Olympic Games and Paralympic Games 2012: Legacy - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 60-79)


3 MARCH 2010

  Q60  Chairman: When we heard from host boroughs, they identified the Broadcast Centre and the Media Centre as offering the greatest possibility of generating future employment for those boroughs, and in particular perhaps developing them as the hub of a sort of digital city. These were very ambitious plans. Do you think there is any chance of them coming to fruition?

  Baroness Ford: That is plan A. The Mayor of Hackney has been particularly energetic and constant in his wish to try to do something really meaningful with broadcasting to create that kind of digital cluster—which I suppose is the way you would describe it. Of course there is massive creative activity in Hackney—the artist colony on Fish Island and so on—so it is not that it would be an odd thing to think we might create there. The nature of media businesses and creative businesses is that they tend to be small and organic. We are doing it the other way round. We have this huge building and we are saying: how do we make that attractive to a range of occupiers? Plan A and our concept of the buildings, shared by the boroughs, is that the ideal configuration, as it were, of tenants there would be a fairly stable scale employer there—someone who is in the media world who may want to relocate there, so a major tenant—alongside others.

  Q61  Chairman: We are talking about a major broadcaster.

  Baroness Ford: It could be a major broadcaster. Someone like that to come there would send a massive signal that this was a different kind of proposition. Alongside that, if we had some kind of proper training or skills set up there, we have already talked to one of the universities who would like to relocate some of their digital leading-edge research there as well, and we might want to put some studio school there that had a media theme, and then a piece of the building that you could break up sensibly into small units for one and two person businesses which might want to be associated with all of that, they might need studio space but only to hire it for periods at a time, that is the concept that we will be driving at for the next year. If, and only if, we find we cannot deliver all or parts of that, we would look at alternative uses for the building. We are not kidding that this is going to be dead easy. This is going to be quite difficult to put together, but there is a lot of goodwill around. Our challenge is to turn that goodwill and that interest into people who want to sign on the dotted line. That will be the interesting bit and then we will see whether it is still viable or not. That is what we will be driving at for the next year.

  Q62  Chairman: That is plan A.

  Baroness Ford: That is plan A.

  Q63  Chairman: What is plan B?

  Baroness Ford: I have no idea. But I always have a plan B, so we will be working on plan B. It is a big building. I do not mean I have no idea; I mean is there is nothing up my sleeve. One of the universities, for example, approached us recently and said that they need exactly that kind of space in their engineering faculty for storage of large kit and so on, so there are things that you could use that building for. We are with Jules Pipe and the other borough leaders in saying that we will drive at this plan A until we are absolutely clear that it cannot be delivered.

  Q64  Mr Watson: If you are building a digital footprint, you need the whole eco-system properly connected. With all the social housing and new housing you are building, what are the plans to connect the homes up to high-speed broadband, for example? Is that being removed, stripped out?

  Mr Altman: That is something that is being worked on now in terms of the Olympic Village. The ODA is looking at how those buildings can be wired with broadband and with other uses. I do not think that has been concluded yet. I would have to get back to you with the specifics.

  Q65  Mr Watson: In the original plans there was some talk about "being stripped out". Is that the case?

  Baroness Ford: The Broadcast Centre?

  Q66  Mr Watson: All the homes that were being built around the place were supposed to be connected up. Presumably if you are building a digital legacy, you would build that into your assumptions.

  Mr Altman: I would have to get back to you on that, on what those original ideas were. There is a lot of infrastructure that is being put in, in terms of the fibre network that will service the entire Park and the Broadcast Centre and all the facilities within it, but I would have to get back on how that is linked to the housing pieces in the surrounding communities.

  Baroness Ford: It would be a shame to think that things were put in there that were then taken out for no reason, so we need to make sure that does not happen.

  Q67  Janet Anderson: In relation to the Legacy Masterplan Framework that came out in February 2009, you expressed concerns about two areas. One was the sporting legacy. Have you done anything on that to reassure yourselves that there will be a worthwhile sporting legacy?

  Mr Altman: Yes. You are exactly right, when the Chair took office about nine months ago and I took office about six months ago and we started to review the Masterplan, there were those two areas, the sporting and the housing provision. On the sporting issue, the Chair initiated a process with the main sporting bodies around the country to get their specific comments and review of the Masterplan. Many felt that they had not been sufficiently engaged, that sport was not as prominent in the Masterplan as it should be, that it was hard to find even the reference to sport in the Masterplan, so we specifically asked each of those sporting bodies to give us comments. Are they happy with the Masterplan? Is there sufficient provision for sport? Are there more programmes that should be a part of this? They have all responded very favourably. In this engagement we went out over a two/three month period and asked them for their comments and suggestions and they have all come back with a lot of ideas, whether it is British Swimming to UK Athletics to UK Sport to Sport England. Everyone has been very involved. Yes, I am very happy with the level of openness and receptivity, and I think it will result in a lot of positive changes, not only in the Masterplan but also importantly to the ongoing commitment of each of the sporting entities to the Park. I would say that the core issue is not so much a design issue per se as getting the ongoing commitment to the use of the Park by all the sporting entities so that it continues to be a premier centre for sport activity, and they have all been very open.

  Q68  Janet Anderson: Essentially, has the Masterplan been rewritten or amended to address your concerns?

  Mr Altman: We are right now in the process of refining the Masterplan. Again, as you noted, the Masterplan had been through a very significant period of community engagement and consultation. There were literally hundreds of comments. Over 9,000 people were engaged. I know this Committee had been concerned about that at the last appearance, and as a result of that we have done a lot of work with the boroughs and the communities. Right now we are taking all of that and we will be refining that Masterplan. We are completing that review in the spring and we hope to have that plan ready for submittal for approval by the end of the year. It is something that we very much want to do, because getting that approval in place will be important. I would say it is very much a refinement. You will see the reflection of a lot of the comments that were received through that community engagement, as well as through the specific engagement with the sports bodies, and that will be there. You will see much more emphasis on sport in the Masterplan and, as the Chair has said, a very significant emphasis on the family housing provision.

  Q69  Janet Anderson: In the Taking Part initiative there is a plan for public mass participation events in the Park in 2011 and 2013. Do they have your full support?

  Mr Altman: We are working right now on an event strategy. Through the ODA, a Park operations group has been set up. That is chaired by the ODA. That was recently established because of the importance of having a clear responsibility for what happens in the gap year, which is the year when construction will be done, facilities and Games, and then the transformation year, which is the year after Games, 2012-13. During those two years there needed to be a clear responsibility for Park operations. We are a part of that group, as is the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, and we are coming up with a co-ordinated event strategy as to how to use the Park pre-Games and post-Games for the testing events as well as other possibilities, other events. The Mayor is interested in that clearly. We are interested in that. As much as possible, we would love to get people into the Park, for people to see what has been built before-Games, and after-Games have people experience it. The answer is that we are now working on that event strategy as part of the overall Park operations piece for both pre and post Games.

  Q70  Janet Anderson: Will the Taking Part project be part of that?

  Mr Altman: We are working on it. We have met with them and they are a part of the number of events that we are looking at programming. We are also working with the boroughs, I should say, and many other entities, the Cultural Olympiad and others, to look at all the events that might be possible.

  Q71  Janet Anderson: You mentioned housing as well. You were concerned about the provision of affordable accommodation for athletes visiting the Park, that that was missing from the original framework. Are you happy that that is now in there, or going to be in there?

  Baroness Ford: Yes.

  Q72  Janet Anderson: Where will the funding come from?

  Baroness Ford: It is a very practical point in terms of the expression of what Andrew has been saying, in the sense that the sporting world have said to us, "We want athletes to come here, we want people to visit here, but where would they stay if they came to the Park?" There was nothing in the Masterplan that suggested where they would stay. At the same time as that was happening, we were approached by another organisation. If the Committee would forgive me, we have not concluded the negotiation with them yet, but it is another organisation which wanted to come in and to build accommodation in the Park—so we will not be paying for that, they will be paying for that for their own purposes but also then to let it out to visiting athletes or school children or people being there. Here were two things you could immediately put together—at no cost to us, thankfully, but it solves the problem. It was those kinds of practical things that were not thought about in the first Masterplan which we have addressed now.

  Q73  Janet Anderson: You talk about letting them out. Will they be affordable?

  Baroness Ford: Absolutely.

  Q74  Janet Anderson: Schools, for example, would not be put off by the cost?

  Baroness Ford: The organisation who are coming are used to working primarily with schools from all over the UK. It is exactly that kind of accommodation.

  Q75  Mr Sanders: On the Olympic Stadium, a controversy has recently re-emerged. What criteria would you use to evaluate bids for its use?

  Baroness Ford: Perhaps I could explain the process we are going through, part of which is to develop those formal criteria. Lots of people had been expressing different kinds of interests to the LDA and the ODA about the Stadium. People talked to rugby and 20:20 cricket and so on, so there were a lot of discussions going on. Also, we were clear that there were a number of commitments, not least the bid commitment to Grand Prix athletics at the Stadium and so on. Our board decided two meetings ago—particularly because West Ham had then changed ownership and the owners became very vocal about their desire to come to the Stadium—that the time was absolutely right now to go into a public process to get a settled set of uses for the Stadium. This is a £540 million public asset, so it goes without saying that we are not just going to have some conversation off-stage left and someone is going to take over the Stadium. It has to be a publicly managed process to demonstrate value for money and to demonstrate that we are keeping the bid commitments that are there. The way we are going to do that is we are going to have three months of what we would call soft-market testing, where we can publish our prospectus sometime in the next few weeks, setting out the opportunity of this genuinely world-class asset in the Stadium, inviting people to come formally and tell us and commit to what they might want to do with the legacy. Once we have gone through that process, we will then go into a formal procurement process. You will be familiar with that, and that will take about six months. We are really hoping that we will get to an agreed position by the end of the year, so that we can say, "Here are the uses for the Stadium and legacy," and then we will put that to one side and we will concentrate on other things. On the evaluation criteria, we do not have those formalised at the moment and we will not be formalising those until we go into the formal part of the procurement process.

  Q76  Mr Sanders: One of the things over which I think there is some public confusion is that here is an 80,000 all-seater Stadium that apparently at the end of the Games, originally, was going to be reduced to 25,000, therefore a large part of the Stadium is temporary. If people are now looking at the possibility of taking over the Stadium beyond 25,000-28,000 seats, how permanent is that temporary structure?

  Baroness Ford: Do you mind if I ask Andrew to answer that, because he has been much more involved in the technical discussions that have got us to this point.

  Mr Altman: One of the great advantages—and it goes to a question that was asked earlier about how legacy has been built into many of these facilities—is the flexibility of the Stadium. We have been doing work that the Chair initiated looking at the different potential options just to understand ourselves, whether it is 80,000, 50,000, 40,000, 28,000 or 25,000, what the range of options could be and how those could be supportable. We have looked at all those possibilities to see how it is technically possible and I think we are comfortable that there is this range of options. Do they have costs associated with them? Sure, there is a different set of costs, but the Stadium itself is an incredibly flexible building that does allow for this optionality, if you will, which I think, as the Chair has said, when we go out to the market will allow for a lot of different possibilities that we may not even know of today because it can be retro-fitted to different uses.

  Q77  Mr Sanders: I can understand when you build a stadium of 25,000 you could expand it to 80,000. How do you reduce a stadium from 80,000 to 25,000?

  Mr Altman: Because the way it is built is that you have a superstructure that you see today when you go out to the Stadium, and then you literally can demount it in terms of the number of seats that you would want to retain. If you go down to 50,000, you may have to rebuild pieces of it. Again much of this will depend on exactly what are the component parts. For example, if you want to put in box seating, premier seating, that may be something you would have to construct. It really depends on exactly how you want to use it, but the Stadium itself you could continue to demount down to 50,000, to 40,000, to 28,000, depending on what you want to do.

  Q78  Mr Sanders: In other words, the bowl that could support 80,000 is a permanent structure.

  Baroness Ford: Yes.

  Q79  Mr Sanders: There is nothing temporary about it at all.

  Baroness Ford: No, not that bowl structure.

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