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The Olympics site is eating into east London's green spaces

American landscape architects are promising east Londoners a park that will be "equivalent to Hyde Park" and "will give the area an equal weight to the west" (Olympics will leave east London an open space to rival Hyde Park, March 17). However, there are fundamental questions about the way the park and its surrounding developments are being planned that your article fails to address.

Hyde Park is and will remain a great metropolitan open space in the heart of one of the richest and most visited cities in the world. East London, meanwhile, has always been the poorest part of the city, and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future, despite the Olympics. Badly needed regeneration, of which the Lea Valley development is intended to be the flagship, can by no means be taken for granted, based as it is on large-scale private investment.

The article notes: "Officials admit that building a park is essential for increasing the value of neighbouring development." This is no bad thing if both the park and surrounding development bring major benefits to existing communities. However, the current idea of ringing the park with apartment buildings - should the market for them still exist after 2012 - and a media-based complex will create a wall between the "new East End" and the old communities.

Already the Clays Lane residents are being moved out to make way for the athletes village that will be "transformed into 4,000 new apartments which will overlook the new landscape". Few of the locals are likely to still be around to enjoy the view once these apartments become available, with no guarantee of a right of return or that a significant proportion will be affordable.

Robin Crompton and myself, together with other urban development teaching staff, recently led a group of postgraduate students researching the sustainability of the games legacy and its implications for the community in Hackney Wick, to the west of the proposed park.

Under the current proposal, this area will be isolated from the park by the media complex. A new "green Olympics" site development will be of little more benefit to local residents than the current vast blue-fenced building site they will have to suffer until the Olympics is upon them, and for several years after as the legacy sites are redeveloped.

The London Development Agency is intent on retaining the media complex as studio facilities. The mayor has been trying to sell it to Bollywood. But west London, with its dynamic Asian business community and proximity to Heathrow, would seem much more attractive.

Hackney Wick is already one of London's most deprived and isolated urban communities, hemmed in on three sides by major rail and road infrastructure. In fact it is much worse off in terms of green space as a result of the Olympics and will remain so for the foreseeable future. It has lost the use of nearby football pitches, together with allotments in good use for decades, with no promise that any of these will be replaced.

A plan to leave a real legacy, in which open-space provision serves local communities and is integrated with mixed-use development for a mixed-income population, is essential.

Tony Lloyd-Jones

This article appeared in the Guardian on Tuesday March 25 2008 on p33 of the Leaders & reply section.

Tony Lloyd-Jones is principal lecturer in urban design at the University of Westminster T.L.Jones@westminster.ac.uk


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