Written evidence from London Borough of Newham (OLL 14)

 

Summary

 

The scale of regeneration in Newham as a whole is tremendous, and represents a one off opportunity to change the prospects of East London and the life chances of our residents.

 

We welcome the investment that has come to the borough through the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the commitment from both the Government and the London Mayor to transform East London as a priority. London's bid for 2012 was unprecedented; the first to focus on legacy as a central theme and the first to link legacy to existing resident communities.

 

It will be hugely disappointing if this aspiration were to be obscured by current financial circumstances or through poor and complex planning processes. We have serious concerns that the likelihood of legacy - the basis upon which the Olympic bid was won - is diminishing, and that in the current economic climate we are in danger of losing sight of the original vision: the transformation of East London through social and physical regeneration.

 

Previous experiences tell us that legacy does not follow Olympic investment as an inevitable consequence. Commitment to legacy requires incorporating it as a central tenet within all Games planning, and within the "hearts and minds" of all agencies responsible for delivering 2012.

 

The outcomes we aim to achieve from the Games, ownership of delivery, and measurement of the success of those outcomes, must be agreed by all parties as a matter of urgency. It is imperative that there is an alignment of the local, regional and national planning process and cross-institutional consensus on legacy objectives.

 

The host boroughs are in this for the long-term: well after the athletes have left, we will be continuing the attempt to harness the potential of the Games for local residents. There is a compelling argument that the five host boroughs are best placed to shape the delivery of legacy, and should be better empowered to do so.

 

1. Regeneration in Newham and "Convergence"

1.1 The scale of regeneration proposed in Newham is a tremendous opportunity, but it is crucial that we shape it so that it benefits local residents. There are numerous examples of major regeneration schemes which have failed to deliver benefits to the communities immediately on their doorsteps. Regeneration in Newham is not limited to the Olympics, despite its high profile. We also have the development of Stratford City, the transformation of Canning Town, Custom House and the regeneration of the Royal Docks. Growth areas within Newham have the potential to provide over 30,000 new homes and 75,000 new jobs to meet London's housing and employment needs. We need to ensure that the Olympic development integrates with our planning for these other projects in order to deliver a real and lasting legacy for the area as a whole.

 

1.2 It is crucial to define what we mean by "legacy", a term which is freely used in relation to 2012 but which requires clarification of objectives and a clear delivery plan with timescales. For the five host boroughs, legacy means achieving convergence; that is, closing the gap between East London and the rest of the capital in terms of quality of life for our residents within the next 20 years. Yet different stakeholders have different perceptions and expectations of legacy, and it is vital that we reach unified agreement on our long-term objectives.

 

1.3 In our view, a lasting legacy would mean the creation of sustainable, mixed housing and communities, jobs for local people - particularly significant for Newham given its high worklessness and levels of long-term unemployment. It would mean a self sustaining and prosperous East London, a better quality of life for residents, and fair access to opportunities. The five host boroughs have committed to achieving Convergence by 2030, through the Strategic Regeneration Framework.

1.4 Yet this is not a purely local agenda. Our vision is for East London to become a net economic contributor to the UK, creating self-sufficiency for the area economically, and moving towards independence from the redistributive system. This economic self-sufficiency will also have knock-on benefits for our residents, tackling ingrained poverty in the area and reducing benefits dependency. A 2012 legacy should have this objective at its centre, and convergence should be embedded in all aspects of masterplanning.

 

1.5 We welcome the establishment of the new Olympic Park Legacy Company as a significant step in the delivery of legacy and the Games. The new master-planning process must dovetail neatly with the wider masterplanning underway for Stratford and the rest of East London - it is essential that all agencies involved align investment in order to meet shared objectives.

 

1.6 To achieve convergence we need to harness the Olympics as part of the wider regeneration taking place to ensure that there is not a 'cliff edge' around the park. The vision for the parkland must be integrated with the rest of the borough, both to maximise the legacy potential of the Games and to ensure that residents feel included in what is happening on their doorsteps.

 

Infrastructure

2.1 Newham in particular suffers from the 'barrier' effect of the Lea Valley. Although it is well connected by various modes of public transport and by major roads, there is a strong perception that the River Lea, together with major north-south Underground lines, the M11 Link Road (in Tower Hamlets) and large areas of industrial land, make Newham inaccessible. This is a problem that can only be addressed by forging more street connections and encouraging high quality development and urban design along the Lea Valley. The Olympic Park development plays a key role here.

 

2.2 It will be crucial to secure the transport infrastructure package to support both the delivery of the Games themselves, and legacy. This includes Crossrail, Eurostar stopping at Stratford International, the DLR extension and the Thames Gateway Bridge - all of which will create jobs, give people easy access in and out of the East End, attract investment and encourage growth.

 

2.3 The area also requires finer grain connectivity. It is essential that access to the Olympic Park is improved after the Games are over, that the promised bridges are built and that the current series of fairly weak entry routes are strengthened and genuinely connect the existing local communities to the newly arriving communities that will take up residence as the Park develops.

 

Tackling worklessness

3.1 Newham has been working to support local people to take advantage of jobs coming in through the Olympic and Paralympic Games; with up-skilling and with intensive support linked directly to our employer partners, who include John Lewis, Bovis Lend Lease and Westfield. Our employment service, Workplace, was developed to ensure that local people benefited from regeneration in the area. We realised that traditional targeted employment services based on single need were not reaching key groups of residents, who had multiple and complex barriers to work. Since it was set up in 2007, Workplace has helped over 2000 people into jobs.

 

3.2 Similarly, our Mayor's Employment Project offers a personal guarantee from our elected Mayor, Sir Robin Wales, that if you live in Newham you will not be worse off in work than on benefits. The scheme is targeted at the workless and long term unemployed (three years plus). So far no-one has been financially worse off in work, but we have learnt that people need the intensive support offered by the project to be able to negotiate a complex system and claim what they are owed in tax credits. We would like to see the Olympic authorities show more commitment to encouraging local people into the new jobs becoming available in the area.

 

3.3 We have undertaken much work connecting local people up with existing jobs. The new Stratford City Retail Academy is a partnership between Newham and Westfield, the Learning and Skills Council and the London Development Agency at the Stratford Renaissance Partnership (SRP). It will train local people in retail, leisure and hospitality, ensuring that they are in a position to benefit from the 10,000 new jobs planned at Stratford City. Our partnership with John Lewis has resulted in a commitment that 250 of the new jobs in their Westfield store will go to workless residents in Newham, and we have similar partnerships with London City Airport and Bovis Lend Lease on the Olympic site. Joining up our residents with specific vacancies and with the economic development coming into the borough is a priority for London Borough of Newham.

 

3.4 Anecdotally, however, we know that 2012 contractors are starting to bring in existing personnel with them, owing to the increasing impact of the recession. This cannot be allowed to continue. London Borough of Newham has around 18,000 people of working age who have never had a job. It is absolutely imperative that those people are supported into the new jobs being created, and joined up with the economic opportunities which are flowing into the borough.

 

4. The role of local authorities

4.1 As evidenced by Newham's success in getting local residents into jobs, the host borough local authorities are the experts in understanding the needs of their communities. Yet the institutional architecture for decision-making around 2012 is very complex and far from local. There are further powers that could be devolved to local authorities in order to ensure that they are able to manage the vast changes happening in the area strategically.

 

4.2 First, the repatriation of planning powers to the boroughs for Thames Gateway Development Corporation area, from the Olympic Delivery Authority and the Thames Gateway Development Corporation, would have a significant impact. As long term legacy guardians, the five host boroughs are keen to resume planning powers and have a statutory joint committee already in place for this purpose.

 

4.3 The five host boroughs should also have greater control over nominations for social housing. With the huge housing development planned in the borough, we have concerns that a situation is being created which encourages other local authorities in London to transfer social housing responsibility to the East, rather than ensure the even distribution across the capital of social housing responsibility. In Newham we are committed to building more social and affordable housing and value it greatly. However, we also face the challenges of supporting a uniformly poor population. In boroughs like Newham where there is a high concentration of deprivation and poverty, any pan-London mobility scheme for social housing nominations could have the adverse effect of intensifying deprivation in East London, as more housing is built in the area and more tenants of other boroughs are moved East to alleviate pressure on supply.

 

4.4 We believe it is of the utmost importance that Newham, and other areas of high deprivation and worklessness, should have social housing nominations largely ring-fenced to existing local residents. This will enable us to shape mixed communities by attracting new types of residents and tenures, without increasing pressure to house more and more people who are often workless, on very low incomes, or who present with high public service requirement. At the very least, any pan-London mobility scheme should be premised on only allowing people who are in work to move to Newham through a regional transfer. This ensures that our existing residents benefit from the Olympic and Paralympic investment.

 

4.5 The boroughs should have greater powers over Olympic venues for community use after 2012. We have some detailed concerns about the legacy use of the venues and the transition arrangements outlined below; particularly the extent to which the venues and even the Park itself will be accessible immediately after the Games. This is vitally important to the success of the Park and the place as a whole. We know there will be lag time; for example, in retrofitting the Athlete's village with facilities to make it habitable for longer term residents. However, the perception that the Park will become another building site in the months immediately after the Games endangers Legacy. There must be some areas of the Park which are accessible and useable to the public immediately after the closing ceremony, in order to encourage a sense of continuity; and engender faith that something positive has been achieved.

 

4.6 Our overall ambition is that each of the venues has a viable community legacy use. In all, this means facilities and a public realm that is designed and fit for purpose for our residents, including:

 

Full borough involvement in the review of the stadium in order to finally conclude on its legacy form, involvement in the stadium legacy decisions, with support for 2018 bid and ultimately football use of the venue.

Re-opening discussions to help develop commercial leisure and leisure water to make the aquatics centre a more sustainable venue and more relevant to the local community.

Ensuring the 100 hectares of undeveloped land has vibrant, innovative interim uses.

Improving the quality of transformation of the parklands.

Ensuring that ODA transformation budgets are clarified, and that the ODA is required to deliver the quality of park and venues promised by the bid.

Accessibility - physical access for all residents, but also the management of the facilities being operated in an inclusive, welcoming manner that reflects the diversity and needs of our community.

Commitment to venue access, membership and pricing being consistent with local venues and forming part of the local facility infrastructure.

Test events which are accessible to the local community, and part of an integrated pre-Games event programme.

An events plan for at least the first decade of legacy that reflects the opportunity to showcase East London, bring major sports and cultural events to the capital.

 

4.7 In Newham we believe that there is a compelling rationale to create a new Royal Park for East London. There are outstanding management issues with the parkland which this would resolve, and it could also be used as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012. It would give East London a park to rival the other Royal Parks in London, and provide a high quality visitor attraction for decades after the athletes have departed, as well as recouping public investment in the Games through section 106 and attracting new residents and enterprise to the area.

 

4.8 Imperative to a successful park after the Games are the right management arrangements. The Royal Parks Agency is the only viable management body to ensure an Olympic and Paralympic legacy from the parklands, having consistently demonstrated excellence in horticulture, ecology, sport and play, heritage, public art, event management, education and community engagement. Between 2005 and 2008 all eight Royal Parks secured Green Flag status and every Royal Park enjoys customer satisfaction ratings of at least 85%. This would also increase property values around the Park post-Games, securing a return on public investment.

 

4.9 Only half a mile further south, on the other side of Stratford High Street, the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation is developing the 'Lea River Park', a series of linked public green spaces along the River Lea from Three Mills Green in the north to East India Dock Basin at the Thames. An exciting opportunity therefore exists to combine the Olympic and Lea River Parks into a single, coherent park system running from the A12 right down to the Thames, comprising perhaps around 130 hectares in total once completed. A park of this scale would have a higher profile, offer economies of scale in management and maintenance and allow simpler, clearer engagement with local communities and other stakeholders.

 

4.10 The parklands need a vital 'big idea'; strategic vision which will ensure that it does not become a wasteland in the immediate post-Games time, and that at least part of the park is open to residents, so that people in Newham feel they have ownership over, and investment in, the area. Key parts of the park will not be accessible under current plans. The Olympic Park is a potent symbol of the Games, both to local residents, and in the eyes of the watching international media and public. It is absolutely essential that plans for the park are clear and that the parklands can excite and inspire after 2012.

5. The Olympic Park Legacy Company

5.1 We are very supportive of the decision to create the Olympic Park Legacy Company and are also keen to review the Legacy Masterplan Framework (LMF).

 

5.2 Funding issues around the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) are a key concern and the OPLC will be unable to deliver key elements of the legacy vision without either further funding or significant re-profiling of payments to the Lottery and the London Development Agency under the Memorandum of Understanding. Despite the great expertise and talent present within the leadership of the OPLC, and its commitment to creating a lasting legacy, it will not be possible for the Company to capitalise on this great opportunity if it is saddled with debt from the outset. We would urge that this be addressed as soon as possible, to remove this obstacle to legacy planning.

 

Summary of recommendations

Clarification on legacy objectives and inter-agency consensus on delivery plan, based around Convergence and aligned with the Strategic Regeneration Framework.

Secure necessary transport infrastructure; including Eurostar stopping at Stratford, Crossrail, DLR extension and the Thames Gateway Bridge, as well as access to Olympic Park itself.

Ensure economic development flowing into the area is joined up with local residents, particularly in terms of jobs.

Ensure housing development is balanced and ring-fence social housing nominations to host boroughs.

Repatriate planning powers from Thames Gateway Development Corporation and Olympic Delivery Authority to the host boroughs.

Greater control for host boroughs over venue use.

Create a Royal Park for East London, managed by the Royal Parks Agency.

Ensure a robust financial base for the Olympic Park Legacy Company.

 

January 2010