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Aftermath 2012 - Anything in Stratford is an Olympic Legacy

Back in July 2016 after I posted an article about job creation in the aftermath of London2012 on Games Monitor BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme contacted me for an interview. They had come across my FoI requests which showed that so far fewer than 1000 jobs had been created on the Olympic Park and LLDC projections for homes within the Park were likely to be lower than 6,650. In fact following further reseach I found that the figure is probably around 4,700 with the possibility of a 'legacy' of almost no genuinely affordable housing when taking into account the demolition of housing at Clays Lane and Park Village for the Olympics.

My interview with You and Yours was pre-recorded making it impossible for me to argue on air. The programme then held a live interview with the London Legacy Development Corporation's Director of Communications, Marketing and Strategy, Ben Fletcher, who proceeded to claim the LLDC would be creating 40,000 jobs and 24,000 homes. He compared this with a town the size of Milton Keynes in its early stages.

The BBC interviewer pointed out that Stratford City, the massive development next to the Olympic Park, would have been built anyway. Fletcher couldn't disagree with this obvious statement but resorted to the usual strategy of casting doubt on whether Stratford City would have been completed given the credit crunch. Fletcher also repeated the canard of the 'catalytic' effect and declared "what we don't know and what we will never know is whether those projects would have survived without the Olympics." Many people, he thought, would say they would not have done so.

Sadly in these circumstances reporters are often not well versed in the specifics of the case. For example, the much touted 'catalytic' effect had been discounted long before in 2003 by the Olympics master planner, Jason Prior. A property journalist had reported:

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 a catalyst, speeding things up, more an inhibitor, slowing them down.

London2012 has tried for years to claim Stratford City as an Olympics Legacy or even a pre-Games legacy. The absurd idea that Westfield would build a billion pound mall just because of a three week event when they build these malls all over the world and already have one in Shepherds Bush and are trying to build another in Croydon reveals how desperate these claims are. Nevertheless much of the media has fallen for them.

The reality is development was happening around Stratford just as the Olympic project was getting under way. It takes years to bring a major housing development to fruition and apart from some recent projects the constructions along Stratford High Street and elsewhere received planning permission before 2005 when the bid was won. These projects were completed regardless of the credit crunch and there is no reason to believe the same would not have happened with the Stratford City projects. Even if they had been delayed this would have been a temporary setback. The first housing on the Olympic Park, at Chobham Manor, is just coming to fruition. The effects of the credit crunch on construction were over long ago. However, none of this reaches to the heart of the matter. The reality is these projects were stimulated not by the Olympics but by the presence of the incredibly well connected station, which was also the reason Westfield was interested in the site and why the Olympics came to Stratford.

Determined not to spoil a good story with discordant facts Mr Fletcher ploughed on regardless. He also claimed 35% remained the target for the amount of 'affordable' housing as if this still applied

In fact in a 2016 Freedom of Information request the LLDC had already lowered the target to 31% and taking viability into account this affordable element could fall as low as 20%:

The Legacy Communities Scheme planning permission includes a site-wide affordable housing target of 31% subject to viability and a minimum of 20% affordable housing.

Inside the Park the LLDC's figures show that the total amount of housing for the general public will be as low as 4,700 units, given that the Marshgate site will be filled with UCL student housing.

But, of course, the LLDC is not interested in claiming just the housing being built in the Park as a legacy. On its website it also claims East Village, actually a Stratford City site, and Rick Roberts Way, off Stratford High Street, as legacies and posts a figure of 10,000 homes. Even on its own terms this figure is incorrect as it fails to correctly add up the amount of housing within the Park. But it also contradicts Mr Fletcher's figure of 24,000 homes. To arrive at this figure the LLDC simply scans in every housing development in the Legacy Zones.

Although I was aware of where Mr Fletcher got his figures from I decided to ask the LLDC to confirm this by asking another Freedom of Information question. The answer was predictable. Everything that was being built in the area was an Olympic legacy!

“In a recent You and Yours programme on BBC Radio 4, see approx 20 mins and ff into the broadcast the LLDC Director of Communications, Marketing and Strategy Ben Fletcher stated that the LLDC expected to create 40,000 jobs 24,000 homes for 55,000 people.

I would be grateful if you could tell me how he and the LLDC arrived at these figures, where these homes are expected to be built and where the jobs are expected to be located and in which sectors they will be created.”

The LLDC replied referring me to the LLDC Local Plan:

Both figures are taken from the LLDC Local Plan 2015-2031. The Local Plan is publically available on the Legacy Corporation website - http://queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk/our-story/transforming-east-london/local-plan website (which produces an error message!).

Homes – 24,000 homes: see page 41, Objective 2 – “delivering 24,000 new homes within a range of sizes and tenures.” The number of people living in them is taken from average occupancy rates of c2.5 people per home.

The homes will be built on the Park and in the wider MDC area. Page 243 of the Local Plan (which I have added - unfortunately it often fails to load) has a list of Key Housing Locations but there will be other sites that come forward as well.

The list of sites on pages 243 and 244 includes a range of sites, all of which are outside the Park:

Stratford City
Westfield Avenue
Manhattan Lofts
Chobham Farm
Strand East - Sugar House Lane
Bromley-By-Bow North
Angel Lane - Cherry Park, Great Eastern Road
Stratford High Street - Porsche garage and neighbourhood, Stratford Edge, Alumno
St Mary's Eton
Monier Road
Neptune Wharf
Station House

Just as with the developments that were happening at the same time as work was starting on the Olympic Park these are sites which would have been developed whether or not the Olympics came to Stratford. Indeed, the same process of development would have been happening inside the Olympic Park if the Olympics hadn't come to Stratford, as the case of Rooff demonstrates. Rooff had successfully argued in its appeal that it would have built housing on its site inside the Park. Other companies are still arguing the same case. Indeed Jason Prior had admitted as much in his interview in 2003. Nevertheless the nonsense propagated by London2012 continues to 'inform' the media and politicians.

The same sleight of hand applies to the creation of jobs. Again the LLDC referred me to its Local Plan:

The table on page 22 includes the sectors in which the jobs will be created.

Jobs – 40,000 jobs: see page 22 Table 1 – the figure quoted in the interview omitted the Westfield Stratford City jobs.

DEVELOPMENT GROSS DIRECT JOBS (TOTAL), 2031

Here East: 7,500 including 5,300 on site

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park: 4,421

The International Quarter: 26,200

Strand East(Sugar House Lane): 2,450

Chobham Farm: 403

This totals 40,974

Once again sites like Strand East, Chobham Farm and the International Quarter, which have nothing to do with the Olympics, are included. Interestingly the International Quarter is not even referred to as being on the Stratford City site. The International Quarter, the mainly commercial and office area, formed part of the original Stratford City planning application back in 2003 as was publicised on the now defunct Future Stratford website:

Commercial

In total, 465,000 square metres are proposed for offices and businesses. On this scale, and with the right quality, it should attract major European businesses to locate at Stratford. A range of types of offices is proposed, from starter units to corporate headquarters. Just over half the commercial buildings are planned for Carpenters district, to the southwest of the site. The rest would be in the Town Centre district, integrated with shops, and at the southern end of the West Leyton district, close to the International Station. It is calculated that commercial activities, including all the offices, retail and leisure, will generate 33,000 jobs.

Interestingly the LLDC decided to leave the jobs created at Westfield out of this calculation. It seems they have finally accepted that Westfield would have come to Stratford with or without the Olympics.

Back in the spring of 2016 I had asked the LLDC how many jobs were expected to be created in the Olympic Park.

how many jobs are now predicted to be created in the Park as a whole, including at Here East, Olympicopolis and further jobs in the administration, security, maintenance, services, etc, in the Park?

Once again the results differ, even in terms of the Olympic Park, from the figures in the Local Plan.

In its response the LLDC said:

As a whole the Park is expected to create approximately 7,400 in non-construction sectors.

Since April 2012, when the LLDC came into existence, 770 non-construction jobs were created consisting of 452 in Park operations and venues and 318 in other associated and varied roles. Additionally, 222 are currently employed at Here East.

In its Local Plan the LLDC claims it will create the following number of jobs at Here East and in the Park

Here East: 7,500 including 5,300 on site

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park: 4,421

A total of 11,921 on the Olympic Park.

Yet, as in the response further above, the LLDC had already provided me with a lower figure, that the total on site would be 7,400, 4,521 fewer than the 11,921 in the Local Plan. Note that my information request included jobs to be created at Olympicopolis, now the Cultural Quarter, as well as Here East and in the Park in general, making further nonsense of the figures in the Local Plan.

Neither of these figures, of course, take account of the jobs removed under the compulsory purchase of the land which mean there is almost no net increase in jobs following the Olympics.

Yet again the LLDC reveals the extent to which lying is endemic in the London2012 Olympic project.


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