London 2012 win planning permission for Greenwich Park

Tuesday, 23 March 2010
By Cathy Wood at Woolwich Town Hall

March 23 - London bosses overcame a major hurdle tonight when plans to hold the equestrian and modern pentathlon events at Greenwich Park during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games got the go-ahead.

Greenwich Council’s Planning Board, voted 10-2 in favour of the planning application after a mammoth four-and-a-half hour public meeting which saw passionate debate from both sides.

As the meeting drew to a close Sebastian Coe, the chairman of London 2012, as if moving up on the shoulder of a rival in the final straight, addressed the Board.

He revealed as a young man, on the way to gaining first international vest for Great Britain and during his competitive career, he stayed with friends in Greenwich and used the Park to compose himself before big occasions.

He asked the Board to trust him and his team as he made five pledges: to protect the park and return it in the condition received, to ensure as much of the Park stays open for as long as possible, to leave a legacy for future generations, to showcase Greenwich to the world and to continue to listen with what local people had to say.

Coe closed by urging the board to, "grant the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) permission to lend the Park, and grant the people of Greenwich the opportunity to play their full part in hosting a Games of which everyone can be proud".

Earlier local residents, led by the pressure group NOGOE (No to Greenwich Olympic Equestrian Events), had voiced their opposition to plans to erect temporary structures, including a 23,000 seat arena, in Greenwich Park.

They argued it would do irreparable damage to the Park, which is located within a World Heritage Site, contains five Scheduled Ancient Monuments, is home to thousands of trees, many of which are veteran and historical, and has a rich biodiversity.

"People of Greenwich do not want these Games," a spokesman for NOGOE said.

NOGOE went on to argue the long term risks were unacceptable and the Park could not be returned in the same condition after the Games as it is in today.

Mark Camley, the chief executive of The Royal Parks, who manage all eight of the capital’s Parks, assured the Board the concerns raised were being addressed and that The Royal Parks were custodians.

"We have not forgotten that we manage the Parks on the public’s behalf," he said.

And he said the Olympic Games gave Greenwich a unique opportunity to, "share Greenwich and its much loved Park and World Heritage Site to a worldwide audience".

The decision to grant planning permission to London 2012 is not without its difficulties since it comes with 42 separate conditions, all of which must be met.

An advisory Group, including Greenwich Council, The Royal Parks, English Heritage, Natural England and LOCOG is to be set up to oversee implementation of the plans and restoration afterwards.

Coe said he was, "delighted with the outcome of the democratic process. 

"The great Park is on loan to the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the people of the world. 

"We must return it to the residents of Greenwich, to Londoners and visitors from the UK and around the world in the same condition, or better, than it was loaned to us."

Coe added London 2012 would abide by all the conditions set down by the Board.


Related stories
March 2010: 
D-Day for Greenwich Park decision
February 2010: London 2012 deny NOGOE claims Greenwich heritage sites will be damaged
January 2010: London 2012 will break Victorian law if they use Greenwich Park claim critics
December 2009: MP accuses NOGOE of scaremongering over Greenwich Park
December 2009: London 2012 planning application for Greenwich is illegal claim opponents
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