Andrew Gilligan: Greenwich Park Olympics Works Will Affect Park for Five Years
December 9, 2009 by Andrew Gilligan
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.)
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, [http://www.london2012.com/greenwich-park/documents/report-on-community-engagement/locog-report-on-community-engagement-v19-with-apps-1-.pdf ] 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.