After promising to restore the Water Works Golf Course after its ‘temporary’ use as a campsite for the Olympics the LVRPA reversed this decision in 2013 and decided, without consultation, to continue to use it for camping alongside pony trekking. In fact, the Olympics had simply provided the opportunity to do what officers at the LVRPA had been planning to do for a long time as part of their programme to commercialise the authority’s open space.
The whole idea of this project, of course, was to make money. However, a report submitted to the LVRPA’s executive on 21st November 2013 reveals a somewhat different outcome. After claiming the ‘successful introduction of a campsite at the Waterworks through the Olympic period’ officers were obliged to note that there had been a ‘shortfall in income’ which they blamed on ‘local issues (which) caused a delay in promotion and introduction of the change in use’. However, as the Lea Marsh website simply noted ‘Clearly LVRPA got its maths hopelessly wrong or completely over estimated likely use rates’. Officers went on to report ‘The projected Waterworks deficit is in line with previous years’ cost’. Despite this they still expect an ‘improvement…in the next financial year’.
In their proposal for creating a campsite for the Olympics officers had claimed ‘The Waterworks site is in close proximity to Olympic Park; and as such has the potential to generate temporary income from 2012 related opportunities’. However, in the Customer Satisfaction report officers reported that ‘All venues achieved or narrowly missed their targets except the Waterworks, where the main area of negative feedback was that customers felt that the proximity to the Olympic Park was further than advertised’! In fact Live Nation came to a similar conclusion in March 2013 when the LVRPA sought the LLDC’s support during the summer’s music events: ‘Looking at the map it is a fair walk away and does not look that straight forward to get to the site as there would need to cross a number of A roads to get here’. The LLDC expressed concern about people getting to the park in a ‘safe manner’ and ‘not trying to run across the A12’ while Live Nation said it ‘would be very surprised if LVRPA got permission to use this for festival goers’ and asked ‘if LVRPA understands the risks of festival camp sites from both a criminal and health & safety aspect’. It wondered ‘who would steward/sign the routes into the site and more importantly who would manage a very drunken crowd back to their tents at the end of the night’.
Officers also had to report that while usage of LVRPA sites as a whole had risen usage at the WaterWorks had fallen by 17,000 ‘because the centre was operating as a golf course in 2012/13 before changing operation to a temporary campsite for the Olympics. In 2013/14 there was no golf operation at the site with a temporary campsite being operated in line with major events taking place on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Q2’.
Not only had usage, customer satisfaction and income fallen but officers also had to report a rise in complaints at the WaterWorks. Net Promoter Scores across LVRPA venues rose by 14% with the exception of the WaterWorks where they ‘fell from 19% to -7%’! This, they said, was ‘based on feedback from visitors to the events campsite – the majority of whom were passive about recommending to others’. Key to this was the issue that ‘the proximity to the Olympic Park was further than advertised’. The report goes on to state ‘The WaterWorks Centre received more complaints than compliments than for the same period last year. This is due to complaints about the cessation of golf and plans for the temporary campsite and pony trekking’.
Despite these setbacks officers reported: ‘Planning is underway for both activities (camp site and pony trekking) for the 2014/15 season’. You can’t fault them for trying!
*With its its proximity to the nature reserve, SLM believe it would be better to see the Waterworks Centre utilised for green community events like the successful Eastern Curve Garden, or the whole area transformed into London’s first organic golf course as we suggested last year. These alternatives would not fence out, displace and upset the public and are unlikely to involve such an unnecessary waste of public money.*