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On a clear day in Stratford…

On a clear day you can see ten tall cranes overlooking Stratford. Walk around Stratford’s mean streets and you will find new buildings going up in every corner. It is the Government’s contention, along with the Mayor of London, the LDA, the CPO Inquiry Inspector and everyone of consequence that Stratford, East London, is absolutely one of the most run down places in the United Kingdom.

So what are all these cranes doing?

The reality is Stratford is already undergoing ‘regeneration’ regardless of the Olympics. None of the projects under way have anything to do with the Olympics. It cannot even be claimed they have been undertaken because London won the bid for the 2012 Games. Many would have been planned long before 2005. Some will have been inspired by the decision to build on the Stratford Rail Lands, Stratford’s real regeneration programme.

Stratford’s renaissance can be traced back to the successful City Challenge programme of the mid 1990s, which polished up the town centre and shopping mall and saw the construction of new facilities like the bus station, picture house, Stratford Circus and the library along with the demolition of a number of eyesores, including the multi storey car park/bus station.

This was followed by the application to develop the Rail Lands. Stratford City is an enormous project which dwarfs the Olympics in terms of business investment and will create tens of thousands more jobs. It can be credited with being a truly catalytic event without the accompanying level of destruction. This is not to say developments on this scale do not have negative consequences. Gentrification would follow. However, the impact of this programme would have been much more acceptable and appropriate for existing communities.

The regeneration lie which underpins the Olympic project has seduced the media and politicians. The idea of an Olympic Legacy was dreamed up as a justification for the inflated demands made by the International Olympic Committee for the creation of enormous parks and an attempt to overcome its growing embarrassment at the debts and derelict Olympic Parks that now litter the cities of the world. Stratford already has a regeneration project and massive potential without needing the Olympic Games. The 2012 Olympics is a parasitic growth desperately trying to take advantage of this potential and claim Stratford City and its spin offs as its own.

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