For just over a year, and spanning the two Formula E races in summer 2015 and 2016, our group BPAG (Battersea Park Action Group) campaigned against Formula E racing in Battersea Park. We felt the disruption, the concrete ring, and the limitations on movement within the park at the height of summer were far too high a price to pay.
Just before the 2016 race, Formula E announced they would not be returning to Battersea Park. Our joint statement with Formula E said:
A current action for Judicial Review is due to be heard in the High Court on 24/25 May between the claimant James Jackson and defendant Wandsworth Council with Formula E as an interested party. This action challenges the hosting of the Formula E Championship in Battersea Park. James Jackson supported by the Battersea Park Action Group is pleased to now announce that a satisfactory agreement has been reached over the future use of Battersea Park. James Jackson will now withdraw his Judicial Review action with his costs to date being met. The Championship this year will go ahead but further consideration will be given to future years. As required under the planning conditions for this year’s event, the park will be reinstated by Formula E to its original pre-March 2015 condition. James Jackson feels that the settlement reached represents a favourable outcome for all parties involved given the preparations already in hand for this year’s races as well as the obligation to reinstate the park. James Jackson said “I am delighted that a solution has been found; this is good for everyone.” Statement ends
We were very pleased with Formula E’s decision. We wish the motor series well in finding more sustainable and suitable venues. For those who are interested, the details of our historical objections to Formula E are below.
Green areas of the park were covered in tarmac. Carriageways were widened. For three weeks each summer, the park was a virtual no-go area as lorries, carrying thousands of concrete barriers and fences, came and went incessantly.
Seemingly endless electric drilling and the installation of concrete walls and fences made life in and around the park disturbing and depressing.
The environmental footprint of the event was horrific.
Health and safety standards were appalling. The freight movements and damage to trees and hedges gave the lie to the Wandsworth Council assurances that this would be a green event.
Wildlife was traumatised and the Children’s Zoo closed. Children’s activities and other sports events were curtailed and cancelled.
On the racedays local residents endured long hours of helicopter noise and the park was closed for two days to those without tickets and another two to everyone as the infrastructure was dismantled.
Even then the race’s detritus was everywhere and there were three more days of derigging disruption.
At the height of summer, people were deprived of the tranquillity of this urban oasis, a Grade II* listed Victorian park.
There was minimal consultation for such a huge proposed annual event.
Wandsworth Council says it sent planning letters to almost 2,000 local residents; BPAG has identified one local resident who thinks she may have received this letter!
Only a few local residents’ associations and other relevant organisations received an invitation to the public consultation meeting, which took place four months after an announcement that the event was going ahead.
Most of us only knew something was planned when green areas of the park were tarmacked over.
The three local organisations that responded to the planning application opposed the event. Their objections were ignored.
For the best part of a month, on glorious summer days, the park was a building site: an unsafe obstacle course for families, kids, cyclists, dog-walkers and every other park user, including those who need the park for their mental and physical wellbeing.
The park is Grade II* Listed, the star/asterisk representing that a space is a particularly important entity of more than special interest. Battersea Park was restored to its Victorian glory in 2002 with a £11 million award, funded in part by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It seems almost unbelievable to hold a motor race in such an environment.
The disruption occurred in June/July, peak months for recreational use. Londoners effectively lost the park for three weeks at the best time of its year.
No eco or green event should have such a toxic environmental and carbon footprint. The park was sullied by 800 lorry loads of newly formed concrete barriers (made at a reported cost of £2m) with heavy diesel pollution and sound pollution from drilling, construction and – at the event – helicopters. The electricity from the grid that powered the cars is far from being low-carbon.
Health and safety experts have said that the event was poorly marshalled, with build vehicles and park users mixing very dangerously.
The park’s abundant wildlife habitats were damaged by the build. Zoo animals had to be removed for the period of the set-up and de-rig.
Most ironically, the event was poor from a racing perspective: the track is too narrow and at one point overtaking on the first bend was barred. TV coverage was so poor that: ‘you couldn’t see the action because of the trees’.
Formula E did the right thing in leaving the park, as there are far better and more genuinely ‘green’ venues elsewhere. However, our main feeling about all our parks is that London’s green spaces should not be sold off to the highest bidder in this way.