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Highway to Greed - Westfield's high-security Olympic rat-run

Westfield Stratford beyond Bridge LO3: A view over the 2012 Olympic site towards Westfield Stratford and Bridge LO3, 3rd March 2011, taken on the 'Printers' Paradise' walk organised by Wick Curiosity Shop.Westfield Stratford beyond Bridge LO3: A view over the 2012 Olympic site towards Westfield Stratford and Bridge LO3, 3rd March 2011, taken on the 'Printers' Paradise' walk organised by Wick Curiosity Shop.

A heavily secured transit route, known as the 'Northern Retail Lifeline', is to be carved through the Olympic Park so that 4x4 drivers can be shepherded through to Westfield to do their Christmas shopping this year - while cyclists, pedestrians and public transport are banned from using the route. So much for the 'greenest Olympics ever'.

The secure route, which is apparently required to meet a 'commitment' to Westfield, will offer all the charm and atmosphere of shopping in a war zone. It runs from the A12 Lea Interchange at Waterden Road, eastwards around the site perimeter road behind the Velodrome, then turns south and through the old Bully Point Nature Reserve (oh the irony) to the Athlete's Village and Stratford City. The planning application letter stresses:

It should be noted that the NRL will only be for motor vehicles no larger than 4x4/SUV type vehicles. Furthermore, neither public transport nor pedestrians nor cyclists will be permitted.

The project is receiving funding from the GLA, though it is apparently not in the interests of London council tax payers to know the details of the arrangement. Mayor's decision ODD20 of 27/09/2010 agreed

1. To accept the recommendation by the Olympic Project Review Group (OPRG) for the amount to be made available for the ODA to progress the Northern Retail Lifeline Security project. But The financial arrangements are included in Part 2 (confidential) and Part 2 of this report is confidential under the FOI Act.

From September 2011 it is intended to operate 24/7 and Westfield hope it will be carrying up to 1250 vehicles an hour, around 50% of the total visiting traffic and representing significant retail turnover at M&S and John Lewis and other such exotic outlets at the Stratford City mega mall. It is only expected to operate for 9 months as it will be removed again in June 2012 when the 'Games lockdown' occurs.

At the start of the route drivers will be stopped and checked in a border-control style floodlit 'search plaza' enclosed with electrified fencing, featuring 6 vehicle search lanes, overlooked by tower-mounted CCTV, and equipped with barriers, rising blockers and height restrictors. A further vehicle screening area will be located at the Stratford City end of the route - though this will 'react only where threat or intelligence dictate'.

It appears that vehicles will be stopped and 'selected' for searching on the whim of Westfield security staff who will be manning the security plaza:

There will be a manned security booth at the entrance to the search plaza where vehicles will be selected for searching. The security guard will indicate whether a vehicle has been selected by hand held signals and a display board. The non–selected vehicles will continue straight on and the selected vehicles will turn left into the search plaza and will be directed into an available search lane. The selected vehicles will be stopped by the finger barrier at the end of each search lane and there is a last resort prevention method beyond the barrier in the event a vehicle does not comply.

The entire no-stopping route will be 'operated as a controlled space so that the integrity of the Olympic Park is not compromised', with around 80 CCTV cameras lining the route and the road enclosed within 3.6m mesh fencing. Enhanced lighting will be used to 'support surveillance and detection'.

Low key surveillance is not the order of the day because

...it should be noted visibility of security infrastructure is needed to reinforce public perception of the seriousness of the protection measures to dissuade people from planning disruptive events.

...The key functions of the search plaza are first to reinforce, deter, control and inform while

The physical measures are intended to reinforce, deny and control

However it would be unfair to assume this is just an unprincipled orgy of concrete and hyper-surveillance designed to enable car-powered consumption under maximum threat levels. Contract tender documents make it clear that the highest environmental and ethical standards are expected. The fact that no-one can walk down this road is no obstacle to good intentions, and this will come as no surpise to connoisseurs of London 2012 hypocrisy:

Transport & Mobility - The Employer’s aim is:
To create accessible, pedestrian friendly Olympic Park and Venues, with good connectivity to surrounding areas.

While biodiversity and multiculturalism box-ticking isn't forgotten and it is expected that the contractor

Designs the works to be sensitive to the character, diversity, and demographics of the surrounding Olympic Park and diversity of the local communities.

and as if anything was still surviving inside the Olympic apocalypse zone

avoid and minimise impacts upon, and conserve protected or important species and habitats

References:

Northern Retail Lifeline - Northern Vehicle Search Area and Central Checkpoint Project Information November 2010 REF 6906.xxx.002.TVF.2

Planning documents (submitted as 'Minor amendment to the alignment of the Outer Perimeter Security Fence'...)

NRL CCTVNRL CCTV

Happy shopping!


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