Formula E races could be staged in Battersea Park

Published: 18 September 2014

State-of-the-art electric racing cars could soon be thrilling crowds of spectators in Battersea Park if the organisers of the new Formula E motor racing championships get the green light to stage a race there next year.

British-based Formula E kicked off its 2014/5 championship season last weekend with an exciting street race in Beijing. 

And to mark the climax of this year’s championship in June the organisers would like to stage their title decider in Battersea Park.

Councillors on the community services overview and scrutiny committee will be asked next week if they support the idea in principle.

The council’s environment spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “This is a very interesting proposition that if approved would put Battersea Park at the very centre of an exciting new global sporting event.

“The organisers behind Formula E are at the cutting edge of electric car technology. The cars they are racing today are pioneering the kind of motors that could be fitted as standard to the next generation of electrically powered family saloons and hatchbacks.

“We are keen to support advances in this important environmental technology and give our backing to the globally important British motor racing industry that generates many thousands of jobs in the UK’s engineering sector.

“As things stand right now, there is a proposal on the table and councillors are being asked whether or not they support the idea in principle. There is still plenty of work to be done before a final decision can be made.

“What we are quite clear about is that we could not support a proposal that would cause harm or damage to the fabric of the park and its important historical and heritage features, cause unnecessary or unreasonable disturbance to residents living nearby or involve excessive disruption to people’s normal enjoyment of the park.”

If approved the race would feature 20 drivers competing on a circuit that uses the park’s existing perimeter tarmac roads.

A test drive in a fully fledged Formula E racing car was carried out along this route at 5am on August 14 by the winner of the Beijing race and current championship leader Lucas di Grassi.

Because the racing cars have an electric motor and emit very little noise no-one living nearby complained about being woken up despite the very early hour and the fact that many windows would have been left open overnight at that time of the summer.

The organisers’ proposals include a speedy process for the installation and removal of safety barriers around the proposed course, thereby reducing the physical impact on the park and minimising disruption to its normal everyday use.

Consultations have commenced with local amenity groups and a heritage impact assessment has been drawn up which will be submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), which financed an extensive range of improvements to the park between 1998 and 2003.

If Formula E gets the go-ahead to stage a race in the park it would deliver a significant financial windfall to the borough which could help fund improvements to Wandsworth’s parks and open spaces  

While the HLF will look closely at heritage considerations, in June it published a landmark report - ‘The State of UK Public Parks 2014: Renaissance to risk?’ which urged local authorities to devise new and innovative ways of securing funding to pay for the upkeep of parks and other green open spaces.

The HLF study 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”.

If councillors agree to support the proposal in principle at their meeting on September 25, further consultations will take place with a range of organisations and the public before councillors meet again to make a final decision towards the end of October.

If the proposal is approved at that point then Formula E would subsequently need to seek planning permission to stage the race.