London's Olympic Park risks becoming oasis for wealthy

By Avril Ormsby

LONDON (Reuters) - London lawmakers warned on Wednesday that the Olympic Park was in danger of becoming an oasis for the wealthy, beyond the reach of local people, after the 2012 Games without further public investment.

London, in its original bid to host the Games, promised to regenerate one of the city's poorest and most disadvantaged areas, but this was at risk because of a lack of public funds, London Assembly members said.

Instead, private developers will seek the best commercial returns rather than providing much needed social housing, schools and health centers.

The danger is that the Park would become an "oasis of high-priced homes surrounded by disadvantaged communities," the members said in an agreed motion.

"London won the Games on the basis of a promise to transform one of the country's most disadvantaged areas. That means a legacy of mixed communities, with new schools, health centers and local facilities," lawmaker Dee Doocey, who put forward the motion, said in a statement.

"If private developers are left to determine the fate of the site, there is a danger that the homes will be designed to attract wealthy Londoners at the expense of social housing and local people.

"Without public investment there is a real danger that developers will be left to turn the Olympic Park into an oasis of wealth, out of the reach of local residents."

The Olympic Park, built on a former industrial site in Stratford, east London, is in one of the poorest areas of Britain, with low employment and health levels.

The Olympic Delivery Authority, (ODA) responsible for the Games' infrastructure, has put aside 350 million pounds for clearing the temporary buildings and making the land ready for development after the Olympics.

The Assembly said a further 500 million pounds ($799 million) had been earmarked by the government.

But lawmaker John Biggs said that would not cover the extra work needed, including further decontamination of the land.

He would not put a figure on how much extra public funding would be needed, but warned that unless money was secured now the project could face Olympic "fatigue" after 2012.

The Games is already estimated to cost 9.3 billion pounds, and the country is facing deep budget cuts to tackle a record budget deficit approaching 11 percent.

(Editing by Adrian Croft)