Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Third Report


Memorandum submitted by Friends of the Earth, Greenwich

  1.  Friends of the Earth exists to protect and improve the conditions for life on Earth, now and for the future. Friends of the Earth is one of the largest international environmental networks in the world, with over 50 groups across five continents. It is one of the UK's most influential national environmental pressure groups, and has a unique network of campaigning local groups, working in 250 communities throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  2.  Jennifer Bates is currently co-ordinator of Greenwich Friends of the Earth, and as such also speaks for Friends of the Earth on Greenwich Millennium issues.

3.  Summary of some key suggestions

  Transport: more local involvement needed in developing transport strategy:

    —  Woolwich Arsenal must be park-and-sail not park-and-ride;

    —  River transport should be part of the travelcard system;

    —  Sainsbury's food and non-food retail car parking on the Greenwich Peninsula site must be drastically reduced.

  Content of MEX and finance and sponsorship for NMEC:

    —  sponsors being zone specific and having control of zone content must be rethought and arrangements made transparent;

    —  sponsorship still to be sought should be critically assessed.

  Plans for use of the Dome after the year 2000:

    —  proper involvement of local stakeholders in this matter.

4.  Request to present oral evidence on the matter presented below

5.  Transport and ticketing arrangements for the Millennium Experience (MEX)

  We refer you to our submission to the Committee's previous inquiry, but make the following specific points below.

  6.  Despite its World Heritage Site status and famous buildings, Greenwich is a downhill, downstream and downwind borough, and as such suffers from bad pollution and has above average asthma levels. In the context of the Road Traffic Reduction Act along with the National Air Quality Strategy/Local Air Quality Management, the London Planning Advisory Committee has published a proposed strategy for reducing road traffic in London and suggested a figure of 25 per cent traffic reduction for LB Greenwich (by 2005, based on 1997 levels).

  7.  The importance of MEX's transport strategy for the exhibition year and for the legacy it leaves cannot be underestimated. We advocate the principle that people should think "to visit the Dome is to leave your car at home". We believe the cost of tickets to the Dome should reflect the mode of travel used. We understand that the Earth Centre in Doncaster is planning to offer in the region of 40 per cent discount for those arriving by foot, cycle, train, bus—as opposed to car.

  8.  What we need and what would be a proper legacy, would be to set in place a comprehensive and integrated transport plan for the whole region (north and south-east London) that would build traffic reduction, developed with the full participation of the local stakeholders.

  9.  A crucial element of the above would be to put in place an improved network of local buses to feed people of the region into their local transport hubs—train or tube station or pier—so that they can travel all the way to MEX by public transport. Local residents on Blackwall Lane, however, are concerned that the road is taking the brunt as an access route. There should be reallocation of roadspace to give safer pedestrian facilities and segregated cycle routes. We feel that the A102M should be downgraded from an M-road (whereby widening from three to four lanes in parts currently being undertaken would be unnecessary due to reduced speeds). Whatever happens one lane should be a bus lane in each direction, and this linked in with MEX coaches.

  10.  Train services should be upgraded with more and later running trains. There are local concerns about the transit link interchange being constructed at Charlton station including the only local bank being under threat.

  11.  River transport services are a very welcome part of the MEX transport strategy but it seems ridiculous that it is due to be a premium service and not part of the travelcard system. The Committee's report of July 98 notes how a MEX river service could stimulate the establishment of a permanent river passenger service as a legacy. The previous river boat service which collapsed was also not part of the Travelcard system.

  12.  As one of the five massive purpose built park-and-ride/sail sites originally planned, Woolwich Arsenal is still being pursued. Whereas we oppose these sites, this one at least had the benefit of being park-and-sail. The New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) now want to serve it with a shuttle bus, but this should not be allowed to happen. The ridiculous idea of using Falconwood Field—an area of supposedly protected Metropolitan Open Land—as a park-and-ride has nominally been dropped, but must be completely withdrawn.

  13.  The Controlled Parking Zones around the Dome will be an essential part of the strategy, but many locals have been left confused between these and various traffic management options for the area, also being considered. There have been many calls that consultation was mishandled. There should be reappraisal of what people want now, and a chance to re-evaluate once MEX has finished.

  14.  It should be noted that the Jubilee Line Extension (JLE) though essential now for MEX is not a legacy of MEX—indeed British Gas paid in excess of £20 million to London Underground to secure the station at a time when it would benefit any regeneration plans for the site—their own or any other.

  15.  Sainsbury's have been applying for car parking spaces for their food and non-food retail development on a part of the same millennium site. LB Greenwich have now agreed up to 850 spaces with the idea that they will voluntarily be reduced over time. In view of the need for traffic reduction and NMEC's attempts to produce a car-free site, this figure should be drastically reduced. The UDP minimum would be 175, but under revised standards according to Government guidance, the figure would be between 16 and 54 for such a development.

  16.  The Committee's report of July 98 said "we urge the Government to bear in mind that the support and involvement of the local community are likely to be integral to the success of the transport strategy and to ensure that the concerns voiced in evidence to this Committee are listened to and, where appropriate, acted upon as the strategy evolves". We were looking forward to more involvement, but this has not been the case, and in this absence matters were discussed at a meeting arranged by the Greenwich Sustainable Millennium Network (of which the author is a member) on 7 December 1998 with representatives of NMEC, LB Greenwich, local business and community representatives. More involvement and cooperation must be arranged.

17.  Content of MEX and finance and sponsorship arrangements for NMEC

  These topics are taken together because sadly they have become completely linked in reality.

  18.  The Dome is ending up with the potential to be effectively permanent, but it should have been conceived with that possibility from the start. Local stakeholders should have been involved from day one in planning what could be useful and appropriate to that site and to the people of Greenwich afterwards, and this integrated with requirements for a Millennium Exhibition.

  19.  Perhaps the project might have been smaller (if only to reduce transport demands). Why do we need 14 zones anyway? A small project might have required less or no corporate finance. Any corporate funding should have gone into a central fund and could have been used, for instance, for solar panels for the Dome roof, or something with real symbolism and substance for 21st century living.

  20.  Instead we have the symbolism and reality of corporate dominance of our society. We seem desperate to claw back £12 million from corporations who might be keen to endear themselves to New Labour to sponsor a zone in the Dome, and in the process we turn MEX into a virtual trade fair—and a part lottery—funded one at that.

  21.  There is serious concern over the sponsors' links with lobbying firms and their links with Government. For instance, it was reported (Observer 26/7/98) that lobbying firm LLM—involved in campaigning on behalf of Tesco to block plans for a tax on car spaces—had "suggested that a £12 million Tesco donation to the Millennium Dome was part of a "quid pro quo deal"—giving its support to a Government project in order to endear itself to New Labour". The paper went on to say that there is no suggestion that Tesco made the Dome donation to help it get its way over the car park tax issue. But the plan to impose the tax was dropped from last week's White Paper on transport—and the terms of the exemption were exactly as LLM's Ben Lucas had suggested. The Sunday Times of 12/7/98 said that the estimated cost to Tesco of the car park tax would have been £40 million.

  22.  Sponsors clearly see funding as directly beneficial. BAe and GEC seem to see it as a recruiting fair "if we are able to excite even one in 10 of the Mind Zone's younger visitors about the possibilities of a career in science and technology, then our sponsorship will have been more than worthwhile" say GEC. McDonalds talk about "our restaurants (around the country) will be a focal point as communities research, plan and prepare to perform their stories at the Millennium Dome" (for "our town story" that they are sponsoring). To nobody's surprise it seems they will be able to have McDonalds catering at the Dome. To minimise waste from the 80,000 meals projected to be served every day at the Dome, we have been calling for catering licences to only be given where proper washable crockery and cutlery would be used. If any takeaway food was considered essential we advocated the best option to be researched which could be compostable materials or a common form of washable material which could be communally washed and redistributed.

  23.  The fact that founding sponsors (those putting in £12 million) are zone-specific, and seem to be commanding control of the zone they sponsor, we feel is totally unacceptable. For instance it was reported (Independent on Sunday 15/11/98) that Ford, due to sponsor the Mobility Zone, will be given "market exclusivity" so that only Ford cars would be shown. The Mobility Zone is supposed to examine the advantages and disadvantages of different types of transport including walking, cycling and rail, as well as motor vehicles. Just how unbiased can we expect this examination to be? We feel the whole area of control of zone content by sponsors must be rethought, and just what arrangements and rights are organised must be made transparent.

  24.  There is still more sponsorship being sought, but what are we prepared to do to bring them on board? Already it seems as if zones are devised to suit potential sponsors. Originally there were nine zones, now there are 14. "Mobility" (due to be Ford) was never originally proposed, nor was "Learn" (Tesco's zone), or "communicate" (BT).

  25.  Is there any sponsor we wouldn't accept? We already are due to have fossil fuel guzzling and climate changing Ford. They belong to the Global Climate Coalition which was fighting meaningful agreement at the Kyoto climate change talks while John Prescott was fighting for their success—and yet we welcome them to support our national exhibition. We also have traffic-generating and local shop and employment threatening Tesco, waste-producing and wage depressing McDonalds, arms manufacturing GEC/BAe. I'm just surprised we haven't got the tobacco industry. In fact even this possibility is on the cards as the Ministry of Sound, whose Chairman James Palumbo is a friend of Peter Mandelson, proposed to the Government that it take over the Spirit Zone in the Dome. The Ministry of Sound have sponsorship deals with BAT.

26.  Plans to use the Dome after the year 2000

  As voiced above, we feel that local stakeholders should have been involved from day one in planning if the dome should be permanent and if so what could be useful and appropriate for that site and for the people of Greenwich afterwards (and this integrated with requirements for MEX).

  27.  This didn't happen and the Dome was conceived as a temporary structure, with planning permission granted for a temporary exhibition. However the 11th hour change of roof material (to a still dubious but probably better substance) means the Dome could be effectively permanent. Since the land use plan for the Dome area indicates "leisure" for future use, as long as the Dome had a leisure use in future (and most suggested uses do), it seems as if further planning permission would be granted. Whereas we are glad that the Dome is not now so throwaway, this means that we in Greenwich could be stuck with the Dome; we could have the Dome dumped on us by the back door.

  28.  There might be all sorts of knock-on effects arising from the Dome being permanent, such as the potential problems from ongoing transport requirements. Would any future use demand the ongoing use of the giant park-and-ride sites, or the ongoing use of the coach park at the millennium site? The latter is due to be developed as housing afterwards to join up with the Millennium Village.

  29.  Being left with the Dome, if it happens, will have taken place without the proper participation by local stakeholders. There was some public consultation—some meetings and exhibitions and a chance to comment, but essentially this was just information dissemination on what had already been decided. And even this was on the basis of it being temporary. There has been some ongoing dialogue with a restricted number of local organisations (groups such as ourselves excluded), but this has not been adequate. Even the conference organised by Docklands Forum for NMEC on 8 December 1998 was wall to wall speeches with no time for questions.

  30.  As far as the future is concerned, is there going to be any proper participation of local stakeholders in deciding what happens to the Dome after MEX, or are we going to have a plan imposed on us with little more than a chance to comment after it has been drawn up? It was reported (Independent 10/7/98) that Mandelson had revealed that a committee of civil servants had been set up to ponder what happens to the Dome after 2000, but it seems that neither the Government, English Partnerships, or NMEC have seen fit to launch an initiative to involve local stakeholders. In this vacuum Docklands Forum have initiated an exploratory consultation exercise on what locals would like to see happen to the Dome (and it seems most people want a flexible or mixed use). Apparently NMEC were offered involvement and didn't grasp it, but are now interested in the results. A full scale, wide ranging, proper participation exercise should start now involving the local stakeholders on whether the Dome should stay, and if so how it should be used. The results should have real weight and bearing on what happens.

  31.  The Dome and the millennium site should be a good legacy for Greenwich, but in fact rather than regeneration developing properly, development has been rushed through off the back of the Dome. A political decision to have some part of the Millennium Village built so that visitors to the Dome can also visit the village has meant that it has been pushed through with proper participation of local people squeezed out. Local community participation is as much part of building a sustainable community as the energy efficiency that the village is so proud of. The nuclear reactor in the Royal Naval College is being decommissioned "in time for the millennium celebrations", again without local people being properly involved (at the public meeting that option, only one of the four, was already decided on). It seems the building itself is not needed for any celebrations, rather they would prefer the discharges of radioactive waste into the sewers and air of Greenwich had finished by the time people come to MEX.

  32.  We are concerned that long after the millennium celebrations are over, the local people will feel the legacy of muddled planning as the so-called regeneration of the Greenwich Peninsula site has been rushed through. We feel that far from being a model of regeneration, it has not been sustainable regeneration, and that some of the worst 20th century mistakes have been repeated on this supposedly flagship 21st century site.

January 1999

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