December 8 - London 2012 has submitted its controversial planning application for the use of Greenwich Park during the Olympics and Paralympics with protesters claiming that it is illegal.

Neil Rhind, an eminent local historian, and Lionel Lewis, a local solicitor, who are both supporters of NOGOE (No to Greenwich Olympic Equestrian Events), claim that a proposal to use about 26 acres of Blackheath Common just outside the Park gates, known as Circus Field, for the equestrian events would be unlawful. 

They also claimed that it would be unlawful for the London Borough of Greenwich to entertain the application for planning permission from London 2012 to use the land because the enclosure of any part of the Heath, including Circus Field, would be contrary to the Metropolitan Commons Act 1866, which established the concept of metropolitan commons being available at all times for the benefit of members of the public.

London's proposal includes Circus Field, which it wants to enclose with 2.7 metre high security fencing, frequent CCTV cameras and lighting in order to provide a compound for the storage of materials, horse boxes, stables, training area etc. 

NOGOE claims that this illustrates that London 2012 finally recognised one of its main objections to its plans, namely that the Park is too small to accommodate the Olympics.

John Hine, the coordinator for NOGOE, said: "This is yet another example of complacency and incompetence on the part of LOCOG. 

"Not only has it bludgeoned its plans to this point in complete disregard of the legal and practical problems associated with using Greenwich Park, but it has done so without adequately researching the many practical difficulties associated with use of the venue. 

"It is not too late to change and we urge LOCOG to do so now, rather than later."

But London 2012 claim that research conducted by their market research partner, Nielsen, shows that nearly 85 per cent of Greenwich residents support the Park being used as an Olympic and Paralympic venue, providing it is not closed for more than six weeks and is returned in the condition it was received.
Sebastian Coe, the chairman of London 2012, said: "Greenwich Park is one of London's treasures, and it will be a wonderful sporting venue for the world to enjoy in the summer of 2012.

"Leading international equestrian competitors are looking forward to competing in this unique setting in the heart of the Olympic City of London, and there are unparalleled opportunities for local people of all ages to get involved, with many benefits for the community. 

"We take our responsibilities seriously - we know the people of Greenwich love their beautiful Park, and we have spent considerable time developing our plans to make sure we protect it.

"Our planning application shows the lengths we are going to in order to make sure we return the Park to The Royal Parks and the local community in the condition in which we will gratefully receive it."

Among the details revealed in the planning application are that a temporary arena with up to 23,000 seats and supporting facilities, including spectator areas, main stables, training and warm up areas, veterinary centre, medical centre, hospitality areas, broadcast compound, media centre, offices, food outlets, toilets, will be erected in the North West of the Park.
A cross country course, measuring approximately six kilometres (3.7 miles), and supporting facilities, including spectator areas, warm up areas, toilets, food outlets, and a Modern Pentathlon running course, approximately 1km (600 metres), will be located to the South East of the arena.

London 2012 claims that it has undertaken an extensive community and stakeholder consultation exercise over the last 18 months to explain plans to the public and to listen to and address concerns. 

This has included a series of meetings, brochures, attendance at local events in and around the Park, public exhibitions, meetings with statutory groups and community groups, and the opening of an exhibition shop in Greenwich town centre in October. 

More than 10,000 brochures were distributed with feedback forms for people to return. 

Mark Camley, the chief executive of The Royal Parks, said: "We welcome the opportunity to host the equestrian and Modern Pentathlon Events in Greenwich Park in 2012.

"Our priority is to protect the Park’s historic and natural environment for the enjoyment of current users and future generations.

"We are working with LOCOG to ensure any impact to the Park and Park users is minimised and are assured that LOCOG has publicly committed to returning the Park to its pre-Games condition."
The document is available full on-line by clicking here.

Related stories
November 2009:
 British equestrian team throw support behind Greenwich Park
October 2009: Anti-Greenwich Park group to hold protest over London 2012
September 2009: London to cut time that Greenwich Park closed for equestrian in 2012
June 2009: London 2012 insist they do care about residents concerns over Greenwich Park
June 2009:Greenwich 2012 opponents to hold meeting