Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Oh No! Coe and NoGOE go toe to toe


Sorry, couldn't resist that headline. Last night's meeting of the Planning Board, to consider the application to use Greenwich Park for the London 2012 Olympics, was always going to be a big event. There were protesters from the NoGOE group outside, singing "we shall not be moved", and hundreds of people crowded into the Public Hall, where the meeting was held. It was a marathon, rather than a sprint - running from 6.30pm until well after 11pm, starting with a presentation from officers, then time for members of the public and relevant groups to speak either in favour or against the application, and finally a presentation by the Olympics team, led by Lord Coe himself.
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I personally spoke in favour of the application, noting that although there are some concerns which I share, LOCOG have gone a long way to meeting them, and the support of English Heritage, the Royal Parks Agency and the National Maritime Museum makes clear those agencies are satisfied it will not lead to lasting damage of the Park. I pointed out the strict planning condition which were being attached to deal with the issue of access, damage, legacy and so on, and urged the Board therefore to give their (conditional) consent.
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Fuller reports of the meeting can be found on greenwich.co.uk , and in the News Shopper.
The Board eventually gave their support by 10 votes to 2, and so the onus is now on LOCOG to live up to the promises they made. Lord Coe began his presentation by asking the Council to "trust us". People will rightly be looking for that trust to be repaid. I have set out Greenwich Conservatives' position in a statement today:
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“Whatever your view of the plans, it was right that the views of residents were properly heard by Lord Coe and his team, and by the Council. I want to see that public engagement continuing now that the application has been approved, including as many residents as possible. After last night there can be no doubt how much people love the Park. We will continue doing everything we can to ensure there is no damage to it as a result of LOCOG’s plans, and to ensure the Games are good for Greenwich.”
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As I say, I believe there needs to be greater public involvement in the detailed preparations, and I'll be pressing that point at the full Council meeting tonight. But overall, I remain pleased that we are hosting the Games, and lending our beautiful park to the world, as someone put it last night. As long as the Council, LOCOG, and residents all play their part, I am sure we can make a great success of it.

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