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Scrapped: Crystal Palace rebuild proposals ditched


Bromley Council has confirmed it has ripped up its deal with Chinese developer ZhongRong Group for the proposed redevelopment of Crystal Palace

The news comes after a 16-month-long ‘exclusivity agreement’ with the developer expired earlier this month.

Bromley Council had offered ZhongRong an extra 14 days to meet a number of conditions about its commitment to the project which would have seen Joseph Paxton’s landmark building ‘re-imagined’ by a leading architect.

However ZhongRong failed to meet the criteria before the deadline.

Last February the Chinese developer 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 the south London icon (AJ 25.02.14).

The contest had been backed by Mayor of London Boris Johnson and boasted an impressive judging panel which included RIBA president Stephen Hodder and Peter Murray, the chair of New London Architecture.

A winner had been expected in the summer with a planning application for the new cultural destination due before the end of 2014. However plans for the redevelopment of the Paxton-designed palace remain uncertain and the council has said it ‘will meet with community stakeholders to review the options going forward’.

Leader of Bromley Council, Stephen Carr said: ‘There is a major opportunity here to do something that might really improve the park and provide much needed regeneration locally too.

‘This was why we were prepared to properly listen to what ZhongRong had to say but we were never going to simply say yes to absolutely anything as we need to get this right.

‘Now, we will meet with community stakeholders as we have done all the way along this process to review options going forwards. Importantly too, we are continuing to progress plans to improve Crystal Palace Park with an investment in excess of £2 million.’

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.

Green Party candidate for Lewisham West and Penge, Tom Chance has hit out at the process and called on Mayor of London Boris Johnson to issue an apology over the failed plans.

Boris Johnson owes Crystal Palace an apology

‘The Mayor owes Crystal Palace an apology for keeping community groups out of the park for sixteen months, and losing £4.5 million in lottery funding, while entertaining this ridiculous proposal’, said Chance.

He added: ‘Park users will be delighted to hear that this deal has finally fallen through. The GLA and council now need to get back to working with the local community to implement the masterplan, which recognises that the park is a green lung for the local community, an important sports venue for London and the south east, and an internationally important heritage site, not a building site.’



Readers' comments (2)

  • With this dead initiative for recreating the Crystal Palace, and the still alive and kicking project for inserting a planted bridge over the Thames between Temple and the South Bank, I wonder if Boris Johnson is beginning to exhibit an unfortunate penchant for promoting the sort of daft 'grand project' that attracts populist support but in reality is a can of expensive - and destructive - worms.

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  • I remember the fire which destroyed Paxton's original Crystal Palace as a young lad living in South London. The North Tower survived the fire and was a landmark on the horizon until blown up in 1942 as it was considered a landmark for German bombers. While very successful originally, after the end of WW1 it had been in financial difficulties and had to be rescued from bankruptcy. Immediately after the war an international architectural competition was held won by Lanchester & Lodge but fortunately never happened as it was a heavy neo classical design and totally out of character with Paxton's design. When the Crystal Palace as the centre of the 1851 Great Exhibition was dismantled and re-erected on the heights of Norwood the Victorians developed two railway stations to bring the visitors to the Crystal Palace. The upper level station was closed after WW11. I moved to the In the 1960's I lived close by and when the old LCC put the site out for competition I submitted a scheme for a conference and leisure centre. This was abandoned when the then Government decided it should be redeveloped as a the National Exhibition and Conference Centre. At the time I was deeply involved in the Local Amenity Society - The Norwood Society - their planning and architectural advisor and we objected to the Exhibition scheme mainly on the lack of public transport accessabilty to the site. We put on a very successful Local Exhibition "Living with the Palace". The National Exhibition Centre scheme was abandoned and eventually built in Birmingham. Those top terraces have stood empty and lonely since. It is a magnificent site that if it is to be redeveloped should be an icon building that is of this century and not an attempt to re-create Paxton's iron and glass Victorian Crystal Palace. Public Transport acessabilty has improved with the new rail link to Croydon but is still questionable whether a similar size "new" Crystal Palace in whatever form has sufficient public transport facilities to ensure success. I was involved in the consultation in the preparation of the master plan for the whole of the park. and broadly support its objectives. But the "green" part of the park is very large and I do not believe the loss of open parkland is a valid reason to object in principle to
    redeveloping the top level terraces. But if it is not possible to redevelop it with an iconic building of this century I will be happy to continue to wander nostalgically among the remains of the old Palace taking in the magnificent views and what still remains of the motor racing track with memories of the top driver and cars that raced there in the 30's and the 40's. Owen Luder CBE PPRIBA. Past President Norwood Society.

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