A month-long planning inquiry into the future of Crystal Palace Park has begun with campaigners calling for “over ambitious” plans to be thrown out.

The London Development Agency’s (LDA) £67m plans for the historic park saw protesters gather in Upper Norwood on Tuesday.

The scheme was approved by Bromley Council last year and despite support from the London Mayor Boris Johnson, the planning application was called in by the Secretary of State.

Speaking at the inquiry at the Salvation Army Hall, in Westow Street, Robert McCracken, representing the Crystal Palace Community Association, said: “The plan would cause serious harm and the application is inappropriate for a sensitive area such as this.”

He added: “It represents old fashioned thinking.”

English Heritage argued the scheme offered public benefits.

Representing the organisation, Mike Harlow said: “The regeneration of the park is long overdue and these proposals are very welcome.”

But Mr Harlow told the inquiry the housing plans were “not perfect”.

The plans would see 180 flats built on 2.5 acres of metropolitan open land to fund much of the refurbishment.

But Mr McCracken said: “There is no evidence that residential development would make the plans viable.”

He also argued the Caravan Club’s lengthy lease would mean residential houses would not be possible.

“The effects on the wildlife would be substantial and there would be substantial harm for the bats,” he added.

The LDA claims its plans, which include a museum, greenhouses on the Italian and a treetop walk were “ambitious and sensitive”.

In his opening statement Richard Ground, representing the LDA, said: “The proposals would manifestly improve and enhance Crystal Palace Park.

“The park is genuinely of national interest and importance.

“The Secretary of State should grant planning permission so the park can reestablish itself as one of the great parks of London.”

The Government inspector Alan Novitzky is expected to make a visit to the park on Friday.

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