Following our interview with Nick Raynsford in which he referred to the "bogus claims" of Olympic protestors, NOGOE have written an open letter to the MP, published in full below.
NOGOE very much regrets your uncritical cheer leading for LOCOG (most recently displayed in your interview with www.Greenwich.co.uk). As a constituency MP, we feel that you should respect, even if you don’t always agree with, the genuinely held views of all your constituents. I am therefore writing this open letter to you, which the blog site has agreed to publish.
There have already been a number of criticisms about what you said in that interview on the blog. Nevertheless, I should make the following points on behalf of NOGOE, who was most directly in your line of fire:
NOGOE has been asking LOCOG for details (what you call evidence) of its plans for more than a year; but questions are never answered, other than with generalities and bland assurances. If we had had evidence, we would, of course, have listened. I dealt with the lack of facts from LOCOG in a letter to The Mercury that was published last week (25th November). It has not prompted any response.
If it is to succeed with its planning application, LOCOG will need to establish that the Park will not be damaged (and that is not just the trees, but the archaeological remains and conduits beneath, the acid grassland and the habitats of the animals and insects that live in the Park etc). We expect those topics to be covered in the Environmental Impact Assessment, which accompanies the application, which we anxiously wait to see.
We, but obviously not you, have always found it strange that LOCOG has been able so confidently to assert that there will be no damage to the Park, before publication of the Environmental Assessment. A comment that we have made in the past to LOCOG, but again without response.
Although you have been content to go along with LOCOG’s unevidenced assurances that all will be well, we very much hope that, as our local MP, you do not endorse what Tessa Jowell said in a Radio 4 interview (You and Yours, 27th October), namely that the decision to hold events in Greenwich Park had already been made. Not only does she and others responsible for the Games give the impression that the Council’s decision is already in the bag, but some local residents are beginning to think that as a result, further opposition is fruitless.
On specific NOGOE statements that you said in your interview were false, we have not suggested that trees were going to be cut down in large numbers since LOCOG told us that that was not its intention in early 2009. If you had remembered what was in the NOGOE Report (which I hope that you read), published in March 2009 and which I made a point of sending to you in advance of public distribution, you would have recalled the following statement:
The cross-country course will inevitably pass through and along many of the avenues, whatever its final route. Although it is now accepted that there is at present no intention to fell or cut out more than small branches to improve visibility for the cross-country course riders (despite many months of protest at the lack of information, this has only recently become clear), concern about damage to root systems as a result of compaction remains a major issue.
We have since become more concerned about the extent of branch lopping and we wait to see what precautions will be taken to avoid root damage.
NOGOE has never suggested that there was to be Grand National type event. We keep our ear pretty close to the ground and, as far as we know, the only person who has ever suggested that anyone was thinking of that was Lord Coe. We are, however, concerned about how it would be intended to soften the ground for the cross-country course – you will recall that the LOCOG spokesman failed properly to answer the precise questions about that at the Blackheath meeting on 23rd September.
Your dismissal of the findings of the Bacon survey that 68% of local residents oppose the events in the Park is regrettable, but sadly not untypical of those who dislike inconvenient evidence. We have no idea as to the quality of your “evidence” that the overwhelming majority of young people in the area are wholly supportive of the events in the Park. Perhaps you should have stood at the NOGOE protest table outside the Park every weekend last summer, when we collected over 13,000 signatures against the use of the Park. Signatories were of all ages, with some of the most enthusiastic being what you would call young people.
Your suggestion that the right approach for Gareth Bacon would have been to engage seriously with LOCOG and the Royal Parks Agency as “the two agencies best able to judge how this can be managed and then to listen to their views” entirely misses the point. To suggest that LOCOG and the Royal Parks (an agency of the DCMS, which is sponsoring the Games) are best able to judge what is for the best is the equivalent of asking someone to be judge and jury in their own cause. With respect, that is a derisible proposition.
In summary, your charge that NOGOE has been dishonest in making bogus claims and dishonest statements is groundless. I leave local residents to judge whether LOCOG, with its bland, but unevidenced, assurances would have been a more appropriate recipient of the charge.
Please will you stop playing a political game; the preservation of the Park is too important for politics. While we accept that you are personally committed to the highest possible level to Olympic activity in Greenwich, don’t you think that you demean your office by dismissing with such venom anyone, including GLA Member Bacon, who seeks to put a different point of view?
We think that it would be in the interests of all concerned if you were prepared to adopt a more reasoned approach to the consideration of the merits of equestrian events in the Park. We have no doubt that strong pressures will be applied to members of the Council’s Planning Board from a number of quarters to grant permission. However, in fairness to all whom you represent, may I ask that you make it clear to your constituents that no decision has been taken by the Council and that you will expect the Planning Board to approach their difficult task with their focus solely on the planning issues?