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


Memorandum submitted by the London Borough of Enfield


  1.1  The London Borough of Enfield welcomes the opportunity to submit further evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee to assist its investigation of the staging of international sporting events. Enfield Council regrets the government's decision to cancel the project since, as stated in previous evidence, the council believes that staging the 2005 world athletics championships in a new purpose-built stadium would be a significant boost to the regeneration of a severely deprived area of London. Contrary to the Carter report the council believes that a successful championships could have been held at Picketts Lock and that the stadium project was, and still is, viable having outline planning permission approved by the local planning authority and every expectation that approval would be given by the Mayor of London as the strategic planning authority for London.

  1.2  Enfield Council has always understood that this was a project of national importance which, with other local partners such as the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, neighbouring local authorities, and UK Athletics, it was helping to facilitate on behalf of government. Therefore although the council has fully delivered on its commitment to the project it recognises the right of the government to cancel the project in the context of its assessment that circumstances have changed. However, the government should, in turn, recognise the considerable effort put into this project by Enfield Council, largely on the basis of the personal backing from the Secretary of State for Culture and the Prime Minister. Enfield Council was never a "bidder" for this project. The council is a supporter of the government's policy and aspiration to hold major events in the UK and therefore, in relation to Picketts Lock, viewed itself as a facilitator to assist government in delivering its aspiration. Clearly, the council recognised the opportunity to regenerate the local sub-region but it was largely on the basis of unambiguous government support for Picketts Lock that it was prepared to expend large amounts of its time, energy and finance with other partners to deliver the project.

  1.3  The government should not underestimate the adverse effect of this decision on the local area and the hopeful expectation that the government will support future attempts to secure the social and economic regeneration of the Upper Lee Valley.

  1.4  In an attempt to draw conclusions which may be helpful for future projects the council wishes to suggest the following as lessons to be learned from its involvement with the project over the past 18 months.


  2.1  In April 2000 the United Kingdom's bid to host the 2005 World Athletics Championships was presented to the IAAF Council in Paris the bid team was led by government together with the governing body for the sport, UK Athletics. The experience in other countries is that the bid team is led by the host city together with the sports governing body. Through an accident of timing the host city, London, could not be properly represented since the GLA was not formed until May 2000, a month after the selection. Whether government expected the GLA to take on the lead role as the host city for the staging of the world championships was never clear. Neither government nor the GLA has signed the event agreement. It was suggested that UK Sport should do this although exactly how this organisation would be able to co-ordinate key elements such as transport was never made clear. The GLA and Transport for London as its strategic transport authority, would have been ideally placed to take a more leading role.

  2.2  Other members of the bidding team, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and Middlesex University, had specific roles which were part of the total project of staging the world championships: to provide a venue for the championships and accommodation for the athletes. Neither organisation had either the remit, the capacity or the strategic authority to deliver the complete project.

  2.3  Clearly, in preparation for staging the world's third largest sporting event in one of the world's great cities transport would always be an issue. The upgrade of the rail connection to Picketts Lock which, in common with the university accommodation, had been programmed for the area in advance of the world championships bid in 2000. These were not items of additional expenditure required by the Picketts Lock project.

  2.4  One of the reasons the Picketts Lock site had been selected was on the basis that it was within an existing regeneration area where there were existing strategies and programmes (the area has European Union Objective 2 status and had secured funding from this programme for the project) that complemented the proposals for a stadium.

  2.5  Despite the absence of an accountable body taking responsibility considerable progress was made to deliver the 2005 World Athletics Championships for the nation. At a local level the partners set up a Lee Valley "Stakeholder Board" chaired by Peter Lyne a senior vice president of Nortel Networks to bring together those public and private sector organisations which could help deliver the 2005 championships. However, in the absence of clear leadership at the regional or national level, or a direct mandate from government this grouping could only seek to persuade rather than provide the authority and direction such a large project requires.

  2.6  It is the opinion of Enfield Council that with clear leadership the core project—staging the 2005 World Athletics Championships—could have been delivered. Those elements which were identified within the Carter report as being uncertain, principally transport and accommodation, were essentially issues of prioritisation rather than funding which has been suggested. The programme of rail improvements to the Lee Valley line (known as the West Anglia Route Modernisation) has already commenced and further enhancements, that could have been implemented with the right commitment of all parties, could have increased the capacity of the line.

  2.7  However, in the final assessment the proposed transport strategy for 2005 did not require additional rail capacity, although the legacy would have benefited from the enhancements when completed. This strategy was accepted by the local planning authority and by the GLA. It was also made clear to the Carter review team that the timing of sessions during the World championships could be arranged to avoid the peak travel periods. Although it is believed that with sufficient political will the WARM project, which has an existing funding commitment, could have been delivered this was not viewed as essential for 2005. Similarly, delays in the university accommodation project, which the council understands are principally concerned with site assembly issues can, and will, be solved at some point. How much more rapidly with strategic leadership at national and/or London levels was a question not posed by the Carter review.


  3.1  The role of Sport England in relation to Picketts Lock has been difficult for the organisation itself which has had consequences for the overall project. It has always been clear that key figures within Sport England opposed the Picketts Lock project in principle. Enfield Council understands that this opposition stems from a belief that Picketts Lock was unnecessary on the basis that the "platform solution" proposed for Wembley would have worked for a world athletics championships.

  3.2  However, the decision to stage the 2005 World Championships was the decision of an elected government. It is therefore disappointing that Sport England did not approach the project with the same sense of urgency and commitment applied by Enfield Council, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and UK Athletics whose exemplary efforts toward delivering the government's policy should not go unnoticed.

  3.3  In addition, faced with a projected fall in revenue for the sports lottery, Sport England has grown increasingly concerned that Picketts Lock would draw in unjustifiably large amounts of lottery money: money which might otherwise be used to support more "grass-roots" sports development.

  3.4  To some extent this is a tension at the heart of sports provision in Britain: whether to fund landmark projects to demonstrate the nation's capabilities at a world level or to provide support at a community level.

  3.5  In the opinion of the council this is a false dichotomy as other countries, notably France and Australia, have shown. Picketts Lock stadium could have been used to demonstrate that landmark projects which are properly rooted within a local structure with the necessary development capacity can provide real benefits at all levels. In addition there is a large body of evidence to show that high profile events are a major boost to "grass roots" participation. Athletics in the United Kingdom has a very broad base and is one of the most accessible sports for those groups which tend to be excluded from society. This, combined with the sport's innovative approach to sports development, were significant reasons behind Enfield Council wishing to work with the sport.

  3.6  Taking this argument one step further Enfield Council has always viewed the stadium project as an important catalyst for regeneration of a deprived area. This is very much in line with current government policy of using sport to provide social and economic regeneration of a local area, a view confirmed by the current Minister for Sport when, in a meeting with Enfield Council, Lee Valley and UK Athletics, he specifically requested evidence of the regenerative benefit of Picketts Lock.

  3.7  Unfortunately, neither Sport England nor the Carter review team seemed prepared to accept this approach as justification for the new stadium, even in part. Sport England claimed that this was not the purpose of lottery funding. Mr Carter, despite "buying completely the regeneration argument" and declaring it to be a thoroughly good thing for the Lee Valley, could not consider it as an issue since it was outside his terms of reference for the review.

  3.8  There seems to be strong evidence that both Sport England and Patrick Carter were either not prepared or not allowed to see the "wider picture". It is difficult to see how any major sport project can be justified on the basis of the sporting interest alone. At a policy level government appears to accept the wider social and economic benefits of sport although this does not seem to have been included in its assessment of Picketts Lock.

  3.9  This issue also touches upon the "white elephant" criticism of the Picketts Lock project. It has been recognised for some time by professional football clubs that in order to build a sustainable business their "off pitch" commercial activities should provide sufficient profit to mitigate the uncertainties of the team on the pitch. Recognising that athletics is a sport of high participation but low income the Picketts Lock project was always geared toward developing income "off pitch" through commercial activities located in the undercroft of the stands. This point was always understood by a wide range of strategic bodies including the Association of London Government, London Tourist Board, Government Office for London. Unfortunately neither Sport England, Patrick Carter or government seem to have been persuaded.

  3.10  As the principal funding body Sport England had considerable influence over the project although little direct involvement in the project's management, instead using grant conditions as the main way of exercising control. While this approach is consistent with other sports lottery projects is is not appropriate for such a large complex project with a number of uncertainties. For the 2005 World Championships there were, in effect, three separate lottery funds involved: for the main stadium, the high performance centre and for the event. Add to this the complex cocktail of mainly public sector funding required to deliver the various elements of the championships then the project becomes overly complex.

  3.11  In addition to the requirement for co-ordinated leadership of the project Enfield Council also believes that funding for the project should have been routed through a single accountable body to ensure that the organisation responsible for delivering the whole project also held the budgets for the project.


  4.1  The Picketts Lock project was characterised by a series of reviews. Essentially the concept was born from a review of Wembley in December 1999, was stalled in December 2000 awaiting the outcome of a further review of Wembley and was finally killed off as a result of the Carter review in August 2001. Despite various delays those charged with delivering the stadium: Lee Valley, UK Athletics and Enfield Council maintained and sustained the project almost exactly to timetable.

  4.2  However, while the council, as a responsible public body, acknowledges the need for regular scrutiny to ensure that public money is being properly spent, confidence in the project was inevitably undermined. This was especially damaging in limiting the prospects for private sector involvement which was actually much stronger than suggested by Patrick Carter. The evidence used in the Carter report was based on a study by Ernst and Young completed less than four months into the project and which took an acknowledged pessimistic view of income generation. As the project appeared more certain (March 2001 onward) a number of private sector companies expressed strong interest in the project.

  4.3  The review by Patrick Carter was conducted with integrity, meetings were properly conducted and, unusually for this project, there were no leaks or "off the record" briefings to the press. However, inevitably for a report carried out in such a short time, there were numerous errors of fact and assumptions made with little evidence presented to support them. For example the review concludes that the proposed transport solution would not work for the world championships. This conclusion appears to be based on the evidence of a letter from the Strategic Rail Authority which sets out the carrying capacity of the line during peak times. The review appears to ignore the combined evidence of the Enfield and the GLA planning officers, evidence by the London 2005 organisers stating that event programming could be timed to avoid peak travel times and the transport strategy within the planning application which is based on workable solutions at other major stadia. Mr Carter appeared to have a prejudice against "park and ride" and other "patchwork solutions" as he described them preferring instead significantly more parking at the site. The park and ride solution is one that is well established at a number of major stadia in Britain and interestingly underpinned the 2001 Championships in Edmonton, where there was no on site parking.

  4.4  It is not the purpose of this evidence to respond in detail to the Carter review. However, there are lessons to be learned. Bringing in an "outsider" to have a fresh look at a project is generally a good idea provided that person is conversant with current government policies, in this case those related to planning and transport, and understands their implications. Otherwise the review is judging its subject by different standards which a project could not deliver.

  4.5  The need for speed and confidentiality in these processes is understood but these have to be weighed against the requirement for accuracy and balance. Despite numerous requests to Sport England and Cabinet Office officials none of the partners was shown a copy of the review until the day the decision on Picketts Lock was announced. Therefore the report could not be challenged for its factual content, basis and validity of assumption or its conclusion. It is difficult to see how ministers can make a balanced judgement in this way.

  4.6  Enfield Council is also very disappointed that, along with the other partners, it has expended enormous amounts of officer time, at the expense of other projects that were equally relevant to local people, and was not given the opportunity to comment on the report before it was given to ministers. Given that the council was a facilitator of the project, as distinct from a "bidder" the government may wish to consider reimbursing the council for its direct costs.


  5.1  Enfield Council remains convinced that a successful World Athletics Championships could have been staged at Picketts Lock in 2005 and was happy to work with government and other partners to achieve this. The council accepts the government's right to review the project and in the light of changing priorities to cancel the project.

  5.2  The council is of the belief that without the leadership and co-ordination at the national or at city level a project as complex as the World Athletics Championships could not be delivered.

  5.3  Whether this leadership is provided through a government minister, an official or a specially appointed project "champion" is not important provided that person has access to the key decision makers and delegated authority from them. It is also important that funding is routed through this same person so that authority and budget holding are held within the same organisation.

  5.4  Consideration of the benefits of large sporting projects must include the social and economic regeneration effect on the local area, London and to the UK as a whole. This test should be included in any assessment of large lottery grants and the grant conditions should be amended to ensure that the benefits are delivered.

  5.5  Enfield Council invites the DCMS committee to recommend to central government that it should cover the direct costs incurred by the council in support of this government project.

18 October 2001

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Prepared 20 November 2001