by Councillor Fleur Anderson
I feel let down by Formula E and I do not think we should welcome it back to Battersea Park.
Last December we received long explanations of how the event would be run. We received promises and assurances of an event which would have minimal disruption for the public, be a safe event, be quiet and be right for the park.
We not only welcomed the revenue but also the opportunity to promote green technology and provide a world class event in Wandsworth.
However the event was far more disruptive than promised – as the report shows, and as we have heard from so many representative local groups such as the Friends of Battersea Park, the Battersea Society and local residents groups.
It is clear that the actual experience was extremely disruptive and even for many “traumatic”. It was not just two days with a short set up and take-down, it was a full three weeks of the park being taken over by a ring of steel and described by some as looking like Alcatraz.
The visual effect was far greater than we led to believe and council staff agree that the visual impact will remain the same if the event continues in future years. The independent Heritage Impact Assessment says “loss of normal use of and access to the Park and its facilities, in varying degrees, over a three-week period is, in our view, unacceptable”.
Safety is also a major concern and there were real concerns in the Health and Safety report about communication between teams, poor stewarding, and having a race track built alongside public access. As it turns out the event itself was safe, but the setting up was not.
Having read the report, I feel that we were extremely lucky to not have had a serious accident during the set-up, and we should not be risking the general public’s safety again – the park just isn’t the right place for this.
There were lots of other issues too:
- noise from helicopters
- disruption to the zoo and the Peace Pagoda
- having ‘grid girls’
- lack of long-term ‘green’ results for the Borough such as electric power points for car charging
I could go on. Some of these can be mitigated against as outlined in the report but not enough, but it fundamentally is not the event we were promised and making Battersea Park a race track has not worked.
The Council needs to involve the local residents in something that will impact their environment so much – but they didn’t do so and still aren’t. As we have heard, most local residents did not receive notices about the consultation and feel that this was ‘done to them’.
Similarly they experienced what it was like in June and were asked to feed into a consultation which showed overwhelmingly negative comments but we’re still here considering continuing with the race.
Rather than involving people in knowing the benefits for the borough resulting from the disruption to their lives, the finances or a explanation of benefits for Council services have been shrouded in secrecy.
The friends of Battersea Park do not feel that the money for the park is worth the impact on the park and people who use it – we should listen to them. People feel that this decision to go ahead with the race is being steamrollered through.
This is not how the council should conduct itself, and it is the role of councillors to listen to people and take feedback seriously. I have had a stream of emails, I have seen the petitions and surveys – it couldn’t be clearer that most people don’t want this.
The race has a value to the council, but three weeks’ public access to Battersea Park in June also has a value too. That is what the feedback from local residents can tell us and help us to weigh up. This must be taken seriously but is being roundly dismissed by the Conservative councillors – an attitude we have seen to so many other issues and on the value of consultation with residents in general.
We do support Formula E – but not in Battersea Park. We have a break clause and we should use it.