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Olympic planners accused of abusing system

Fears are growing that the authorities charged with delivering London's 2012 Olympic Games are abusing the planning and Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) systems.

Just days after the Greater London Authority's (GLA's) London Development Agency (LDA) used its CPO powers to snap up the Stratford City site ( see article here), concerns have been voiced that new policy could freeze regeneration and reduce land values.

Among the policies raising eyebrows is the proposed Leaside Area Action Plan (AAP), that could acquire legal status by the end of the year.

Tower Hamlets council wants to reserve the Leaside area for light-industrial use - a decision that could keep CPO values down and help the LDA with further land purchases.

The move has infuriated Paul Latham, of local practice Neu Architects. He said: 'The Leaside AAP reverses all central government planning guidance on sustainability.

'It's like going back to the 1980s. An industrial zone is totally unjustifiable and against all the principles of mixed-use, sustainable development.'

Latham believes the AAP will be a backward step for the area that was thriving under previous mixed-use led policies.

'The Olympics should be a driver for the regeneration of east London,' he said. 'These planning policies freeze development in the areas around the Games.'

He added: 'This is a chance to create a new face for east London, a world first. Stopping development and zoning for factories just beggars belief.'

The architect feels the GLA - and the government - are to blame for the apparent change in direction. He said: '[They] are blind to the opportunities. They see the Games as a property deal. I think it is clear that the

GLA is attempting to abuse the planning and compulsory purchase system in the run-up to the Olympics.'

Paul Brickell, the chief executive of the Leaside Regeneration Company, also admitted that the proposals could assist the authorities in the build-up to the Games. However, he disagreed that there has been any abuse of power.

'Lower values would be convenient, that is certain. But I don't think this is a conspiracy,' he said.

'There is a school of thought in the GLA that there is a need for a zone of light industrial use. These are arguments that pre-date the Olympics bid.

'They are perfectly reasonable arguments, though I would take issue with some of them personally.'

And insinuations that Tower Hamlets has been 'put upon' by more powerful authorities during the drafting of the Leaside AAP have also been strongly denied by a spokeswoman for the council.

She said: 'I can absolutely confirm that the LDA has certainly not pressurised us in respect of the Leaside Area Action Plan.

'In fact, it is probably completely the opposite way round - we are the ones who are trying to influence the LDA/GLA's Olympic Legacy Regeneration Framework.'

by Richard Waite

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