Below is the latest letter sent from the Friends to Wandsworth Borough Council voicing objections to further Formula E events.
To WBC, 2nd November 2015 …
I am writing to you as lead for Formula E and as Chair of the Community Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee to ensure that you are fully aware of the views of the Friends on any repetition of Formula E racing in Battersea Park.
We understand that the Council must consider both the pros and the cons in reaching its decision and we expect these to be set out fully in the Committee paper which we have not yet seen. However, even taking account of the arguments in favour of continuing with Formula E, the Friends are overwhelmingly against further racing in the Park.
Our key points remain as printed in the Wandsworth Guardian in July:
- Formula E motor racing is just not appropriate in a Grade II listed Victorian Park
- Heavy lorries and heavy machinery moving around the Park, and the build-up of huge concrete blocks and debris fencing was unacceptable and dangerous, especially when walkers, buggies, dogs and cyclists were all using the same narrow routes
- The Park felt as though it had a band of steel around it. It was difficult to get through the ring to find tranquillity. The infra-structure was greater than expected.
- The movement of heavy vehicles to bring in the blocks, the fencing, the scaffolding etc. was polluting and inappropriate in a public park
- Industrial activity in the Park for almost 3 weeks was unacceptable
- Closing the Park for four days in mid-June, other than the Riverside Walk and the area south of Chelsea Gate, was unacceptable
In summary, ‘an event too far’.
The Heritage Impact Assessment Monitoring and Lessons Learnt Report of July 2015 gives a fair and accurate picture. The key point is that the whole Park was massively disrupted for a full three weeks in a brutal way exemplified by the photographs in the report. The concrete blocks and the fencing had a particularly harsh visual impact. However well managed, the movements of 400 low-loader lorries and numerous beeping, manoeuvring forklift trucks were immensely intrusive and totally incompatible with what is supposed to be the tranquil and natural atmosphere of the Park. The tonnes of equipment had a hugely adverse effect: scaffolding, loos, tracking, fencing and much, much more.
The e-village could have resulted in considerable damage to the grass and the trees. Damage was avoided only because the weather was so dry in June this year and the ground was firm.
The noise from the helicopters was unacceptable; something that the Council has already recognised.
The main arguments in favour of Formula E racing are the money, the boost to electric cars, keeping up the profile of London and the schools programme. We are not against Formula E. We are only against Formula E in Battersea Park.
We understand that if the Park is to receive £200,000 per year, it follows that the Council expects to receive very substantially more than this as a result of fees, and a share in ticket sales and television rights. However, it is in our view not sufficient to compensate for completely taking over the Park for a full three weeks at the height of summer.
It is a huge relief that damage to the fabric of the Park and its vegetation during set-up, racing and the de-rig was relatively minor. Had the weather been wet the story could have been very different. Repairing damage to the surface of the carriage drives remains outstanding. This should be put right as soon as possible.
The views of the Zoo, Recumbents and the other concessions should be carefully assessed.
The Friends share the view in the Heritage Impact Assessment that the ‘loss of normal use of and access to the Park and its facilities, in varying degrees, over a three week period is unacceptable’.
The impact on the Park was far greater than expected and far greater than was implied at the public meeting on 6 November.
We will be asking all Councillors on the Committee and the Executive to let us have a statement of their views in advance of the meetings on 24 and 30 November for publication to our members.
I am copying this letter to all Councillors given the importance of the issue, and to Paul McCue, Jerry Birtles and Jack Adam.
Frances Radcliffe (chair of The Friends of Battersea Park)