2012 legacy: ground to make up
Monday, 28 June 2010
There has been progress on the London 2012 Olympic Games' legacy over the past year. But, as Stuart Watson reports, there is a mountain yet to climb if the promised benefits to east Londoners are to be realised.
Over the joy and excitement of every major sporting event looms the shadow of the morning after. Even as South Africa revels in hosting its US$4 billion soccer party, some question whether the impoverished residents of the townships will see any long-term benefit.
The goals: The Games' regeneration legacy promises
In two years, Londoners will face the same situation. The hardships endured by the poor of Newham or Hackney pale in comparison with those suffered in the Cape Flats, but they are real nonetheless, and 13 of the capital's 15 most deprived council wards are located in the five host boroughs. Meanwhile, the cost of the 2012 Olympic Games will be more than three times higher than the current football World Cup at £9.3 billion and counting.
In defiance of most existing evidence, which suggests that big sporting events do not leave a significant benefits for local people, London 2012 has been billed as the regeneration Games. Since it was awarded the Olympics five years ago, bold, albeit often vague, promises have been made about how the Games will transform the lives of east Londoners.
The focus on legacy makes it all the more surprising that it has taken so long for any concrete plans to emerge about the transformation envisaged to follow the Olympics and how it will be delivered. But over the past year there has been some significant progress.
A post-Games regeneration body, the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC), has been created to develop the Olympic site and venues after the Games. In March, the company was promised control over a debt-free Olympic Park after the Games thanks to a £438 million deal between the Government and the London mayor's economic development body, the London Development Agency (LDA), which owned the site and had hitherto led the legacy planning effort. The deal has so far escaped the funding axe. Earlier this month, it emerged that the deal was being re-examined as part of a Treasury review of spending commitments made this year by the previous government. The new government now says that the deal is not one of the spending commitments to be cancelled or suspended. However, it says it would be reassessed as part of the autumn Comprehensive Spending Review.
Meanwhile, the five Olympic host boroughs - Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest - have identified for the first time the socioeconomic improvements that they want the Games to produce. Last November, joint body the Host Boroughs Unit published a Strategic Regeneration Framework (SRF) for the boroughs, which was endorsed by the London mayor and the Labour government. This set a 2030 "convergence" target of bringing residents up to the level of people living in the rest of London on measures such as life expectancy, worklessness and educational attainment (see panel, p26).
But questions remain over how these ambitious goals can be achieved, particularly under the new Government's straitened public funding regime. Tory London Assembly member Andrew Boff says: "My concern about the SRF is that there are loads of targets that almost nobody could disagree with, but no things that (the boroughs) want to do (to help them hit them). We need to see some concrete initiatives."
The SRF document said that it would be followed in March 2010 by a full action plan, but Roger Taylor, director of the Host Boroughs Unit, admits that this didn't happen, and that it could be next year before even a partial action plan is produced. "The host boroughs, the Greater London Authority and the Department for Communities and Local Government have all agreed that, in the current financial climate, it is necessary to review the sequencing and priority of the SRF strands and have agreed initially to focus the majority of effort on getting people into work and better paid work," he says. "Action plans around the development of an integrated approach to skills, employment and access to work (related to the Olympics) will be published in late 2010 or early 2011." But there is as yet no scheduled date for the publication of action plans relating to housing health and crime.
Nonetheless, Boff accepts that the framework has already had a significant impact on policy-making at various levels. The London mayor's recently published economic strategy and draft London Plan contain a clear commitment to the Olympic legacy convergence objective. Meanwhile, all the host boroughs' corporate plans are being brought into line with both the SRF and the multi-area agreement the five councils signed in March that gives them new powers to unite and direct funding to boost local jobs and skills support.
Before the election, the Labour government took steps to support the framework. The DCLG and Government Olympic Executive established an East London Legacy Board to coordinate funding intended to support the implementation of the SRF at local, regional and national levels. Ministers also agreed to ask all government departments to review their policies in order to support the convergence goal.
Whether the new Government will support the SRF is as yet unclear, however. Neither the DCLG nor the Department for Culture, Media and Sport was willing to answer the question, instead referring Regeneration & Renewal to the coalition government statement, which says: "We will work with the mayor of London to ensure a safe and successful Olympic and Paralympic Games in London in 2012, and urgently form plans to deliver a genuine and lasting legacy."
Ros Dunn, chief executive of the Thames Gateway London Partnership, a sub-regional alliance of 13 east London councils, says: "We don't yet know what the new Government thinks, but we think it should commit one way or another as soon as it can. If it is serious about giving more responsibility to local government, then failing to endorse it wouldn't fit very well with that." But she adds that she would like to see the convergence target expanded to cover all of east London.
Another factor that could delay the implementation of SRF targets is an intervention by London's mayor. Earlier this month, Boris Johnson announced plans to create a development corporation, reporting directly to him, to replace the OPLC (see p13). Although a similar proposal was included in the Tories' manifesto, it wasn't in the new Government's coalition agreement and the Government has yet to signal whether it will support Johnson's proposal.
Hackney mayor Jules Pipe, who sits on the Olympic Park Regeneration Steering Group - which includes the mayor, ministers and other host borough leaders, and which approved the SRF - says the idea is not a popular one outside City Hall. "There is a worry about a loss of focus," he warns. "No-one has questioned the capacity of the OPLC to deliver and, after just getting it up and running, this could throw everything up in the air."
Labour London Assembly member John Biggs, whose constituency includes the Olympic boroughs, adds: "A development corporation would have planning and compulsory purchase powers, but, if we have a good partnership for the area, existing agencies can do that." Biggs argues that the Games' socioeconomic legacy risks being overlooked unless it is linked to the physical legacy work carried out by the legacy company. "The OPLC and its partners need to come up with a regeneration vision informed by the SRF," he says.
OPLC chief executive Andrew Altman says that his organisation is working with new ministers to align its corporate plan with their goals. But he confirms that efforts to connect legacy work on the Olympic Park with regeneration in surrounding areas will be a priority.
"We will have to start thinking about specific measurable outputs to do with areas like affordable housing and employment. We will be looking at the SRF goals and what we can contribute to those," he says. "We will be taking a regeneration lens to everything and asking how we can create jobs and ensure access to the park and the stadium for local people."
But first, the OPLC will focus on producing its vision for the Olympic Park after the Games. This will be based on the Legacy Masterplan Framework created by the LDA in 2008, but will incorporate changes that take into account a public consultation on the earlier work. Altman says the document will be revealed in the early autumn and will include plans for affordable housing and community facilities such as schools. OPLC chair Baroness Ford has repeatedly said that the vision will place a greater emphasis on family homes than preceding plans, with fewer high-rise flats.
Altman says the March deal with the previous government, under which it was agreed that the Olympic Park would be transferred to the OPLC after the Games without taking on £300 million of debt owed by the LDA to the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), would be of huge benefit to the OPLC as it would allow the company to focus on creating higher value in the long run rather than simply repaying short-term debt.
But funding to redevelop the Olympic Park after the Games may still prove a challenge, even with the debt-free Olympic Park deal. In March, the OPLC's Ford warned that the company could require public investment of up to £450 million to meet the Games' legacy goals. Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Dee Doocey says: "No-one wants to talk about money - it's the elephant in the room. My concern is that there will be no money to leave the park in a state where it can be used by Londoners after the Games."
Altman admits that the funding situation will be difficult, particularly for infrastructure provision, but he argues that the scale of the public sector resources already committed to the area will help to attract private sector investment. "Our challenge is to take that and leverage it for continued investment," he says.
The aspirations set out in the SRF may also be hampered by a lack of money. It will be hard for boroughs that have so recently benefited from the huge public investment related to the Olympics to argue that more cash is needed to secure a legacy.
Hackney's Pipe says that the host boroughs have taken into account the likely shortage of resources for the SRF. "Our pitch to City Hall and the DCLG was not about more money, but about how we use existing resources," he says. "We want future decisions on how resources might be deployed to be made with convergence in mind. It's about a concerted effort across local and national government, not a begging bowl."
Five years after London was awarded the Games, there is a sense that more needs to be done to ensure a legacy for east Londoners. Geraldine Blake, chief executive of Community Links, which runs 60 local community projects, says: "We were enthusiastic supporters before the bid was won, recognising that it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the area. So far, however, we haven't been impressed."
Blake says that the Games' impact on job creation has been limited. "We hoped that people from Newham would be running the Olympics and running in the Olympics, not just picking up litter," she says. "Yet even litter picking is proving elusive: young Newham residents are struggling to get jobs on the site."
She adds that, until recently, Community Links has found it hard to establish a dialogue with the bodies delivering the Games. But she praises the OPLC for beginning to turn this around, with "productive and useful" meetings taking place with the body.
Lord Mawson, a social entrepreneur and founder of community organisation the Bromley-by-Bow Centre, was appointed in March to oversee the OPLC's effort to create local jobs. He admits that more can be done to ensure that work on the Olympic Park brings spin-off benefits for the East End, but adds that he is encouraged that the local employment agenda is being taken more seriously. "The OPLC is keen to connect its work with the surrounding community," he says.
The LDA is charged with providing the lead on maximising the social and economic benefits of the Olympics for London before and during the Games. Geoff Newton, director of Olympic opportunity, defends its record. He says that, of the 25,000 people who have worked on the Olympic Park since April 2008, around 6,000 have been residents of the host boroughs and that many of those who have learned construction skills as a result will find jobs elsewhere after work on the site ends.
He also points to the 35,000 smaller London firms that have registered to bid for Olympic-related contracts on the government-funded Compete4 website. "It doesn't guarantee that they will win a contract, but we put in a lot of effort through Business Link and other programmes to help them become more competitive," he says. "That will mean a legacy of better developed and more capable small businesses."
Paul Brickell, executive member for the Olympics at the London Borough of Newham, says that the Games have already attracted private sector investment into east London. He highlights technology firm Siemens' proposal to spend £30 million building an exhibition and conference centre in the Royal Docks, as well as Birkbeck College's plans to build a campus in Stratford. He also argues that developer Westfield's giant Stratford City shopping development might not have gone ahead in the current economic climate if the Olympics had not been coming to London.
The East End appears to be finally beginning to feel the social and economic benefits of the Games. Meanwhile, the creation of both the SRF and the OPLC has put a more comprehensive framework in place to deliver the Olympic legacy. But the task of transforming the lives of people in the capital's poorest areas is a huge one. In the coming year, the focus will need to switch to the practical measures required to ensure that east London does not miss out on the opportunity for change provided by the Olympic Games.
Our Fair Games campaign aims to raise awareness of the regeneration pledges made by the Games' organisers, and the progress towards meeting them. For more details, visit regen.net/fairgames
Latest Stories from Regeneration and Renewal
Latest jobs Jobs web feed
- Senior Planner DLP Planning Ltd Salary Negotiable, Bedford and Sheffield
- Associate Planner DLP Planning Ltd Salary Negotiable, South East Region
- Development Control Planner Tyler Parkes Salary by negotiation, Birmingham/ Solihull
- Senior Strategic Planner Tyler Parkes Competitive salary commensurate with experience , Birmingham/ Solihull
- Planner/Senior Planner, Retail Assessment, London based Turley Associates Competitive package, London
- Economic Planning Consultant Turley Associates Competitive package, Manchester
- Transport Planner Harrogate Borough Council Salary: £33,128 - £34,894 per annum, Leeds/ Bradford
- Planning Officer (Development Control) Hart District Council £23,708 - £29,236 (dependent upon qualifications and experience), Hart
- Planning Policy Officer Hart District Council £23,708 - £29,236 (dependent upon qualifications and experience) , Hart
- Principle Planning Policy Officer Hart District Council Starting at £33,661, Hart