By Mehul Damani (Crystal Palace Park Community Stakeholder Group) www.twitter.com/mehuldamani
“masterplan” for rejuvenating Crystal Palace Park was submitted in November 2007. Commissioned by the London Development Agency, the original aims were to increase the park’s profile as community, heritage, leisure and educational asset through restoring some historical park features and building new facilities.
The latest proposal comes from Chinese ZhongRong Group, who intends to spend £500M on reconstructing the Crystal Palace and restoring the wider park. According to ZhongRong, their design will remain faithful to Sir Joseph Paxton’s cast-iron and plate-glass masterpiece, built originally to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. As for the rest of the park, the intention is to honour the masterplan’s provisions “to create a modern 21st century park of national importance which reflects Paxton’s original ideas and responds to the needs of local residents.”
Various questions remain. What will the ultimate purpose of the rebuilt palace be: commercial, social or cultural - and what kind of tenants are we likely to see? How do we manage the impact on the local community and transport infrastructure of resurrecting such a major structure, likely as it is to attract large numbers of visitors?
Finally, it looks like ZhongRong may obtain exclusive rights over a large section of the park that is currently designated as metropolitan open land - what will the impact be of such a deal on future developments in the park? And to what extent will the community have a say when it comes to final design, integration of facilities and the ongoing management and operation?