Greenwich Park will now be closed for four weeks in summer 2012 to accomodate the Olympics, organisers confirmed tonight.
It had been planned to close the entire park for between six and eight weeks to allow equestrian events to take place. But organising body LOCOG now says the restrictions will now run from 6 July to 3 August 2012.
The children’s playground and most of the flower garden will remain open throughout, it added, except for the day of the cross-country event, due to be held on 31 July
LOCOG’s announcement follows a closed meeting it held with local amenity societies on Wednesday.
It has already said a far lengthier closure of part of the park beneath the Royal Observatory, to construct a stadium, would be needed from April to November 2012.
LOCOG added that Circus Field on Blackheath would be used as an operational compound, meaning construction vehicles could access the park from the A2, which it hoped would mean less disruption locally, while it was not planning to close any residential streets.
Ways of upgrading the childrens playground and other parts of the park were also being discussed as a legacy after the games, while LOCOG was also in talks with Royal Parks about measures to protect the park’s trees.
“No trees will have to be cut down,” the statement added.
“We believe that Greenwich Park will be a stunning venue in 2012 but we understand the concerns that local residents may have about usage of the park during the games,” said LOCOG chief executive Paul Deighton.
“We are grateful to the Greenwich societies for organising the meeting and giving us a chance to listen to their concerns and explain our plans in more detail. This is an ongoing process of dialogue; we want to work with local residents so we can address concerns and make the games a fantastic experience for everyone.”
LOCOG said a “formal consultation” would take place in October and November, ahead of its application to Greenwich Council for planning permission.
UPDATED Saturday 2pm: Pressure group NOGOE, which wants the equestrian events moved away from Greenwich Park, said the park was “the only green space in a congested urban location” and the “unacceptable” closure would still deprive locals of “a vital public amenity”.
“There are thousands of people living in council flats within a 5 minute walk of the Park for whom it is a green lung,” it added in a statement.
“Moving to an existing equestrian venue wouldn’t lead to such a level of social deprivation.”
So, what do you think? For my money, I think this is good news, and if the A2 is going to be used for Olympic traffic, that’s good for locals, although car commuters will no doubt complain (they do have nearly 3 years’ notice, though). But I still wish LOCOG would not mistake speaking to the likes of the Westcombe Society for “consultation”, enabling them to escape the scrutiny of the vast majority of local people.
Yes, they have been holding stalls in Greenwich Park (and LOCOG staff have been giving up their weekends to staff them), but nothing beats being able to ask the boss a question. Is it time Greenwich Council stepped in and hosted another public meeting? However, a specific website is being set up to host documents and information about the Olympics – a long overdue and very welcome measure.
Eltham North Conservative councillor Nigel Fletcher has shared his thoughts on his blog.