The London 2012 Olympic Games has been taking a bit of a bashing of late. The land is contaminated with radioactive waste and the budget continues to spiral into the stratosphere - at last count it had reached approximately £5 billion. This week, however, the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) was able to announce some rare good news: the body has submitted its masterplan for the Olympic Park site for planning.
The catchily named Olympic and Legacy Transformation Planning Application is a behemoth of a masterplan - at 15 volumes and 10,000 pages it is one of the biggest planning proposals in European history.
At first glance, the planning process seems counter-intuitive.
After all, who will refuse planning for the Olympics, especially when it is the ODA's own planning committee which is reviewing it? But the ODA has been quick to quash any murmurs that it will be judge, jury and executioner on the application.
David Higgins, ODA chief executive, is adamant that the planning committee is an independent group which will not be inuenced by the ODA board. 'It is a totally independent process that will be completely transparent to the public, ' Higgins says. 'All local authorities will be represented in the planning committee.
Every planning issue will go out to public consultation, and all planning meetings will be in front of a public forum.'
The planning committee consists of two ODA board members, four councillors from each of the local authorities, and five independent members.
Whether the ODA-appointed planning committee will be inuenced by its own board remains to be seen, but it is interesting to note that the committee chair, Lorraine Baldry, is also an ODA board representative.
The masterplan application has been separated into two elements to allow for the remediation and preparation of the site in advance of the second phase, which looks at the design and construction of the venues, as well as the 'legacy transformation'. The application has been designed for speed. Work has already begun on the first element - demolition has been taking place for several months - but it is the second element which is particularly interesting.
This part of the application is a 'hybrid', meaning that it seeks both outline planning permission and full planning permission. Outline permission is required for the construction of venues, bridges and aboveground utilities, while the ODA planning committee will grant full permission once the design process for each part of the infrastructure has been completed, making it a mere formality.
All aspects have been planned to prevent the Olympics being late. When Athens realised it might be tardy for 2004 it cost the city billions to correct. London, after the monumental furore over the projected budget, is doing everything it can to avoid further overspending.
Higgins says: 'We are thinking about the legacy at a very early stage - five and a half years before the games begin. We have now moved from the planning phase to the next stage of the Olympic Park project, which will focus more on design, taking us up to Beijing [in 2008].'
The planning application will be subject to a statutory 28-day public consultation, allowing members of the public to comment. The document will then be considered along with the feedback before any recommendations are passed to the ODA's planning committee.
According to EDAW, the practice responsible for the Olympic Park masterplan, the plans have changed very little since the last revision in June 2006, but the practice says it will be interested to see how the plans look when full planning is granted. Won't we all?
BREAKDOWN OF OLYMPIC DELIVERY
2007 London Development Agency announces all land in Olympic Park acquired. Masterplan for Olympic, Paralympic and legacy transformation submitted for planning. Work to remove all pylons completed.
2008 Construction of park infrastructure, ie. utilities, roads and bridges, begins. Construction work on aquatics centre and main stadium begins.
2009 Construction on velopark and athletes' village begins, as well as on remaining permanent venues, and the three temporary venues.
2010 Construction and transportation implementation continues, except heavy rail, which is expected to complete.
2011 Venue construction completed, latter part of the year sees media centre completed.
2012 Athlete's village completed. Venues tested and games begin.