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What a Circus!

Following the revelation that the Blackheath Circus Field had been purchased by the ODA NOGOE2012 has pressed on to uncover more details about the transaction. It turns out that the purchase was actually made by the LDA.

Mrs Mawhood of NOGOE pointed out to the Greenwich Senior Planning Solicitor that the Olympics Act required that purchases of land for the purposes of the Olympics have to be made by a Regional Development Agency, which the ODA is not. The Solicitor has responded that the ODA has got around this problem by requesting the LDA buy the land on its behalf, so the LDA has taken out a short lease from the Crown Estate Commissioners and the Queen.

Dear Mrs Mawhood

The London Development Agency (LDA) is a regional development agency for
the purposes of the London 2012 Act. The LDA was designated as a
development agency for the Greater London Area under Schedule 1 of the
Regional Development Agencies Act 1998. The LDA is acting at the request
of the ODA as set out in s.36(1) in acquiring a short lease of Circus
Field from the Crown Estates owner of this part of the registered common.

The lease is made between Her Majesty the Queen, the Crown Estate
Commissioners and the London Development Agency, and an under lease of
the Circus Field has been made between the LDA and LOCOG by licence to
underlet from the Crown Estate Commissioners.


Suan White
Senior Planning Solicitor
Greenwich Council

Mrs Mawhood has then pointed out, as she had already done in earlier correspondence, that the land being purchased is not 'registered common' as described by the Greenwich Solicitor, but Metropolitan Common Land. However, whereas her previous correspondence had dealt with the lack of clarity in terms of the ODA's powers to enclose Metropolitan Common Land, as it could be held this land was not covered by the general terms 'the commons, open spaces or allotments', on this occasion she focused on the powers of the LDA as she understands the LDA, as a Regional Development Agency, does not have the authority to purchase Metropolitan Common Land. She finds it strange that the legislators did not take the opportunity to cover this deficiency when defining the land which might be purchased in light of this restriction on the powers of Regional Development Agencies.

Dear Sue White

Thank you for your prompt reply.

'The LDA is acting at the request of the ODA as set out in s.36(1) in acquiring a short lease of Circus Field from the Crown Estates owner of this part of the registered common.'

Except that Circus Field is Metropolitan Common Land, not merely a common, other registered common, open space or allotment. Metropolitan Common Land cannot be acquired by an authority (the LDA in this instance), I am given to understand.

Section 36 paragraph 3 (c) of the Olympics Act 2006 lists only "commons, open spaces or allotments". I don't believe that gives anyone grounds to argue that the inclusion of Metropolitan Common Land is implied in that list in the Olympics Act. It isn't. You can see why. In the drafting of the Olympics Act, someone might have wanted Metropolitan Common Land included in that list, until it was pointed out that the purchaser had to be a regional development agency which - under other legislation - is not empowered to purchase Metropolitan Common Land. The legislators could have found a way round it but appear not to have thought it necessary.

At the moment, it looks as if this lease and underlease with respect to Circus Field are void.

Yours sincerely
Mrs Rachel Mawhood

The Olympics is not a project which brooks opposition, especially on planning grounds where the rules are simply rewritten to suit the project's needs. No-one, outside a magic circle of solicitors and planners, seems to have been aware of these 'legal' manoeuvres. No doubt NOGOE will now face the usual barrage of hostility from the defenders of the project. However, when the protections on common land are eroded in one case, usually in the name of some allegedly greater good, precedents are set for future cases, which makes it all the more important to argue each case as NOGOE and others, such as Save Wanstead Flats, have done. Once lost these rights are lost forever.

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