Olympic Legacy – The Millennial View

As a paid up member of Generation Y, I’m part of a key demographic group for whom the London Olympic Legacy was originally conceived. The weighty 300 page Local Plan adopted by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) in July 2015 puts the renamed Queen Elizabeth Park at the heart of London’s most ambitious regeneration project. So what is the real experience for us local residents?

Having lived on the fringes of the Olympic Park for the past five years, I‘ve witnessed first-hand the area’s transformation so far. The question then, as we pass into another Olympic cycle –is whether the LLDC has succeeded in its aim to create a legacy for the Olympic Park, local people and the surrounding places.

Investment in the University of East London, along with satellite campuses for Loughborough and Birkbeck has been noticeable, with an obvious increase in the number of students calling Stratford and the surrounding areas home. Equally, the commercial reality of most first time buyers being priced out of the traditional heartlands of West London means that young professionals and families are now widening their searches to Stratford and the surrounding areas of Leyton, Forest Gate and Leytonstone, in order to secure that important first step on the property ladder.

This influx of people in their 20’ and 30’s, with disposable income and demand for places to meet, drink and socialise locally has led to significant gentrification at the park’s fringes.

Just five years ago Leytonstone couldn’t boast a single spot you’d be proud to take your parents. Fast forward five years and a number of old establishments have changed ownership and undergone redevelopment, and now attract a diverse mix of locals every night of the week. The old Stratford NCP car park now plays host to an open air cinema, a rooftop bar and crazy golf. It’s a similar story in Leyton, where the old Town Hall has recently been carefully restored and converted into a contemporary pub.

While the development of the Olympic Park and the transfer of Games venues to public use took longer than anticipated, the development of the park has been an incredible success to date.  With the majority of the core areas of the park now either completed, under construction or in planning, the area has a diverse mix of retail outlets, affordable leisure space and a busy programme of sporting, cultural and community events to attract visitors.

Looking forward, the key phase of delivering on the legacy will be towards the southern fringes of the park. None more important than at Hackney Wick, a gritty, industrial edge-land, bordered by the canal to the east and A12 to the west. These land locking constraints have created a community with its own autonomy, with one of the highest concentrations of artists in Europe. Stitching the fringe of the Olympic Park and successfully integrating into areas such as this will be the true test of the Olympic legacy.

Will it work, who knows? Only time will tell…

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