House of Lords debate, Olympic Games 2012: Legacy
Extracts from the debate
Lord Mawson (Crossbench) introducing the debate
We worry about what we see taking place under what one very experienced developer calls the smoke and mirrors of the Olympic Legacy.
When you stay in one place for a very long time you watch successive government programmes. Their effect on people's lives is often quite different from the intention of the rhetoric that launched them.
...creating sustainable communities is not about the macro but about the micro. It is about the devil in the detail of local relationships between people and organisations on the ground. It is not ultimately about structures, systems and processes but about individuals, relationships and friendships. It is about people before structures.
Many of us in east London are increasingly concerned that these crucial local details are still not understood by the more than 40 public sector agencies involved in the regeneration of the area. I am sure that many noble Lords are all too aware of the Public Accounts Committee's recent critical report on the Thames Gateway, which describes in great detail the waste of money and human potential in this area. Real opportunities for deep and sustainable legacy in the Lower Lea Valley are being sliced away and lost.
It is not clear today ........ importantly, which of the alphabet soup of organisations has the authority to lead the process. The Olympic Delivery Authority seems to have given up on legacy. It has too much on its plate—I am sympathetic to that—and has passed the baton to the London Development Agency, but the LDA has no track record of creating excellent places for people to live and work. If it does not now engage seriously with colleagues on the ground then yet further opportunities for real legacy will be lost.
When you live and work in east London, you know that the Olympics are not the biggest show in town. They are, as one Newham councillor recently put it, only the third biggest regeneration scheme in Newham alone.
If we grasp this opportunity then we as a nation may have something valuable to share with the International Olympic Committee—some practical clues about how you do legacy in a way that does not leave us, as I have seen at Homebush in Sydney, with a large empty site; or in the position of West Heidelberg in Melbourne where the 1956 Olympics were held and where you can see the effect of getting these decisions wrong on a local community as long as 50 years later.
The problem is that the regeneration structures in east London are a mess. Those of us who try to make them work in practical ways know how serious that mess is and how much energy and time are being wasted. The present structures are confusing potential private sector investors precisely at a time when we want them to commit to the area. There needs to be simplification and some agencies need to go.
"..government understands the shape of the forest but has no idea what is actually going on under the trees". Lord Peyton of Yeovil (quoted by Lord Mawson)
Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury (Liberal Democrat)
As the costs of the Olympics have escalated, so have the raids on the lottery good causes fund, with knock-on effects for the cultural sector in general, but also for the cultural Olympiad in particular.
There are three tiers to the Cultural Olympiad. Tier 1 is the mandatory ceremonies, for which there is a budget, although we do not have a figure. Tier 2 is 10 major cultural events involving key partners such as the BBC, the British Museum and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Tier 3 is a UK-wide cultural festival. The last tier is unique to the London bid and is designed to encompass thousands of local and regional events as part of our nationwide celebration.
However, there is no allocated funding for tier 3. This money has to be found locally and by the voluntary arts and heritage groups rooted in our communities. The last diversion of lottery funds hit them particularly hard. At the end of last year, the Minister replied to a Question for Written Answer on lack of funding, saying: "The Legacy Trust, which has £40 million of funding, will be launched in November 2007. It will provide an additional source of funding for Cultural Olympiad projects".—[Official Report, 21/11/07; WA 76.]
This trust seems very keen on being launched, but less keen on actually leaving port. It has been launched no fewer than three times, most recently in May. This is not clear or structured behaviour and the consequence is that it is only now that the process of tendering for the money involved has begun. Of that money, £6 million has already been ring-fenced for the UK School Games; £24 million is going to the nations and regions; and a paltry £10 million for everything else. Compare that with the £750 million being diverted from the arts via special Olympic lottery games.
"..major events have a long sunrise but short sunset." Lord Addington
Baroness Whitaker (Labour)
The Travellers at Clays Lane had lived peacefully with the settled community for 36 years. They were offered and accepted a new site, which then, for complex, oddly unforeseen planning reasons, was withdrawn. The substitute site was a recreation area. It is felt that, in their urgency to vacate the land for Olympic development, the LDA and Newham Council have disregarded the needs and wishes of both the Travellers and other local residents, causing, I am told, much resentment in the local community. Far from gaining any benefits from the Olympics, they believe they have lost some of their scarce green space and community facilities. The good relationships between the Traveller community and the other local residents which had been built up over such a long time have been undermined. Rather than an increased sense of community cohesion, Travellers now feel more segregated and vulnerable.
After this, as I have said earlier in your Lordships' House, the Travellers were given 12 different dates for being moved, and they spent many weeks, with their children, with demolition, noise, heavy traffic and dust all around them, post stopped, phones cut off, and street lights gone. An allegation was made by the ODA that the Travellers had themselves caused health problems by burning toxic waste in a furnace, which turned out not to exist.
The All-Party Group on Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform, of which I am a vice-chair, discussed these matters with representatives from the ODA and the LDA who were kind enough to come in. They agreed that a senior official would deliver an apology about the wrongful allegation in person. Yet again, that is not what happened.
Extracts from: House of Lords debate, Olympic Games 2012: Legacy, Thursday, 17 January 2008
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Submitted by Martin Slavin on Tue, 22/01/2008 - 15:46.