely to be neutral to slightly adverse" and the ES admits that some heritage features could suffer permanent "loss or partial loss." (ES introduction, page 10).

Most features, it is claimed, will be protected by mitigation (protective structures and the like). But "as a last resort," some heritage features will be "preserv[ed] by record," ie permanently destroyed, but only after pictures and records have been made of them. (ES introduction, page 10).

A set of ornate gates into the park will be removed to allow vehicle access, although it is promised that they will be replaced afterwards.

Visual impact and trees

The park will be surrounded by a 9-foot-high metal security fence, with spotlights every 80 feet and CCTV cameras on 16-foot poles every 250 feet. There will be a similar, inner fence cordoning off other areas. (ES 3.2.32-3.)

The ground in the open area in front of the Maritime Museum, which currently slopes slightly, will be made level, with topsoil potentially needing to be stripped to a depth of 1.3 feet. "Retaining structures" may have to be installed in the soil in this area. (ES 3.2.2-9.)

Seventy-two trees will be pruned to allow a 11-foot clearance for horses to pass underneath, including a "small number" which will suffer "removal of branches to the main stem." The majority of pruning would be to branches of 25mm or less,
although a number would be up to but not more than 50mm. (ES 12.6.9).

There will be temporary power plants, water and fuel tank compounds (ES 3.2.52-5). Temprary ducts will be dug across the park to divert some existing gas, water and sewage mains pipes which currently pass under areas needed for the competition (ES 3.2.61).

"On balance, the overall magnitude of change is considered to be
medium adverse resulting in a moderate adverse effect." (ES 12.6.14)


The closures are contained in the "indicative programme" on pages 27-30 of the ES (the pages are confusingly numbered in a separate sequence from the introduction.) They show that there will be two and a half years of "advance grass management works" from spring 2010 to summer 2012 to "create a safe riding surface" along the cross-country course.

During this time the course would be fenced off, although gaps would be left to allow park users to get through. (ES 3.4.3- 13.)

The works on the cross-country course will involve installing a "covered and above ground" irrigation system. The soil would also be loosened by driving large spiked rollers across it, The spikes would be up to 12cm long. Fertilisers and herbicides would be applied and the course would be seeded with ryegrass from March 2010 onwards. (ES 3.4.3- 13.)

The acid grassland in the park would need until 2015 to recover and would probably be fenced off during that time. The amenity grassland would be fenced off until spring 2013. (ES pages 27-30).


Torpedoing the best PR efforts of Locog and Greenwich council in one fell swoop, the ES admits: "The extent to which legacy benefits are generated by the Greenwich Park Events rather than the 2012 Games as a whole is not clear. The Greenwich Park Events will be showcasing sports not widely practiced in London." (ES 14.6.42.)

Public support

In a separate report on community consultation, Locog claims that a telephone survey of a thousand Greenwich residents produced a figure of 84.8% in favour of the Games taking place in Greenwich. (The thousand were residents of Greenwich borough, not necessarily the town - only 139 of them lived near the park.)

The figure seems rather implausible because it is actually higher than the same survey's figure for the number of Greenwich residents (81%) who support the Games happening in London at all.

Nor is the 81% figure at all consistent with the latest opinion poll, for the Evening Standard, which shows support for the Olympics running at less than 60% of Londoners as a whole.

Close examination of the methodology of the survey reveals how the figures were rigged. The key question people were asked was a leading one. The exact question is not quoted, but according to the report of the survey, in Appendix 18 of this document, [ ] it was along the lines of "Are you in favour of Greenwich Park hosting the games, provided that the whole park will be closed for a period of up to six weeks, no permanent damage will be done and considering the economic and social benefits?"

This question is not just leading - against the rules of all professional opinion pollsters - but is actually misleading, since it is far from clear that there will be any economic and social benefits from this particular aspect of the Olympics.

Not content with that, however, participants in the survey were softened up first. Before being asked the key question, they were asked to agree or disagree with a series of preliminary statements designed to get them in a favourable frame of mind, such as: "The Royal Parks does a good job at protecting and managing Greenwich Park," "I believe that the Royal Parks will ensure that Greenwich Park will be returned to perfect condition with no permanent damage after the Games," and "I don't think that the Royal Parks would allow any event to take place that would cause lasting damage to the Park."

No doubt the 85% figure will be much quoted in the weeks ahead. But it is of a level of manipulation to make Kim il-Sung blush.

More details to follow after I've had a chance to read through the whole 1800-odd pages.


14 Responses to “Andrew Gilligan: Greenwich Park Olympics Works Will Affect Park for Five Years”

  1. Chris McGrath on December 9th, 2009 11:35 am

    Hi Andrew
    As one who watched every step of the lead up to the illegal Iraq invasion, one beacon of truth was your reporting for the BBC.
    I have been looking for your name at the Iraq Inquiry and I do trust that you will be contributing, as your evidence is crucial.

  2. G on December 9th, 2009 5:13 pm

    What I need to understand this properly is a map of the park with shading showing which parts will be shut, when and for how long, as well as lines tracing the routes of any barriers. Does such a thing exist?

  3. PLJAIKJ on December 9th, 2009 11:50 pm

    At last LOCOG have had to come clean about their plans and they are a complete vindication of NOGOE’s claims, which have been the subject of accusations of scaremongering during the last 18 months. By giving bland, unsubstantiated asssurances, LOCOG have hoodwinked people into believing false information about damage and closures. Does Nick Raynsford still believe that damage won’t be done when LOCOG have now admitted that some heritage features will be preserved by record?

    When the 13400 protest signatures were handed in, and when Gareth Bacon’s survey, showing 68% of Greenwich respondents opposed to these events, was published, LOCOG’s response was that it was based on misinformation about trees being cut down. The NOGOE Report of March 2009 acknowledged that trees would NOT be cut down, and frequently asked LOCOG to correct any misinformation – there has not been a single correction. Because LOCOG secretly knew that everything NOGOE was saying was true, they falsely accused opponents of frightening people about trees being cut down. When NOGOE produced a poster a year ago showing the area of the proposed stadium as a construction site, there were accusations of misleading the public. Now we know there will be 6200 lorry movements, not to mention bulldozers in a World Heritage Site. Only the most naive person would believe that accidental damage won’t be done.
    Having communicated with LOCOG for the last 18 months, NOGOE found them to be secretive, arrogant, condescending , inconsistent, masters of spin, complacent and incompetent. They have made one cock-up after another: from underestimating the size of the Park, to several designs of a cross country course in ignorance of the map showing sensitive areas, and not realising that the use of Blackheath common, as well as the Park itself, would leave them open to legal challenge. This is why they can’t be trusted.

    One can only hope that the Greenwich Planning Board will stop this juggernaut.
    Anyone can object to the application. Just quote the application number and give your reasons. For the sake of saving Greenwich Park for future generations let’s see if we can set a new record of objections to a planning application. That’s the only survey that counts.

  4. Jan Stewer on December 10th, 2009 8:26 am

    Having now seen the plans I can count more than even 72 trees which overhang or are in the direct route of the cross-country course, perimeter fencing and stadium…..
    No wonder LOCOG wanted to silence opposition to this wholesale destruction of the oldest Royal Park – calling concerned opponents “Scaremongers” – the plans are worse than NOGOE or anyone ever dared to conjecture.
    It proves that LOCOG lied and that if any of the local amenity groups now still repeat the LOCOG line and support this devastation they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

  5. Indigo on December 10th, 2009 9:59 am

    Which suited yobbish salary-man/placeman (or woman) dreamed up “Preserved by record”!!

    The scale of the proposed destruction of habitat in the Park is horrifying – what use is “preserved by record” habitat to the insects, bats and small animals?

    Where, in the World Heritage Site criteria

    does “preserved by record” appear – it does NOT!

    It is evident that LOCOG has laid lie upon lie upon lie on everyone from equestrians to local residents to MPs and civil servants.

  6. Church Mouse on December 10th, 2009 11:29 am

    the ones who said the park would just be closed for a few weeks in 2012 seem to have gone quiet.

  7. PB on December 10th, 2009 4:10 pm

    Thank you for your thorough vigilance and journalistic integrity. My children and family love this park. It is part of our lifeblood. And everyone else’s, if only they stepped with aching hips from the anti-social armour of their cars. One of the lungs of London, as I believe Charles Dickens called the park, is at risk of collapse. Time to take a deep breath and stop it, I suspect.

  8. Paul G on December 10th, 2009 4:20 pm

    I find it shocking that “loss or partial loss” of heritage features can even be considered in a World Heritage Site. When I visited the LOCOG shop in Greenwich I was told that rumours of possible damage to heritage features was scaremongering and would not happen under circumstances. I wonder what other inaccuracies they shared with people who visited that little PR whitewash.
    In NIck Raynsford’s letter he states
    “claims that the park and its flora and archaeological heritage will suffer serious damage are unfounded.”
    So where are they drawing the line between “loss or partial loss” and serious damage? When is a heritage loss not “serious”
    And all for something they finally admit is a specialist sport (anybody with even a passing interest in the equestrian has now been interviewed singing the praises of LOCOG in Greenwich Time)

  9. LOCOG Respond to Andrew Gilligan | on December 11th, 2009 10:19 am

    […] LOCOG have issued the following statement to in response to Andrew Gilligan’s latest article. […]

  10. Indigo on December 14th, 2009 11:40 am

    Is LOCOG still claiming that no trees will be cut down? Why, then, in the “Bat mitigation strategies” (Appendix 11 I), does this statement appear:

    “The trunks or stems of any trees identified as having potential to support roosting bats would be sectioned and lowered to the ground, rather than clear felled, and left on site for at least 48 hours.”

    If you “section” the TRUNK or STEM of a tree, you are cutting it down.

  11. Indigo on December 15th, 2009 9:08 am

    LOCOG modus operandi. It is evident from the planning application that LOCOG first identified the categories of data that they would find awkward and then took care not to collect it in 2009, while making fuzzy noises about collecting it in 2010 or later.

    For example, finding bat ROOSTS within the Park could be a show-stopper; so the bat surveyors (a) started all their surveys far too late to see/hear any but the “straggler” bats returning to/leaving their roosts; (b) did not survey the northern part of the Park; and (c) did not conduct any survey at all during August, although the Bat Conservation Trust Survey Guidelines state (page 42) that “August is an especially good month to observe maternity roost re-entry, as young flyers can be inexperienced and are often highly visible when returning to the roost”. Yet LOCOG’s bat survey claims to have been done in accordance with BCT Survey Guidelines. It was not.

    Another example has to do with the stag beetle population in the Park. In the LOCOG planning application, I have yet to find acknowledgement that the stag beetle is (a) rare, (b) globally threatened, and (c) protected by laws with very fierce penalties for breaching those laws.

    Everyone needs to read LOCOG’s planning application. Start with an area about which you already have some knowledge and therefore can easily spot the omissions and sleights of hand. The proposed wholesale destruction of habitat, insect life (with the application of insecticide) and the visible character of the Park is shocking. All for two weeks of an elite sport, no legacy, at a cost of £42 million, and when there is at least one other suitable alternative venue.

  12. PLJAIKJ on December 24th, 2009 3:45 pm

    Why does LOCOG resort to dirty tricks to report on public support if their case for using Greenwich Park is justified?

    Their survey has two major shortcomings: the unrepresentative sample and the hypothetical key question asked.

    If, out of a sample of 1000 borough residents, only 14% of the sample lived near the Park, then the sample should have been weighted to represent more of the people who would be directly affected by these events.

    The key question asked was hypothetical and convoluted – mentioning two ‘what if’ situations and one (the benefits) assumed – means the response has to be qualified. Moreover their planning application now acknowledges that some heritage features could be lost; so one of the ‘what ifs’ is not true. If the basic premise of the question is invalid, then the answer is equally invalid.

    Taking account of Gareth Bacon’s survey of residents of the town (68% opposed)and over 13,500 signatories to NOGOE’s petition, the Nielsen result is not credible. Nielsen is a third tier sponsor of the Games and, as its Vice President, Susan Whiting said, when the sponsorship was announced in June 2009: “Nielsen is pleased to partner with LOCOG in support of London 2012”. LOCOG, however, claim that the research was “independently” conducted, although they have refused a request for the release of the questionnaire that Nielsen used. Its release would have enabled other experts to assess whether the way in which Nielsen led up to the answer, on which its partner LOCOG now relies, resulted in most of those questioned giving he “right” answer. Nick Raynsford rubbished Gareth Bacon’s survey as being politically motivated. What is LOCOG’s survey if not politically motivated?

    Unless and until the questionnaire has been analysed, Nielsen’s conclusion, which is entirely against the weight of local protest, will no doubt be treated with scepticism by many, including hopefully the Planning Board.

  13. Indigo on January 7th, 2010 11:11 am

    Heads up, people – the statutory consultation period that was opened on 15 December 2009 has quietly become “not open”. See Council web site, planning area. Trying to find out more information.

  14. David Warren on February 4th, 2010 9:21 am

    It seems to me that the traffic problems resulting from the use of Greenwich Park will be at least as serious as those within the Park.