Greenwich Council approves London 2012 Greenwich park planning application
March 24, 2010 by Rob Powell
Greenwich Council's planning board has backed proposals to hold Olympic equestrian events in Greenwich Park in summer 2012, together with test events in 2011.
The 12-member board voted 10-2 to back the proposal after a four-and-three-quarter-hour long meeting at Woolwich Town Hall.
Conservative councillors Geoffrey Brighty (Blackheath Westcombe) and Dermot Poston (Eltham North) objected to the scheme, however their party colleague Peter King (Eltham South) voted for organising body LOCOG's application.
The other members backed approval of the scheme with a string of conditions attached, which include the setting up of an advisory body - including bodies such as English Heritage and Natural England - to oversee works in the park and Blackheath's Circus Field.
Councillors also told LOCOG to seek approval from Greenwich Council for individual elements of planned construction work, together with crowd management proposals.
The board's formal backing now paves the way for a temporary stadium to be built in front of the Queen's House during 2012, the creation of a cross-country course through the park, and the use of the Circus Field as an operational compound.
LOCOG chairman Lord Coe told councillors that Greenwich Park had "a special place in the hearts of many", describing it as "the beating heart of a diverse community - just ask the thousands of marathon starters who gather there each year".
"Tonight, we ask you to trust us," he said, claiming the Olympics would enable "a young urban audience to witness Olympic and Paralympic equestrianism first hand".
But opposition body NOGOE claimed LOCOG's proposals were not detailed enough, and risked damaging the park's ecology and archaeology. There was also criticism that local roads, particularly the Blackwall Tunnel - would not cope with the demands of an Olympic Games.
NOGOE supporter Sue McNeil told the meeting: "We're not anti-Olympics - we're pleased Greenwich is a host borough, but using suitable arenas like the Dome.
"Greenwich Park should be the official 'chill-out zone' during the Olympics - otherwise we will lose tourists when construction starts.
"We could rent out our houses for a small fortune when the Games are on - but we value Greenwich more than that."
In opposing the application, Cllr Poston said the park would be an "amazing theatre" for those watching on television.
"But they are not the ones who use the park," he said. "I have to consider that this is a conservation area - and I'm afraid I'm not convinced that this will enhance or preserve a conservation area."
Cllr Brighty spoke of the numbers who use the park each weekend, adding "four weeks [of closure] at the height of summer is too much".
But members who backed the proposal sought to pacify opponents. Labour councillor Clive Mardner (Abbey Wood) said he hoped NOGOE members had "added strength" to scrutiny of the proposals, and said he hoped they would continue as construction got under way.
Denise Hyland (Labour, Shooters Hill) said: "My fears have been completely allayed tonight by what I've heard. Passion for the park isn't just felt by those against the proposal."
Members who voted for the proposal: Ray Walker (vice-chair, Labour, Eltham West), Peter Brooks (Labour, Thamesmead Moorings), Denise Hyland (Labour, Shooters Hill), Sajid Jawaid (Labour, Plumstead), Peter Kotz (Labour, Thamesmead Moorings), Clive Mardner (Labour, Abbey Wood), Steve Offord (Labour, Abbey Wood), John Wakefield (Labour, Glyndon), Peter King (Conservative, Eltham South), Paul Webbewood (Lib Dem, Middle Park & Sutcliffe).
Members who voted against: Geoffrey Brighty (Conservative, Blackheath Westcombe), Dermot Poston (Conservative, Eltham North).