Olympic Legacy 18th June 2009

Lord Mawson: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Coe, for leading this important debate. It is a very helpful time to have this discussion, because a great deal has happened during the past year and new opportunities are now presenting themselves, which allow us all to move on and to deal with the concerns that some of us have been expressing for some time. I would therefore like to concentrate my thoughts on the opportunities presented by the Olympic legacy, particularly as it relates to the East End of London.

Two days ago, your Lordships’ House held its second symposium on the Olympic legacy. So what progress has actually been made since the first symposium, 12 months ago, as a result of our activities? First, the Government have listened to our concerns. A Minister who understood the legacy issues has now worked with east London leaders. The then Secretary of State, Hazel Blears, understood that the local is a key component of the Olympic legacy in east London; she understood that the Olympic project is not something that happens behind an 11-mile blue fence about which people are simply consulted but that strands of gold need now to be wound into the Olympic project from the surrounding communities. East Londoners need to feel real ownership of the Olympic site when the biggest show on earth leaves town.

We have built a number of small parks in east London, across the road from the Olympic site. I know what happens to the investment in such places if people do not feel that they have a real stake in their future. The Minister showed that she understood this point and that legacy is not just for local authorities but for local people who have been encouraged to feel involved with the project. The Minister realised that this important component of legacy had been missing.

The Secretary of State, following our conversations earlier this year, began to use the tools available to her in government to bring resources and freedoms from government structures to begin to make this real. For example, she led negotiations with the five host boroughs for a multi-area agreement, based on the idea of convergence—that is, that the quality of life and economic health of east Londoners should be brought up to the level enjoyed by the rest of London, that east London should no longer be a drain on the capital’s economy and that the Olympic project should be a spur to this ambition.

So now east London is on the point of an agreement between central and local government. This will have a major positive impact on the skills and employment prospects of east Londoners, on the housing policy changes needed to make east London a place where people can choose to stay and raise their families and on investment in the public realm. It can be a place where residents are proud to live and proud to show visitors from across the world.

The Minister also began to understand that the Olympic project was not the only show in town in the Lower Lea Valley and that the many other public

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sector structures that litter the valley—more than 40—must now come together around a common vision and clear leadership. Hazel Blears has now moved on, as Ministers have a habit of doing, and east London leaders hope that John Denham will maintain the momentum and ensure that this important agreement is concluded quickly.

The second important thing that has been achieved in the past year by central government, together with the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is the appointment of the noble Baroness, Lady Ford, to chair the Olympic Park Legacy Company. The noble Baroness brings great experience and enormous new vigour to the legacy task and we welcome her to east London. She also clearly understands the need to harness the energies of central government, London government, local government, social entrepreneurs and the communities in which they work. She clearly sees that the development of the Olympic park is key to the physical, social and economic transformation of east London. This presents us all with exciting times ahead.

We now need a clear, wider vision for the Lower Lea Valley and east London, within which the Olympic project sits; we need a vision that is deeply rooted in the history and geography of the place, for what we are together creating is a new metropolitan district of London. Many of us call it Water City, because water has driven the economy of east London for 2,000 years. Take a boat trip up the five and a half miles of waterways that span the Lower Lea Valley, as I did recently with the then Secretary of State, and you will understand, as she did, the significance of what some of us have been saying on the matter. What we need now from the public sector is less politics and more continuity and practical action on the ground.

All of the above are important steps forward since the debate that I led in January 2008 in your Lordships’ House and the Olympic legacy symposium that I organised in June last year. A year ago, leadership was seen as the key to success. What has made the difference this past year has been clear, strong leadership from one or two individuals in government and local government and from those to whom they have given authority to act. We are in a period of political turmoil. We must not lose the gains that we have made. We need to apply clear vision and leadership to keep up the momentum.

At the close of the second Olympic legacy symposium two days ago, I announced the creation of an all-party parliamentary group on urban regeneration, sport and culture. The purpose of the new APPG is to discuss how we can use major events to transform the lives of those who live in the surrounding areas. In particular, the APPG will bring together the four major cities that have already hosted or will be hosting such events: Liverpool, which was the European cultural capital in 2008; Glasgow, which will host the 2014 Commonwealth Games; Manchester, which hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2002; and London, which will host the 2012 Olympic Games. I hope that the APPG will provide your Lordships’ House with an opportunity to examine in greater detail the practical work of social entrepreneurs. There is an important discussion to be had here about how you do legacy in practice.