Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Bromley Council

  I understand that the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport is about to revisit the issue of the National Athletics Stadium.

  As the owners of the National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace, I am writing to set out Bromley's views and experience in the hope that your Committee could give some consideration to the issues set out below.

  As you know, Crystal Palace is currently the major spectator and athletics training venue in the country. We believe that wherever the 2005 games take place, any decision on a new permanent stadium for athletics in London ought to be evaluated in best value terms against a modernised and upgraded Crystal Palace.

  On 17 March this year we were informed by Sport England that together with United Kingdom Athletics, the British Olympic Association, the DCMS and the Government Office for London, they had been considering five site options for the development of a National Athletics Stadium.

  As the landlord of the National Sports Centre, in 1996 the then Minister of Sport requested that we work with Sport England to develop a modernisation scheme for Crystal Palace as a regional training and event venue for a range of sports including athletics. Because Sport England was prevented from giving themselves Lottery funding, we agreed to take the lead in developing the scheme. We did however work very closely with them and kept ministers informed of progress.

  By early 2000 we had reached the stage where we had support from all stakeholders at national, regional and local level. We were simply waiting for confirmation of the remaining partnership funding from the Sports Lottery Fund before implementing the scheme.

  For information I have attached a briefing document[5] which sets out in chronological order the background to the modernisation scheme between 1996 and 2000.

  The decision to remove athletics from Wembley in December 1999 had a major knock on effect on the scheme for Crystal Palace. It included being informed that Crystal Palace should consider becoming the venue for the 2005 Championships because the site chosen would also become the legacy stadium for athletics in the country and the elite training venue for London and the South East.

  Sport England's letter of 17 March informed us that initially a shortlist of two or three sites would be chosen which would then be considered in detail over the coming months before the winner was chosen. They said that the shortlist of sites would be made on 24 March and that we had to prepare our case and attend for interview on our proposal on 22 March.

  Five days to produce a response was incredibly short. Nevertheless, we were prepared to give it a shot because we had access to solid information. We have been working on the Crystal Palace scheme since 1996 and our design team and cost consultants were also involved in the Manchester Commonwealth Games scheme. Consequently, we felt we were able to provide a robust view on what was feasible and how much it would cost. Our conclusion was that our proposal would deliver a scheme well in advance of 2004 and would represent very good value for money for the games and as a legacy stadium.

  Our response was honest and realistic. We did not see Crystal Palace as an Olympic venue; neither did we think it was feasible to achieve a stadium with a retractable roof within the £60 million budget set out in the brief. We had other concerns because United Kingdom Athletics had not set out how they would like to see the venue used or managed to justify being a totally enclosed Olympic Stadium.

  We did however indicate that the modernised Crystal Palace could be upgraded from 16,500 to 20,000 spectators as a permanent athletics venue and that for the games we could use temporary seating and a warm up track from Manchester to increase capacity to over 40,000.

  Attached to this letter is a copy of our submission to the short-listing panel.[6] We met the panel on 22 March. We were surprised that the meeting lasted a little over an hour and were concerned that the main client for the stadium David Moorcroft arrived half way through the meeting.

  A main focus of the discussion centred on how people would travel to the stadium. While our submission had included significant detail on public transport it was apparent that United Kingdom Athletics showed more interest in car borne rather than train or bus borne traffic. Moreover, there was no transport expertise on the panel.

  When the announcement was made that Picketts Lock had been chosen as the winner rather than a shortlist formed, we did not seek to challenge the decision. Just as we had undertaken significant feasibility work naturally we assumed that feasibility studies at other sites had demonstrated that they could achieve the extensive brief and deliver better value than Crystal Palace.

  It has come as a great surprise to us to learn:

    —  The estimated cost of the Picketts Lock Scheme.

    —  That a feasibility study is not yet complete.

    —  That the retractable roof proposal appears to have been dropped.

    —  The lack of existing provision for public transport in the Picketts Lock proposal.

    —  The expectation that they can achieve a scheme by early 2005.

    —  The risk that they will not have a scheme completed by summer 2004 for pre event testing.

  We believe that in the light of the emerging evidence of a changing brief and significantly changed cost parameters, an independent review be undertaken of the decision to choose Picketts Lock.

  Bromley is convinced such a review is likely to demonstrate that either Wembley or Crystal Palace is a better value option for the 2005 games and that a modernised Crystal Palace should remain as the permanent events stadium and athletics training centre.

  In conclusion, we would be pleased to supply additional information or to discuss our views and experience to the Committee. Please don't hesitate to contact us directly.

December 2000

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