Electricity is in the air – Formula E and the Battersea Park dispute

By Noy Shani  @NoyShani  @TLE_Sport

This year is set to be a year of key sporting events.  The Cricket World Cup is lurking around the corner, England is hosting the prestigious Rugby World Cup in September and London will host the ninth and final round of the FIA Formula E 2014/2015 series on June 27th.

The proposed location for the race, Battersea Park, has already managed to upset many people despite accruing a lot of supporters at the same time.

But before explaining why, it is important to understand what Formula E is in the first place.

Formula E is FIA’s new racing series, launched officially only last September.  Its first race in Beijing, China, saw Brazilian driver Lucas di Grassi win a dramatic contest after Nicolas Prost and Nick Heidfeld crashed at the final corner.

The entire series is all about single-seater electric cars through which the organisers wish to convey the values of clean energy, mobility and sustainability.

After the first race in China, the series headed to Putrajaya, Malaysia, before hitting South America with visits to Punta del Este, Uruguay , in December and Buenos Aires, Argentina last week.

This spring, the electric cars of the top ranked teams e.dams-Renault and Virgin Racing and those of other manufacturers head to the United States to compete in Miami and Long Beach.

Following the coast to coast tour, the series heads to Europe with Monte Carlo and Berlin hosting two races in May, before the big conclusion in London’s Battersea Park on June 27th.

“We are very pleased that the Formula E race comes to London.  It will be the last race for the 2014/2015 season which means it will be a decisive one.  We want to show people electric cars can be cool and fast,” said Tom Phillips, spokesperson for Formula E, to The London Economic.

Earlier this December 2014 Wandsworth Council’s community services scrutiny committee approved the concept of hosting Formula E’s title decider in the park, subject to planning permission and approval from the motor racing world’s governing body, FIA.

Jane Ellison, MP for Battersea, had a tip to offer the council: “Providing there is adequate noise and disruption mitigation, and no damage is done to the fabric of the park, I am, in principle, in favour of the proposal from Formula E.  Although the proposal is for an annual event for 5 years, I understand there would be a break clause in any agreement, which is important.  I would expect Wandsworth Council to review any first event in detail.”

Wandsworth Council are expecting up to £1 million investment revenue from Formula E for approving the park as the host of the competition for the next five years.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) approved at the very same meeting that the park is fit for the event if a few guidelines are followed.

However, as indicated before, not everyone is happy with the race taking place in the park.

The Friends of Battersea Park Association participated in most meetings and wrote to the council about their fears from noise pollution and interruptions for regular park-goers.

“There would be alterations to the fabric of the Park,” said Frances Radcliffe, the chairman of the organisation, in a letter to the council last September.

Charlie Masson Smith, a spokesman for Wandsworth Council addressed one of the main concerns, public access, by telling us earlier this week: “keeping the park open for non-ticket holders will be investigated as an option once the venue is decided.”

Explaining Formula E’s angle, Phillips said: “We’ve been very transparent and been to many council meetings and the fact the race will take place in Battersea Park is almost finalised.  We are waiting for final approval this February.

“We of course want to be good neighbours and will make sure the set up work and operation of the event is done in accordance with the local residents’ association and the Wandsworth Council.  We want it to be a good and unique experience and hope London will host the race many more years to come.”

Will Martindale, a MP Candidate for Battersea said: “I’m excited by the growth of Formula E but there are a number of challenges hosting in Battersea Park.  I love the park and run round it every weekend. Access to green outdoor space is precious.”

Discussing in more detail where should the investment money go, he added: “The council and race organisers can do more to protect the park from lasting damage.  If the council does go ahead, it’s essential that the money raised goes to the local community.  The Doddington and Rollo estates on Battersea Park Road have been neglected for years.  2 in 5 children grow up here in poverty.”

There are many challenges facing the race organisers – keeping everyone happy is an almost impossible task.  Nevertheless, will Formula E ultimately come to Battersea Park?

For more from Noy, visit www.noyshani.com

photocredit: FIA Formula E

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