I have been reading what is going to happen to Greenwich Park when they start preparing for the Olympic equestrian events which are to be held there in 2012, against the wishes of most people in the horse world, not to mention the locals.
Parts of the ancient park are to be closed and fenced off for five years, starting next month. A 9ft. security fence will be installed, with spotlights every 80ft and CCTV cameras on 16ft. poles. The soil will be quarried and replaced, the ground will be levelled, the paths excavated and 72 trees pruned, with some losing main branches. Dozens of temporary buildings will be erected, including a 23,000-seater stadium. Historic gates will be removed. There will be a total of 6,500 lorry movements in the park - about 60 a day - together with 36,000 vehicle movements during the actual events.
Greenwich Park is home to a number of sweet chestnuts which are among the oldest living things in London. As Andrew Gilligan says in The Daily Telegraph, they were young at the time of the Great Fire and 130 years old during the French Revolution. Their branches shaded King Charles II and his mistresses. It is beyond understanding that such a place should be subject to the treatment proposed.
The planning application is to come before Greenwich Council on Tuesday, and the fury and disbelief of the local residents is apparent in more than 2,000 objections. The application provides for the preservation of some of the heritage features, but others will only be "preserved by record", which is to say destroyed, but only after records have been made of them. It is doubtful what funds will be available for the restoration of the park after it is all over.
Why did those in charge not choose Windsor or Badminton for the equestrian events? Both places are used to hosting large-scale equestrian competitions, and both were available. Windsor is near enough to London (Eton has been chosen for the rowing events), so why wantonly destroy an ancient and beautiful park for the sake of a few miles? And why did the Royal Parks Agency allow it?