Return of Formula E racing confirmed for Battersea Park

Wandsworth Council has granted planning permission for a second Formula E motor-racing championship to be held in July.

Battersea Park pagoda. Image: Pixabay
Battersea Park pagoda. Image: Pixabay

Formula E will build a temporary motor-racing circuit, fencing, safety barriers and other structures as part of the event, which was staged for the first time last year.

The planning committee's decision on Friday (24 July) was seven votes to three in favour. The council has previously said if the races are staged over five years as planned, Battersea Park will benefit to the tune of £1m in investment.

Committee chairman Cllr Sarah McDermott said the decision was made "purely on planning grounds".

"We had to satisfy ourselves that in planning terms alone this was a suitable and appropriate event for the park and having heard all the evidence and looked at this issue in great detail the committee agreed Formula E should be given consent to return this year."

The council says the planning permission has a number of conditions attached which are designed to minimise disruption for local residents, especially from noise disturbance. Construction arrangements have been amended to reduce impact on people's everday use of the park, with more areas kept open for longer prior to the race weekend.

Among 577 letters of objection received last year were missives from the Open Spaces Society, Save Battersea Park, the London Wildlife Trust, London CPRE, the Friends of Battersea Park and the Wandsworth and Battersea Societies.

The objectors argued that the event would lead to closure of the park, in whole or part, over many days in June and July; the noise and disturbance would be intolerable and, despite assurances that it was temporary, there were changes which would be permanent, in particular the potential damage to heritage trees.

The grade II*-listed Victorian park is of national importance. The head of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Stuart Hobley, has expressed concern since the HLF awarded a grant of £7.5 million to the park in 2004.

The objectors also submitted that the event would be unlawful, as it contravenes the Greater London Parks and Open Spaces Order 1967 which outlaws such events which occupy more than one-tenth of the open space.

Wandsworth's community services spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: "We learned a great deal last year when Formula E first came to the park and we are working very closely with the organisers to make sure that these lessons are implemented for this year’s set-up and de-rig.

"Our two primary aims are to make sure the park does not suffer any undue damage and to keep disturbance to the absolute minimum in the period before the race weekend and immediately afterwards."

He claimed the "dire warnings" that the park would be ruined last year were "totally unfounded". 

"However we are not in any way complacent and we will be very closely monitoring the build and de-rig phases extremely carefully to ensure the park is properly safeguarded again this year."

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, said: 'We deplore Wandsworth Council's decision to allow Formula E to devastate Battersea Park during a chunk of the summer. This is a special, tranquil place—as exemplified by the Peace Pagoda. The motor-race will be a massive disruption and is totally inappropriate here.

'We are disturbed that the council appears to have ignored the arguments presented by the objectors that the event will be unlawful.'

The objectors are considering legal action to challenge the decision.

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