Councillors approve the return of Formula E
Published: Wednesday 25th November 15
Formula E racing is set to return to Battersea Park after councillors last night (Tuesday) voted in favour of the event being staged again next year and the year after.
Councillors on the community services scrutiny committee voted in favour of its return after hearing that June’s weekend of racing had been a success with more than 55,000 people attending – including around 9,000 Wandsworth residents.
Seven thousand borough residents purchased tickets to the event while another 2,000 free tickets were given to local schools, amenity groups and residents associations in the area around Battersea Park. This means that in total more than 16 per cent of those who attended lived in the borough.
Giving the event the green light for two more years also guarantees that Battersea Park will benefit from a total extra investment of £600,000 – a sum that could rise to £1m if the races are permitted for another two years beyond 2017.
Additional revenue will also be generated for the public purse from the event which will help fund important local frontline services and at the same time play a role in keeping Wandsworth’s council tax bills as low as possible.
Councillors heard that although this year’s inaugural races had been very well organised, important lessons had been learned which will be put into practice over the next two summers to ensure that disruption to people’s normal enjoyment of the park is kept to the absolute minimum,.
This will involve more strictly controlled segregation of park users from vehicles involved in the circuit set-up and removal and the potential introduction of rolling temporary closures around the park’s perimeter road during these build phases.
The delivery of Formula E infrastructure materials is also set to be reviewed and streamlined to ensure a reduced impact on the park during the build process.
Noise levels are also likely to be reduced for future races. The organisers of Formula E have pledged to significantly increase the number of free audio earphones given to spectators so the race commentary does not need to be relayed through a public address system that can be heard in nearby homes.
The organisers will also explore alternatives to using helicopters to deliver aerial shots of the race. Some residents complained about excessive helicopter noise on the first day of racing and although this was drastically reduced on day two, it did cause annoyance to local residents and attempts will be made to address this.
Councillors were also told that marshalling will be improved for next year – especially during the build and de-rig phases and that better signage will also be put in place so that park visitors are fully aware that, as was the case this year, most of the park’s 205 acres remain open for their use and enjoyment right up to the race weekend.
The committee heard that the park remained almost fully open to the public apart from only four days in June - the weekend of racing and a two day intensive race infrastructure de-rig immediately afterwards.
During this four day period, however, joggers, strollers and dog walkers and other members of the public were still able to enjoy the park’s picturesque riverside walk and a section of green open space near the Millennium Arena athletics track which were kept open throughout.
The committee also heard that there was no long-term damage to the park, apart from very some minor cosmetic works which have since been put right by Formula E. A small number of trees had suffered one or two very small broken branches but none had suffered any long-term ill-effects.
And apart from the resurfacing of the badly rutted and potholed car parks and former boules area, which was also funded by Formula E, there had been virtually no new hardstanding added to the park to allow the races to take place.
A post event review conducted by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) had concluded that none of the park’s important historical features had suffered any damage or harm.
Community services spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “I fully welcome and applaud this decision. It is the right decision for Battersea Park and also for the wider general population of Wandsworth.
“Granting permission for Formula E to return for the next two years means we have secured a total of £600,000 of new funding for a whole range of improvements in the park itself, and there are also additional sums we will receive that will be used to help fund frontline council services for our vulnerable residents and which can also help keep our council tax bills as low as possible – something of huge importance to those in our community who are on low or fixed incomes.
“Despite the grim warnings that came from some opponents beforehand, the simple truth is that the event did not cause the mayhem and destruction they predicted. There was some disruption of course, but this only really affected the perimeter road, and once beyond that there were literally hundreds of untouched acres of beautiful green open space for people to enjoy as they would at any other time of the year.
“We are confident that the important lessons we learned from this year’s inaugural set of races will mean that any disruption caused in the build up to next year’s races can be kept to the absolute bare minimum.”
Staging the races in the park puts Battersea at the heart of this new global sport and is expected to provide a great boost to London’s tourism trade.
Formula E racing cars use cutting edge electric motors that produce virtually no noise and no harmful emissions. They are powered by batteries that are charged up using a sea algae that produces water not exhaust fumes from technology invented by a south London firm. The advanced type of electric motors used in their racing cars are likely to be fitted as standard in the next generation of electrically powered family saloons and hatchbacks.
The council is also a keen supporter of the British motor racing industry which generates thousands of jobs in the UK’s engineering sector. Earlier this year trade and investment minister Lord Maude said: “Formula E has vital implications far beyond the motorsport industry. It is a locus of R&D around electric cars; offers an important opportunity to promote and generate interest around these cars; and promotes clean energy and sustainability.”
He highlighted the fact that 500 London buses are being fitted with an energy recovery system conceived by Williams Formula One and manufactured by UK engineering company GKN. This enables buses to improve their fuel economy and lower their CO2 emissions by over 20 per cent, reducing their impact on air quality in the capital.
Last year the HLF published a landmark report – ‘The State of UK Public Parks 2014: Renaissance to risk?’ which urged local authorities to devise new ways of securing funding to pay for the upkeep of parks and green spaces. It warned that “unless future funding is generated in new ways, parks are at serious risk of rapid decline and even being sold off and lost to the public forever”