A new Crystal Palace? Chinese billionaire reveals plan to replace London's glass wonder

Park users and residents greeted scheme with caution - having fought off previous plans to regenerate 180-acre site by adding housing

An art-loving Chinese billionaire today unveiled his plans to recreate the Crystal Palace as a £500m cultural attraction to replace the glass and steel Victorian building that once captivated the world.

Ni Zhaoxing, a property developer, used a launch event in the grounds of the south London park where the original Crystal Palace burnt down in 1936 to reveal his goal of building a "jewel in the crown for Britain and the world" to employ 2,000 people.

The proposal to rebuild a modern version of Joseph Paxton's famous glass house, which housed the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park before being moved south of the Thames, was welcomed by London Mayor Boris Johnson, who denied that the plans amounted to an "act of nostalgia".

But the scheme was greeted with caution by park users and residents, who have fought off previous plans to regenerate the 180-acre site by adding housing.  Protesters held a banner reading "Parks for people, not for profit" as Mr Ni toured the terraces where the palace once stood, now covered in scrubby woodland.

John Payne, chairman of the Crystal Palace Community Association, said: "We still have no real idea what is being proposed here. This building could  morph into anything. We would very much expect there to be meaningful consultation."

Mr Ni, 57, insisted that his dream of recreating the 500m-long and 50m-high building, which will act as concert and exhibition venue as well as housing a potential hotel and convention centre, was about providing a legacy to London after he fell in love with the idea of resurrecting Paxton's creation, widely regarded as one of the crowning achievements of Britain's Industrial Revolution.

As well as erecting the structure, the plans involve the restoration of the surrounding park, which is owned by the London Borough of Bromley and houses the ageing National Sports Centre, with renewed Italianate terracing and a central tree-lined avenue.

The Chinese billionaire's Zhong Rong Group is one of China's fastest-growing developers after investing heavily in the expansion of Shanghai and boasts of having recently built 78 "European-style palace buildings" in Beijing. He is an avid art collector with pieces ranging from 3,000 year old Chinese works to European Old Masters.

Asked quite why his global ambitions had brought him to an unglamorous corner of south east London, Mr Ni said his two daughters had spent 10 years being educated in Britain and he had fallen for the site after learning about the Crystal Palace as young man in China.

He said: "The Crystal Palace must be an art work and an attraction of itself. I want to restore it to its former glory. There is nothing bad about this - I want to bring artwork from around the world to be valued here and bring many artists, collectors, entrepreneurs and high-end visitors."

The destruction of the original building in a blaze that could be seen across London brought more than 100,000 spectators, including future Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who declared: "This is the end of an age."

Mr Johnson, who conceded that many details of the proposal remain to decided, said: "This is going to recreate a 21st Century version of the palace. I think it is a beautiful idea. This isn't an act of nostalgia. It is looking forward and it is about adorning our city with a world-class structure."

An advisory board, including Sir Tim Smit, the co-founder of the Eden Project and chaired by Mr Johnson, has been set up to oversee the design process with a planning application expected to be submitted in 2014 and work potentially starting on the site late in 2015.

But first Mr Ni and his backers will have to persuade sceptics that, some 77 years after the Crystal Palace disappeared from the capital's landscape, it is the right thing to do to bring it back.

Charity worker Jessica Carhill, one of those holding the protest banner, said: "The Crystal Palace died in 1936. What we have now is a beautiful parkland and I'd rather not see a building on it. We are fairly sceptical that this is wholly a philanthropic exercise."

News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
life
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Business Analyst (Agile, SDLC, software)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Finance Manager - Bank - Leeds - £300/day

£250 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Finance Manager - Accountant - Bank...

Compliance Officer - CF10, CF11, Compliance Oversight, AML, FX

£100000 - £120000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: A leading fi...

Trade Floor Support - Investment Bank - London - £350 per day

£300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: Our client a leading investment bank is...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor