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More lying about the Olympic regeneration of East London

Nick Whitten recently posted a guest contribution by Matthew Black of estate agents CBRE on the Estates Gazette Olympics Blog. On their website CBRE describe themselves as 'key property adviser' to the now defunct London Development Agency in relation to the London 2012 Olympic Games bid.

In his contribution Mr Black wrote of the Olympic Park:

It also had its issues including heavily contaminated ground, buildings that were no longer fit for purpose, electricity pylons crossing the whole site and Europe's largest redundant fridge mountain. This was an opportunity to revitalise an area of London that had suffered from a lack of investment for a number of decades and the Games was the opportunity to rectify this and bring it back to becoming a core part of London again.

Games Monitor has featured earlier misleading comments by CBRE. I posted a comment:

This astonishing statement suggests that no investment was occurring in Stratford! So what of the £4billion (bigger than the 2005 £2.34billion Olympic budget) Stratford City project? Then there is this 'becoming a core part of London' argument. Doesn't Mr Black recall the description of Stratford City as a 'Metropolitan Centre'?

Again for those who recall the Stratford City planning application decided in May 2004 (I have to correct this - May 2004 referred to a report to the Mayor of London revising earlier proposals dating back to April 2003, Newham granted permission in September 2004 - just before the Olympics permission - and the Mayor of London and Government Office for London accepted the project in October 2004) they will recall that the pylons over what is now the Olympic Park were to be removed as part of the Stratford City project (this was acknowledged in the LDA's 2006 CPO evidence! - for clarification the removal of the power lines as condition D1 of the Stratford City project is discussed in the CPO hearing with Clays Lane residents on Day 13 of the Inquiry).

Whether an area has a fridge mountain is really neither here nor there. This kind of dismissive reference has been used so often to marginalise a working industrial area which included two housing estates, two traveller sites, two good sized parks/open spaces at the Eastway Cycle Track and Arena Field and other sports facilities at Eton Manor and well laid out industrial estates as well as some areas in need of a clean up. Fridges have to be stored somewhere and it is a perfectly sensible use of land in an industrial zone.

As for the clean up, those of us who lived on the site at Clays Lane had done so for 25 years without anyone thinking that this was needed when we were there. There never was any need to 'clean up' spaces like the Eastway Cycle Track or Arena Field both of which had sensible uses as parkland. Digging them up simply created a dust hazard that spread contaminated dust over East London.

Clays Lane residents pointed out that the ODA would find radioactive material scattered all over the place, much of it completely harmless, as in the case of thorium, if left alone, but extremely dangerous if turned to dust. The ODA and HSE paid no attention and denied this was the case until they found radioactive material all over the site and ended up creating a storage cell with over 7,000 tonnes of radioactively contaminated soil 250 metres north of the main stadium. This cell includes 100 tonnes of non-exempt material which should have gone to Drigg and all this was done without planning permission.

It has to be pointed out that developers will clean up sites if there is a profit to be made and this would have happened on the Olympic Park as the area is littered with waterways which are a property developer's dream. A short walk around the area will demonstrate the point with all the flats that are being built in the area along the canals and rivers. They are nothing to do with the Olympics just like Stratford City. This building has been going on since the early 2000s. Mr Prior, the Olympic master planner said back in an interview in 2003 that actually the Olympics was holding up development in the area by taking land out of circulation! Much of the Park is covered in a sheet under a thin layer of 'remediated' soil warning future developers they will have to do further remediation.

The LDA's CPO evidence made it plain that the intention of the project was to clear out 'dirty' industry which of course also meant dirty jobs, 5000 were moved out of the park, jobs local people did, to make way for nice clean creative type jobs which in all probability local people will not do. This represents a clean out of a class of people.

Mr Black says he has been working on the Olympic project for seven years. I started at the end of 2003 when the first planning application was produced which makes eight and a half years. The first time the LDA came to Clays Lane they told us our estate would be demolished even if the Olympics didn't come. They even had a drawing to show us what the area would look like. Then when we asked for more information they said the plan didn't exist!

Mr Black's assertions remind me of that first encounter with the LDA.


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