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‘A prime opportunity for the property industry.’

This article has been slightly amended see sections [ ]

Recent reports in the Press (see attachment) reveal that businesses evicted to make way for the Olympics are still having to battle with the LDA over compensation. Looking back in time to reports published by the media can provide an interesting insight into the attitudes of the Olympic team (and how the media approached the project) and the difference between the rhetoric and the reality of the programme. One such report was contained in the Property Week Newsletter of 05.12.03 (see attachment) which included some particularly chilling assertions for the residents at Clays Lane.

Taking the present experience of the businesses as a starting point, Jason Prior’s comments in the article show the casual ‘we can do as we please’ attitude which pervaded their approach to the various evictees: 'We are trying to do this by open negotiation and discussion, but if we have to use compulsory purchase orders (CPO), we will. But this isn't necessarily about acquisition, it's about partnership building. Why acquire it if you can find another way of doing it?' The careless use of terms like ‘partnership’ runs through all the LDA and ODA documents. Far from seeing themselves as partners in the LDA’s grand acquisition of their sites the businesses are still protesting at the way they were treated and at the undervaluing of their assets.

The author of this fascinating if sickening piece, Charles Williams, wrote ‘Deal structures and joint venture proposals have yet to be developed, but will follow the precedent of the LDA's Royal Docks development, where it is working in partnership with Development Securities and Standard Life. The LDA will buy the sites and take the schemes through the planning phases and then turn them over to private partners for development and construction.’ Williams turned to the LDA’s Gareth Blacker to elaborate, 'We don't think it will be difficult to get partners,' says LDA head of property and development Gareth Blacker. 'If we do the site assembly we're proposing to do, we're creating a prime opportunity for the property industry.' Well, that's clear enough!

Property journalists are not necessarily the keenest investigative reporters. Williams went on to declare, “The Olympic plan has naturally been prioritised; details of the non-Olympic and Olympic legacy plans are sketchy” but failed to probe more deeply. Instead he relied on Jason Prior, 'We're still working on the non-Olympic plan,' Prior says. 'Ultimately it should be largely the same as the legacy plan, but with differences based around the types of uses you'd want to cluster around a stadium.’ Actually this was all complete rubbish. There was no non-Olympic plan when this interview took place. Prior revealed in his evidence to the Compulsory Purchase Inquiry that it wasn’t even commissioned until the summer of 2004, [it was then dismissed as 'unviable']. That didn’t stop the LDA turning up with a drawing purporting to be a non-Olympic scenario when they came to talk to Clays Lane residents at the end of 2003. The difference between journalists and residents was that we did do some research and found out very quickly in early 2004 that there was no non-Olympic plan. [There never was a non-Olympic plan]

Failing to comment on, or perhaps to spot, the contradiction Williams reported that “Prior believes the long-term regeneration elements and development opportunities will happen with or without the Olympics. What may differ is the pace of change. In the event of a successful bid, developers in partnerships might have to play a longer-term game – the land would not be freed for its end use until after the 2012 event.” So not only was Prior saying regeneration would happen without the Olympics but that the Games might actually hold up development! At the cpo inquiry Prior and the LDA insisted regeneration would not happen without the Olympics. They also claimed Stratford City would not have gone ahead without the Olympics. They still do. We tried to point out to the cpo inspector that the regeneration of the area was not dependent on the Olympics but he paid no attention.

Williams moved on to Stratford City and developers Chelsfield, whose project director Keith Redshaw was delighted to be able to get his hands on Clays Lane, courtesy of the Olympics, 'There's a precedent for this,' Redshaw says. 'It's what happened in Sydney. If there are no Olympics, Clays Lane is not included in the Stratford City plans, so this is a very positive and constructive approach with a big regeneration legacy.' It is plain that without the Olympics Clays Lane would not have been demolished.

Redshaw’s assertions about the legacy value of the site were untrue. We pointed out to the cpo inquiry that there was no housing legacy as the Athletes' Village was being built on the site of Stratford City [Stratford City was a massive £4billion development programme which includes the Westfield Shopping Mall where housing was to be built at the north end of the site] where housing was going to be built anyway. Arup had already pointed out that the Stratford site for the Athletes’ Village had less legacy potential than their preferred location at Mill Meads, but the cpo inspector ignored their report and our evidence when concluding that the Stratford site had the greatest legacy value.

Neither Redshaw nor Prior showed any concern about the impact on Clays Lane residents. For Redshaw this was just a property killing. Prior was asked at the cpo inquiry what assessment had been made of the impact of the cpo on residents. Despite the fact that this was supposed to be examined as one of the criteria for deciding on the legacy value of siting the Athletes’ Village in the Stratford section of the Olympic Park he was unable to provide any information or documentation to show an assessment had been undertaken. It made no difference. The cpo inspector simply ignored this lack of evidence of an assessment.

Williams completed his article with an assertion about the ‘opportunities’ at Clays Lane. “Clays Lane Estate", he wrote, “will be transformed into the 17,000-bed Olympic village, slated for development by Chelsfield and Stanhope. In the legacy plan, it will form the basis of a sustainable community.” [when Williams' article was published the Athletes' Village was to have been built at Clays Lane, it was moved to Stratford City in the 2007 Olympic planning application] It was certainly the case that the LDA made repeated reference to ‘sustaining’ and ‘supporting’ local communities. None of those involved in these grand plans made any mention of sustaining the community at Clays Lane which was about to be removed to make way for this 'sustainable' community. It was as though we had already ceased to exist. And, of course, in the minds of Williams, Redshaw and Prior we had.

Property week newsletter article.doc36.5 KB
Olympic businesses fight for compensation.doc24 KB

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