London's Olympic planner states formula for success

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 July, 2005, 12:00am

Successful urban regeneration is aimed at bringing social and economic benefits to those affected, the planner behind London's winning 2012 Olympics bid said yesterday.

Although iconic architecture was important for Joe Brown, president and chief executive of Edaw, an environmental, economic, planning and design firm with more than 800 employees worldwide, he said it was crucial to put things in the right order.

The San Francisco-based company was awarded the contract to prepare an Olympic plan for the Lower Lea Valley in east London in August 2003. Renowned architects including Sir Richard Rogers and Lord Foster also contested the contract.

Mr Brown said: 'The International Olympic Committee wants a legacy for the Olympics; they want the community to be better off than they used to be. It played a significant part in winning the bid.'

He rated an affected community's support as the first important step towards a successful project and said dealing with the social and economic issues the population faced was a prerequisite for getting their endorsement.

Mr Brown arrived in Hong Kong on Monday to introduce his company's award-winning master plan for the Lower Lea Valley. The area, which runs from Stratford in the north to Canary Wharf in the south, is 4.8km from central London, but is one of the most deprived communities in Britain.

The plan for the 607-hectare site includes venues and infrastructure needed for London to host the 2012 Games. After the Olympics, the site will provide 9,100 new homes - with at least half affordable to low-income families - and around 7,000 new jobs.

There will also be a new park, the largest to be built in urban Europe in the past 150 years. All the buildings will be low-energy structures connected to a local network of wind turbines, solar panels and a combined heat and power plant. Only low-emission vehicles will be allowed to enter the area.

To cope with a 20 per cent unemployment rate, local people will be given vocational training. New schools will also be built.

Mr Brown estimated that construction would begin in about three years. Unlike urban renewal projects that Hong Kong is familiar with, the local population will not be asked to move.

'There shouldn't be a wholesale tearing down of a community. You have got to put together a holistic strategy first and then decide what is to be removed and what to keep,' Mr Brown said.

'It is wrong to go into a community and say 'we're going to tear it down and do the planning later',' he said, describing this as an abuse of urban regeneration.

His company is also responsible for Beijing's Olympic aquatic park and forest park.