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Chinese developer given ultimatum over stalled Crystal Palace contest

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Bromley Council has told Chinese developer ZhongRong Group it has 14 days to commit to its proposed redevelopment of Crystal Palace or risk having the deal ripped up

Last February ZhongRong named a stellar shortlist of half a dozen of the UK’s biggest hitters, including David Chipperfield, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and a collaboration between Zaha Hadid Architects and Anish Kapoor, for the £500 million project to resurrect Joseph Paxton’s south London landmark.

A winner had been expected in the summe,r with a planning application for the new cultural destination due before the end of 2014.

But negotiations between the Chinese developer and the local authority stalled over the land deal and the company’s 16-month ‘exclusivity agreement’ for the site ran out at the end of January.

The council, backed by the Greater London Authority, confirmed it would start talking with other interested parties unless ZhongRong agreed to ‘a number of financial and business planning-related conditions’ before 20 February.

Stephen Carr, leader of Bromley Council, said: ‘We need to reassure local people that we remain resolutely focused on doing everything we can to improve Crystal Palace Park and this must include securing its long-term future. It would also be wrong to overlook the exciting potential for much-needed regeneration in this part of London.

‘This is why we have given the ZhongRong Group the opportunity to agree financial and other conditions, which include the preparation of a robust and agreed business plan and implementation timetable. We’ve written to ZhongRong setting out very clearly what they need to do next.’

ZhongRong’s bid to recreate Crystal Palace, which was destroyed by fire in 1936, as a new attraction reflecting the original ‘spirit, scale and magnificence’ of Paxton’s original structure made national headlines.

Billed as a new ‘culture-led exhibition and employment space’, the scheme was set to create up to 2,000 jobs and would incorporate the listed Italianate garden terraces. The scheme was earmarked to sit within Latz + Partners’ existing masterplan for the wider revamp of the surrounding 80ha park.

The judging panel for the design contest included Mayor of London Boris Johnson, RIBA president Stephen Hodder, Peter Murray, the chair of New London Architecture, former CABE chairman John Sorrell and Hank Dittmar from the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community.

A spokesperson for ZhongRong insisted the team remained ‘fully committed’ to the project and that ‘discussions were continuing’.

He added: ‘This is obviously a complex and ambitious project so it makes sense to take the time to go through everything in detail.  Whether the continuing development of these detailed proposals takes place within an exclusivity agreement is currently under discussion. After conclusion of the legal and commercial negotiations, which include complex matters such as the lease options, we would plan to move steadily on to further public consultation on the detailed proposals and design before submitting a planning application.’

Shortlist in full:

  • David Chipperfield Architects
  • Grimshaw with FutureCity
  • Haworth Tompkins Architects
  • Marks Barfield Architects
  • Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners


Tom Chance, Green Party candidate for Lewisham West and Penge:
‘It’s incredible that Bromley Council have let sixteen months pass without the most basic elements of this project being agreed, and are now still leaving the door open to the ZhongRong Group.

‘They’ve wasted the time of the architects who put in proposals, blocked community groups from restoring parts of the park, and scuppered a bid for millions of pounds of lottery funding. The council, and the GLA, need to get back to implementing the adopted masterplan for this park which rules out such a huge over-development of the hill top.’



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Readers' comments (1)

  • Interestingly, researching steel windows and Crystal Palace, I learned that a chap working on the original building with the glazing company was a Mr Clement.

    His association developed one way or another into the firm Clement Windows and apparently, in the National Fenestration Awards 2014, the firm, still going, gained second place in the steel window company category.

    How's that for a bit of trivia?!

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