7 August - Phase 8 begins badly
LOCOG's Planning Phase 8 began on 4 August. We expected some changes as a result of LOCOG's June revisions. In particular, the National Maritime Museum had announced that the Observatory would reopen on 4 August; see this diary entry. The revised plan for Phase 8 on LOCOG's website did not show this, but it otherwise looked like a schematic version of their Phase 8 drawing; for example, the essential crossing points were not shown on it. So it seemed reasonable to expect the Park to reopen pretty much in accordance with the Phase 8 drawing but with access to the Observatory.
On 4 August notices had been posted around the Park perimeter announcing that "LOCOG and The Royal Parks are pleased to announce that sections of Greenwich Park will reopen, as planned, on 4 August"; see this diary entry.
It was clear that LOCOG and The Royal Parks had let the National Maritime Museum down very badly, and the Museum was forced to post emergency notices stating that the Observatory would reopen, not on 4 August as announced, but on 14 August; see this diary entry.
LOCOG and The Royal Parks have also let the public down badly. The public has been grievously inconvenienced by LOCOG's occupation of the Park and surrounding areas. On the western side of the Park there was no access for four weeks, and now only the able-bodied with sufficient time on their hands can use the Western Pocket. On the eastern side, I understand that, as of 11am on 6 August, access to the Flower Garden lawns has been provided through a gap in the security fence, but otherwise the whole of the eastern side of the Park remains closed. It is the height of summer, and the school holidays, and people need access to the Park for recreation and relaxation.
The Phase 8 drawing suggests that there will be paths open through the Park but, as of 11am on 6 August, there are none. Pedestrians and cyclists wishing to cross between East and West Greenwich are thus still being forced to choose between Romney Road and a restricted pavement beside the A2, over half a mile to the south of it; see this diary entry.
It seems that LOCOG and The Royal Parks cannot be trusted. The Council must exercise what powers it has to ensure that the Park is returned to the public as soon as possible and that a path and cycle track are opened through it without further delay. The Council and our readers should also be very sceptical of LOCOG's and The Royal Parks' claim to have "a flexible reinstatement plan that is funded by LOCOG and that reflects the specific requirements of the Park post Games".
Update (8 August): We understand that LOCOG have told the Council that they do not plan to provide a footpath or cycle path across the Park until at least 14 August and that they will then "look to see what crossing points can be installed during transition and for the Paralympics Games". But, as mentioned above, a footpath and cycle path through the Park are needed urgently.
LOCOG's phase drawings carry the following note: "Phasing and dates may be subject to change to suit construction activities and to ensure public safety". It is hard to see that there would be any genuine public safety issues involved in creating paths through the Park by opening the crossings shown on the Phase 8 drawing. So it seems that LOCOG have chosen not to open the crossings because it would be inconvenient or expensive for them to do so. Some of our supporters have contacted the Council. We wait to see what the Council is prepared to do, or can do, about it.Update (12 August): The Council seems to be doing what it can to persuade LOCOG to stick to the spirit of their agreement; that is, to returning the Park to the public in accordance with their phase drawings for phases 8 to 11. It seems that LOCOG are saying that they cannot return more of the Park for health and safety reasons. But our reporter visited the Park yesterday and saw no evidence of any safety hazards; see this diary entry and this one. Following the rains in April, LOCOG shipped in many thousands of tons of aggregate to make roads, and they worked frantically seven days a week to finish the stadium on time. In contrast, LOCOG's efforts to clear the Park are very low-key. We suspect that it will prove difficult to remove all of the building materials from the Park. We fear that unless the Council insists that LOCOG works at the same rate as they did before the Games, LOCOG will still be in the Park in 2013.
16 July - Fast-forward into Phase 7
LOCOG's Planning Phase 7 began yesterday evening. According to their original plans, Phase 6 was due to begin, but their June revisions effectively mean that they are moving straight from Phase 5 to Phase 7.
This means that the grounds of the National Maritime Museum are closed (apart from an access corridor from Romney Road to Neptune Court) and will effectively become part of the Park. The Southern Compound on Circus Field has also become part of the Park. The section of Charlton Way beside the Park has been closed and there is on longer any access to the Observatory.
The Maritime Museum claim that they will "be open throughout the Games", but almost all of the grounds, the Queen's House, two galleries, the Museum library and the Observatory will be closed.
As for Greenwich Park itself, all of it will be closed for four weeks except for the Playground and part of the Flower Garden (which will both be closed on 30 July for Cross Country day). LOCOG's plan for Phase 7 suggests that a large area of the Park will remain open, but once all of the permanently off-limits areas are taken into account, the Flower Garden pocket is very small. Moreover, no provision has been made for the residents of West Greenwich. Mothers with babies and young children face a long walk to get to the Playground (around the grounds of Devonport House and the Maritime Museum, along Romney Road), and those wishing to visit the Flower Garden pocket have to walk all around the Park perimeter (including the Southern Compound on Blackheath if they choose the southern route). Frankly it is not worth the effort to get to the pocket, walk to the end of it, and then retrace your steps on the long walk home.
NOGOE always argued that the Park was too small. LOCOG insisted that we were wrong. The fact that they have annexed Circus Field, Devonport House, and most of the Maritime Museum provides emphatic proof that we were right.
Further proof, if proof were needed, is provided by the fact that they have a compromised cross-country course. As can be seen on the drawing, the course has had to be squeezed into the Park like intestines in the stomach cavity. All of the available space has been used, including the Flower Garden Lawns, the Romano-Celtic Temple site and the acid grasslands on Croom's Hill. The course passes through the stadium, and has had to do so in order to use the space that it occupies. LOCOG have even had to pinch part of the Playground in order to install their perimeter security fencing. Even so a leading authority writes that it is "the steepest, twistiest cross-country ever and, through space constraints, maybe 1,000 metres shorter than the norm". And if it rains, the course will be dangerous and there is very little scope for setting a satisfactory alternative.
LOCOG's enlarged compound, comprising the Park, Devonport House, the Maritime Museum and Circus Field, can perhaps be called "Great Greenwich Park". But given the way that the perimeter has been fortified, and given the substantial military presence, it seems more appropriate to call it "Fort Greenwich".
The closure of roads and the congestion caused by spectators passing through Greenwich town centre during the Games is yet to come. And all of this because of a sporting event which could and should have been held elsewhere.
7 July - Greenwich Park privatised
At 21:57 on 6 July the last member of the public was let out through one of the side gates of St Mary's Gate and it was padlocked. Over the next four weeks the Park will be used to stage a private corporate event. The Park Gates will not open to the public again until 06:00 on 8 September. See this diary entry for a record of the event and this diary entry for clarification of the closure.
We agree wholeheartedly with the person who has written '"SHAME" across Locog's closure notice.
Greenwich Park has been open to the public, all year round, since 1820. The closures, disturbances and destruction resulting from last year's Olympic test event and this year's Olympic events are unprecedented.
Shame on the local MP for supporting this abuse of the Park. Shame on Greenwich Council for giving Locog control of the Park and permission to do what they see fit in it. Shame on Locog for what they have done and are doing the Park. Shame on The Royal Parks and the National Maritime Museum for supporting Locog's plan to use the Park and co-operating with them. Shame on UNESCO for tolerating this abuse of a World Heritage site. Shame on Natural England for agreeing to the pruning of over 600 trees and the destruction of ancient acid grasslands. Shame on English Heritage for allowing the cross-country course to cross the site of a scheduled ancient monument. Shame on the Friends of Greenwich Park for supporting Locog's occupation of the Park ("With friends like them, who needs enemies?"). Shame on the British Equestrian Federation and the International Equestrian Federation for choosing the wrong venue for the Olympic equestrian events and persisting with it despite its obvious unsuitability. Shame on Sport England for supporting the extensive and prolonged closures of an urban public park, thereby preventing its use for public sporting activities.
Everyone who uses the Park regularly, everyone who believes that it should be cherished and preserved, and everyone who believes that urban public parks are a good and necessary thing, should see this accusation of "SHAME" as a call to arms. The custodians of the Park have failed to protect it, and our democratic representatives have seen fit to allow it to be closed for private profit in return for the financial benefits accruing to an Olympic borough. A terrible precedent has been set for the future commercial exploitation of the Park. We must resist this and fight to keep the Park truly public for the benefit of present and future generations. "NEVER AGAIN!"
16 June - LOCOG takes emergency measures
On 7 June LOCOG posted an emergency information notice in its display cabinets around the Park stating that "Recent weather conditions mean that the May update posters are now out of date. The mid June Greenwich Park poster will be posted here in a few days" (see this diary entry). The next day, part of the West Stand was blown out (see this diary entry).
Shortly afterwards, local residents received a letter from LOCOG setting out a series of additional closures and explaining why they have had to revise their construction plans (Page 1, Page 2). These include closing the Avenue to motor vehicles, restricting the use of the cycle lane, and requiring pedestrians to walk along fenced corridors. LOCOG explain that the overall number of deliveries has not increased, the deliveries have just had to be compressed into a shorter time period. There is no mention of the fact that this compression has resulted because they had to reinforce the foundations of the South Stand and to build more substantial roads across the Park (see for example, this Campaign News story on 20 May, this diary entry and this one).
|On 15 June, LOCOG posted their emergency June-update poster. This included the information on closures and a revised Occupation map emphasising the additional closures that will take place from 7 July (indicated by the brown areas on the map). This suggests that there will no longer be any public access to the Park along Blackheath Avenue to the Observatory from 7 July to 22 July (as suggested by LOCOG's plans for phases 5 and 6). So it looks like the only public access to the "the Flower Garden pocket" (to the small part of the Flower Garden that will remain open, see this diary entry) will be via Vanburgh Park Gate. It also looks like the Observatory will be closed to the public from 7 July to 7 September (during phases 5 to 8). Finally, note that LOCOG have also appropriated Folly Pond on Blackheath; which has not formed part of their earlier plans.||
Update (8 July): It seems that LOCOG will not be using Folly Pond (their map was in error). It also seems that they will be providing an access corridor to the Observatory from 4 August (see this diary entry). Presumably they have decided that they cannot afford to keep a corridor along Blackheath open before the Games, but are providing one afterwards instead. Where the corridor will be is not clear; the next closures map on LOCOG's website still shows that the Observatory will be closed until 7 September.
3 June - Phase 4 begins and the Occupation becomes more oppressive
Phase 4 began promptly. By 3 June, and with no concessions to the Jubilee Weekend, the lawns in the north-west corner of the Park (shown in purple in the bottom left-hand corner of LOCOG's map) had been fully enclosed and had become the Stables Compound.
As a result nearly all of the northern end of the Park (including the blue and pink areas on the map) is now closed. This is normally the most heavily used part of the Park. Most of it will remain closed for 5 months and the rest (the Queen's Lawn shown in pink on the map) will be closed for 6 months. So if you live in West Greenwich and you are unable to get up onto the southern escarpment, then the Park has already closed for you and will remain closed for 5 months.
The Museum path (the path inside the park linking St Mary's Gate and Park Vista Gate) has also been closed (as indicated by the black line on the map). This is normally a major pedestrian thoroughfare linking East and West Greenwich. LOCOG's recommended alternate routes for cyclists and pedestrians (shown in yellow on the map) involve substantial detours and make no concessions to the elderly or disabled. If you are such a person, then Locog recommend that you go around the grounds of Devonport House and the National Maritime Museum, braving the traffic on Romney Road. Similarly, if you are a mother with small children trying to get from West Greenwich across to the Playground, then LOCOG's answer to you is, apparently, "Tough! The Path will reopen on 2 October; at the end of Phase 9". It is still possible for the able-bodied to wend their way through the grounds of the National Maritime Museum (when they are open) but this option will become more tricky as LOCOG's occupation of the grounds increases, and will be ruled out completely from 15 July to 7 September (during phases 6 to 8) when LOCOG will occupy all of the grounds (apart from a fenced corridor linking the Museum's exhibition rooms with Romney Road).
As ever, LOCOG's notices seek to downplay the extent of their occupation. The heading on the map suggests that the closures will last until 6 July. There is no indication that this is just one in a series of maps, and that maps detailing the closures for 4 August to 30 November will be posted in due course. It seems that LOCOG have a deliberate policy of telling the public as little as possible for as long as possible. Meanwhile their propaganda machine is, with the apparent collusion of most of the national media, busy telling the world what a wonderful thing is happening in the Park.
In reality their occupation (for three months last year and eight months this year) has and will result in a terrible loss of public utility. The Park has been open to the public all year round since 1820, and closures of this scale are unprecedented.
20 May - Rain causes delays and threatens stadium safety
Those who know Greenwich Park will know that, even from a purely practical engineering point of view, the Queen's Lawn is not a good place to build a 23,000-seater Olympic stadium. It lies in a hollow below the Observatory hill and so it is prone to become waterlogged in wet weather. The
main sewer for South London runs beneath it, along with water mains, electricity cables, and who knows what else.
Last year LOCOG built a 2,500-seater foundation-less stadium on the Lawn, for their Olympic Test Event, and declared it a great success. They did not seem to appreciate that they had been fortunate with the weather. A long spell of dry weather before and during the event meant that it passed off without incident.
It seems that LOGOG learned nothing from this and expected that they could build massive stands, such as those shown above, on the Lawn resting on nothing but piles of wooden blocks. They also relied on flimsy temporary roads for their construction vehicles which require a firm foundation beneath them.
All went well until it started to rain. It rained steadily for, it seems, forty days and forty nights. To those observing events from beyond the fencing it was evident that LOCOG's construction work was getting bogged down. Their temporary roads were buckling, and the stability of the stands and the arena platform became a cause for concern.
|The construction of the East and West stands was well under way and, presumably, LOCOG's experts are satisfied that the structures are safe. But work had not begun on the South Stand. The site on which it would be erected was evidently waterlogged, so it came as no surprise when LOCOG posted a notice on the fencing surrounding the Arena Compound announcing that, because of the unusually heavy rainfall they will need to undertake additional work in order to ensure the safety of the stands; that they "will remove approximately 15 centimetres (6 inches) of the waterlogged topsoil and provide either stone laid over membrane or steel plates to provide a firm footing for the stand".||
It is true that the rain has been exceptionally heavy. But only a Martian would not be aware of the vagaries of the British weather, and April showers can hardly have come as a surprise even to LOCOG.
On reflection, the rain should be seen as a blessing. Just imagine what might have happened if the rains had not come until the Games and that, as a result, a stand full of spectators had collapsed.
There remains the question of how much of a delay the rains have caused, how much all the extra work on foundations will cost, and who will be paying for it. LOCOG's notice suggests that they will be bearing the additional cost, and they have sent a letter to Greenwich residents living next to the Park explaining that they will now need to work seven days a week in order to be ready for the Games.
It is also not clear that this is the end of the problem. If the heavy rains continue, what about the safety of the other stands resting on their wooden blocks? Will the additional weight of the roads and foundations damage the sewers or water mains (apart from anything else this could well cause a stand to collapse)? Will it be necessary to call on the services of the Royal Engineers?
7 May - Exercise Olympic Guardian
Exercise Olympic Guardian is a major exercise by the Ministry of Defence to test the military security arrangements for the Olympic Games. It includes the testing of the Rapier surface-to-air missile system on Blackheath and a visit to Greenwich by HMS Ocean.
The missile system and its intended use are described in this BBC video and this one. In the worst case, these missiles would be used to bring down an "airborne target" which would crash into a densely populated residential area or an office complex.
The Olympics started out as a glorified post-school sports day. They have now become an industry and involve transforming the host city into a war zone (the BBC reports that in addition to all of the military hardware, 13,500 military personnel will be involved in protecting the games). As we have repeatedly argued, the Olympic equestrian events could and should have been held elsewhere. So there was no good reason for endangering the lives of hundreds of thousands of residents of South-East London.
2 May - Phase 3 has begun
The lawns between Jubilee Avenue and the Avenue have been enclosed and will remain enclosed until 31 October. The section of path connecting St May's Gate with Jubilee Avenue has also been closed, and pedestrians are directed to use the path in the National Maritime Museum. Security fencing has also been installed on the Western side of Jubilee Avenue making it little more than a corridor between two building sites. A network of fencing is also scheduled to be installed. The fencing will cover most of the Park and will restrict access to it and the accustomed freedom to roam inside it. Details of Phase 3 can be seen here. See also our photo diary.
10 April - A glorious legacy for Greenwich Park
As reported on 5 April, Lord Coe has written to Greenwich residents to tell them how lucky they are that the world's greatest sporting events will soon be coming to London and, in particular, to Greenwich Park:
Being part of the Olympic and Paralympic Games will add another unique chapter to the history of Greenwich Park, when it provides a stunning setting for Equestrian and Modern Pentathlon events. The Games also represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Greenwich itself, with world-class sporting events on your doorstep and more visitors bringing business. The Royal Borough of Greenwich will come alive with a host of cultural events in the run-up to and during the Games, and the Olympic Torch will pass through the Royal Borough.Lord Coe added: "We know how important Greenwich Park is to its residents, as well as to Londoners and the country as a whole".
This is a once-in-a-lifetime event that has, tragically, occurred once too often. It is a uniquely awful chapter in the history of Greenwich Park, a chapter which should never have been written. The Park is not a doorstep (or a patch of waste land or an industrial estate or a sporting venue), it is a national treasure and a World Heritage Site. It is also a heavily used urban public park and the public is being forced to pay for the privilege of being excluded from all or substantial parts of it for eleven months in total. The Olympic motto consists of three words: "Faster, Higher, Stronger". The Olympic legacy for Greenwich Park can be summed up in four: "Extortion, Disruption, Exclusion, Destruction".
5 April - Works in the Park: LOCOG's helpline number
Lord Coe has recently written to 7,000 Greenwich residents who live close to the Park. The letter states that works in the Park will take place from Monday to Friday (between 8am and 6pm) and on Saturdays (from 9am to 5pm). It also contains a helpline number for anyone seeking further information. Unfortunately the number given was incorrect. So LOCOG have asked us to let you know that residents wishing to contact them should call:
08000 722110And not 0800 722 1100 as stated in the letter.
5 April - Phase 2 has begun
LOCOG's Phase 2 began on 2 April. The Queen's Lawn has been enclosed and is scheduled to remain closed until the end of November. The lawns between the Queen's Lawn and the Avenue are also affected because the paths across them have all been closed. The only way to get across the northern end of the Park is to use the path along the foot of the Observatory hill or the path beside the National Maritime Museum. Details of Phase 2 can be seen here. For the latest developments see our photo diary.
30 March - Cable camera given planning permission
Greenwich Council has given planning permission for the mobile cable camera, which will be aligned along the Grand Axis of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site. It will be suspended between an 86 metre tower based in Millwall Park (across the Thames on the Isle of Dogs) and a 41 metre tower on Blackheath Avenue just south of the statue of General Wolfe. The idea is illustrated by this photo set. Details of the application can be found here.
A smaller cable camera will run roughly east-west across the southern end of the Park, and will be suspended between two mobile cranes.
19 March - No hosepipe ban for the equestrian events
It was reported in The Telegraph today that Greenwich Park has been exempted from the hosepipe ban that comes into force on April 5 after concerns were raised that drought conditions could create dangerously 'fast going' at the Olympic eventing track.
The lawns in the Park are not normally watered, but the four-mile cross-country track has been specially aerated, seeded and watered almost daily for the past two years. The Telegraph also reports that many hundreds of thousands of gallons may also be required to prepare the artificial dressage and show jumping surfaces in the arena.
13 March - Surface-to-air missiles on Blackheath?
According to an article in The Guardian, surface-to-air missiles could be positioned on Blackheath during the Olympics. Labour MP Heidi Alexander, whose Lewisham East constituency includes Blackheath, is quoted as saying:
I can't say I like the idea of missiles on Blackheath but if the military and security experts think that is necessary to have a last line of defence to deal with all eventualities, these defence systems will have to go somewhere, ... We are told that no decision has yet been taken but given the testing and evaluation work that is under way, I think local people have a right to know what is being considered and at least get the answers to basic questions.An air-security testing exercise was conducted in Oxleas Wood this March (5th-9th), and one of our supporters has sent us a copy of the MoD leaflet which was issued to the public.
13 March - LOCOG's 2012 tree-pruning campaign
As reported in our photo diary, dozens of trees (along the Avenue, at the northern end of Blackheath Avenue, and the northern end of Lovers' Walk) have just been pruned (see, for example, this entry and this one).
A mature horse-chesnut was felled in order to reposition Blackheath Gate so that LOCOG's construction vechicles can gain access to the Park next month (see this entry). And two trees have been felled in mysterious circumstances (see this entry and this one).
Remember that, by the time LOCOG's preparations are complete, over 600 trees will have been pruned; that is, over 20% of the trees in the Park. And this is being done simply in order to make headroom for horses and riders, and to make space for spectator concessions, WCs, catering stores, buggy parks, etc.
We have also noticed that trees which are not scheduled to be pruned are being pruned (see, for example, this entry). If a member of the public damaged one of the Park's trees in this way, they would be prosecuted.
9 March - Greenwich Council gets tough with LOCOG?
|According to the London Evening Standard Greenwich is one of three London boroughs which have lodged official objections to the Olympic Route Network (the 109-mile road network of "Zil lanes" serving official Olympic vehicles) on the grounds that this will cause severe congestion and disruption to residents, and will impede access to hospitals, suspend bus routes, and cut residents off from their homes. Failure to find a solution could trigger a judicial review, which could disrupt the process for gaining planning permission with five months to go to the Games.||
Could it be that the Greenwich Council Planning Board have finally started listening to local residents? Have they finally developed a backbone and stood up to the Olympic juggernaut? Could their objection result in a last-minute reprieve for Greenwich Park?
This is not clear from the article. It may simply be referring the fact that the Planning Board only "partially approved" LOCOG's Transport Plan for Greenwich Park (which could perhaps charitably be described as "work in progress") and that they will re-consider (rubber-stamp) it at a later meeting of the Board.
The article includes a comment on LOCOG's Olympic Route Network by a Park Vista resident: "It's like they've forgotten that people live here". The same can be said about the use of Greenwich Park for the equestrian events. It is as if the Olympic bid was dreamt up using a tourist map of London, and perhaps a booklet from The Royal Parks, and nobody thought of how this pipe dream would disrupt the life of the real city. The 2012 Games will be the biggest disruption to the lives of ordinary Londoners since the Blitz.
2 March - Phase 1 has begun
Phase 1 of LOCOG's occupation has begun with the enclosure of Circus Field on Blackheath, in order to use it as a "contractor and operational compound" until the end of November. See our photo diary for developments.