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HARRAP JOINS PALACE DEFENDERS

Conservation architect Julian Harrap has joined the fight to save London's Grade II*-listed Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, it has emerged.

The architect has produced these proposals (opposite) in a bid to prevent the demolition of the distinctive 1963 sports facility, designed by London County Council Architects.

Late last year, the Twentieth Century Society (C20) charged Harrap - who is currently working on London's Soane Museum - with the task of coming up with plans to save the dilapidated structure.

Now the AJ can exclusively reveal images of Harrap's controversial bid to save the crumbling sports facility from being razed to the ground.

The London Development Agency (LDA), which is running a competition to redevelop the centre, has received massive public support for its destruction and replacement with a new centre.

But Harrap has proposed to keep the landmark open by subsidising its maintenance through the creation of an enabling development nearby, potentially in the form of a new housing scheme.

The designer has also created a number of options for rejuvenating the surrounding Grade II*-listed park.

These include plans to resurrect some of its historic attractions, which include an FA Cup-quality football pitch and a motor-racing track.

Harrap said: 'We think we have a formula that would be attractive to the centre's supporters.'

Meanwhile, three other high-profile campaigners have added their voices to the growing chorus of dissent over the LDA's plans.

These include design consultant and Channel Four presenter Naomi Cleaver.

She said: 'The Crystal Palace Sports Centre is Grade-II* listed for a reason, and that's because it's a majestic, grand building that has served the community magnificently.

'Just because it is in need of refurbishment, do we really need to knock it down and start again? Surely this is throwing the baby out with the bath water, not to mention even more costly.' And Victorian Society spokesperson Kathryn Ferry said that she also could not support the centre's demolition.

'The Victorian Society believes that imaginative plans for the country's most important municipal park are long overdue, and we would encourage the LDA to take a holistic approach to this historic landscape, ' she said.

Garden History Society principal conservation officer Jonathan Lovie agrees. 'The park today is depressing and barren and the C20 Society/ Harrap proposals offer a well-balanced way forward, ' he said.

An LDA spokesperson responded by reinforcing the popular support for demolition.

Locals had, he said, voted 'seven-to-one in favour' of a new sports facility, with the 'vast majority' of these wanting to see the existing centre knocked down.

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