Bromley Civic Society - April 2017
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April 2017 Newsletter

Welcome to our latest newsletter. We must apologise for not sending out a newsletter for so long, however there has been plenty going on and we hope this bumper edition makes up for it! We'd like to welcome all our new members and hope to see you at our upcoming events.

BROOMTIME IN BROMLEY !   It’s Spring and the Broom is beginning to bloom on Martin’s Hill.  By early May it should be making a spectacular show. It has suffered badly in the past few years from being overrun by bramble because the Council never put it on the contractor’s list for attention. The Friends and Conservation Volunteers did a purge in 2015 but it had only a temporary effect. Though still unofficially part of the contractor’s remit ideVerde responded to the Friends concerns and kindly undertook the bramble clearance as a ‘one-off’. We must now persuade the Council to take some Civic Pride in our namesake flowering shrub and fund regular management . Perhaps we may even revive the old Broom Day festival.   


The Society plan to celebrate Civic Day by staging an exhibition in the Market Square in Bromley Town Centre.  The exhibition will be in a market stall style tent from which four walks will be scheduled throughout the day.  Each walk will have a different theme and visitors will be shown different aspects of the town's heritage.

The aim is to increase awareness of and enthusiasm for heritage amongst visitors, residents, businesses and people who work in the town centre so that heritage issues are given greater prominence in the future.  The event will be used as a launch pad for a yearlong programme of walks and talks.  We will get as many people as possible to sign up to the Civic Society and we hope to recruit more walk leaders and speakers.
Spread the word!  Tell your friends, visit the tent on Saturday 17th June, and come on the walks. Offers of help to staff the tent on the day are welcomed

Civic Day is a National Initiative with the theme of celebrating civic pride and getting people to ‘care about where they live’.  BCS have registered their participation with Civic Voice (formerly Civic Trust) who are the organising body. The event, supported by Theresa May, will have National media publicity which will be used to publicise our own exhibition.

2017 is also the 50th anniversary of Conservation Areas legislation and our exhibition will use this to focus attention on the Bromley Town Centre Conservation Area.  The exhibition will be a celebration of our Town's heritage that will hopefully encourage a great appreciation of the local environment.
Bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund 
The Society have submitted a bid for funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help cover the costs not only of the exhibition itself but also the further programme of walks and talks going through the rest of the year.  The application to the ‘Sharing Heritage’ grant programme includes exhibition materials, reproduction and design as well as equipment and printing.  The costs of producing a full set of detailed heritage walk leaflets have also been included. The grant, if awarded, will enable BCS to sustain a programme of exhibitions, walks and talks into the future. We should hear whether we have been successful by early May.

Goodbye INTU

Having been allowed to build on Queens Garden for their restaurant development, like so many property owners and developers, Intu have simply moved on and some might say “good riddance”. Our dealings and meetings with them were a chilling experience of the power of a big corporation riding roughshod over local people, sadly with the backing of our own Council’s Executive Committee. The reversion back to the name, The Glades, by the new owners, the Alaskan Pension Fund, is a good sign particularly as it was chosen by the local community in the first place and may be taken as a token of goodwill after the bad feelings which are the legacy of INTU’s tenure in Bromley.
You may remember our concerns about the Council’s application to the Greater London Authority to make the Town Centre a designated Housing Zone. This was finally ratified by Boris Johnson just before his departure as Mayor.  On 4th April we celebrated the quashing by the High Court of the Mayor’s Housing Zone designation for Bromley Town Centre.  BCS has always questioned the justification for Bromley’s application for Town Centre Housing Zone status and GLA officers working to Bromley figures were strongly criticised by the High Court for their mishandling of the matter. So much so that the GLA now has to pay Relta £35,000 towards costs of the action. We will publish the full High Court decision on our website and are now looking into its full implications for the Town.

We thought this might put an end to some of the proposals for huge blocks of flats in the town.  Bromley Council had sought Housing Zone status to enable certain housing developments to go ahead.  Two developments in particular were identified: Site A, around Bromley North Station and Site G, west of the High Street; together these would produce some 530 units.  Submissions by Bromley Council and the Greater London Authority clearly stated that these sites were dependent on the funding.

On 5th April however, residents of Ethelbert Close received a letter from the Council announcing that the Council’s Executive had approved Countryside Properties (UK) as a development partner for the ‘next phase’ of Opportunity Site G.  A new timetable was set out leading to a start of development in Autumn 2019.   Also, a press release giving details of a scheme by Stitch Architects for 384 units in 8 blocks across Site G appeared in the property and local press.   The release is peppered with the usual Developer/Council hyperbole; there is no mention of the compulsory purchase and tearing down of 40 homes in Ethelbert Close, whose residents, some of whom are disabled or otherwise vulnerable, are currently living under a cloud of uncertainty as a result of this proposal.

It would appear that Bromley Council was stretching a point when they claimed that development of Site G was dependent on the Housing Zone.  Perhaps they went a bit overboard in trying to secure the HZ designation and the £27m that went with it.  Either that or the implications of its quashing haven’t sunk in yet!  See Site G report below.

Now the attention must focus on the next steps for Site G.  The letter to residents says: ‘The council remains committed to consulting with residents on the development of this site throughout this process.’ But there has been precious little consultation with residents so far.   The scheme outlined in the press is even larger than that seen at the so-called ‘workshop’ held in July 2015 and we fear for the impact on the Conservation Area, the High Street and Library Gardens. 

We must watch this space and engage with the consultation process as closely as possible!
The six week Draft Local Plan public consultation was timed over the Christmas period with a deadline of the 31st December when we all had other things on our minds. Nevertheless BCS, the Friends of the Town Parks, Bromley Friends of the Earth, Babbacombe Road Residents Association and many other local groups have made representations which will be heard at the upcoming Public Inquiry, date to be confirmed.  It was a huge amount of work for those of us involved. The following are some of the main issues BCS have commented on:

Civic Centre
In the Area Action Plan the site is shown as designated for relocation of the Pavilion Leisure Centre facilities to enable further retail expansion of the Glades. As we stated at the time the site is too restrictive for anything like the range of facilities provided at the Pavilion and they have subsequently been abandoned. We may never know why the proposals were not pursued by the Council but it can reasonably be construed that the retention of the Pavilion on its present site is one reason why INTU pulled out as they expected to expand their retail activities there.  Now the proposal is for 70 housing units across the middle of the site (including the listed Palace), retained Council offices in the northern part and retention of a small area as public parkland in the south east corner.  The site is historically and environmentally the most important in the Town and arguably the Borough. It has been treated appallingly in the past, firstly by the later expansion of Stockwell College and then by the Council with all of the western open space sacrificed to the construction of Kentish Way, the Multi Storey Car Park, new Civic Offices and Council Chamber. Given the site’s historic significance and as the setting of no less than six listed buildings what the Council should be doing is making restitution and promoting restoration of this setting rather than further exploitation and damage. This need was identified by the Council itself in 1987 when it was resolved there should be no further development and the whole site was designated as urban open space. All this has been quietly forgotten and actually what is proposed is a severe reduction in public open space use restricted to just the south east corner.
Opportunity Site G
The draft Local Plan still retains the whole site from the Churchill Theatre to the Railway for development although it was shown to be non-viable because of the multiple ownerships and difficulty with acquisition several years ago.  The AAP proposals are in tatters but the Council has devised a revised tactic of piecemeal development targeting just the 40 homes in Ethelbert Close and the Town Church for acquisition by compulsory purchase, if necessary, to build their own development of 11 & 8 storey flats similar to that behind Laura Ashley in Ringers Road. Compulsory purchase is meant to be used only in extreme circumstances of public benefit.  It was used to acquire homes to build the Glades but the CPO Inquiry Inspector allowed this because the Glades was seen to be a facility which could be used by all residents of the Borough.  Not so this development which benefits only those who can afford to live there, the Council who will retain the freehold and the council’s chosen developer.  The Council has, we understand, purchased several properties in Ethelbert Road but a number of owners are determined to test the matter at a CPO Inquiry should the Council pursue its plans. Although, since the High Court decision the Council is deprived of the expected £27.1 million of GLA Housing Zone funding they are still going it alone with the compulsory purchase of the homes in Ethelbert Close for their own housing development which abuts Library Gardens. There is no planning application but behind the scenes negotiations have produced pretty firm proposals by the Council’s chosen developer published in the Bromley Times before showing them to any of the poor people affected.  “Home builders, Countryside, are working with the council to deliver 380 new homes”. As the press release shows our own ‘Library Gardens’ will be reduced to a paved shopping concourse flanked on the south side by tall buildings (out of the picture) which will plunge the gardens into permanent shade.  Gone are the trees and the grass where we liked to sit in the sun. To add further insult it is proposed to rename ‘Library Gardens’, “Churchill Gardens”.   By whose authority ???

Site B
Tweedy Road beside Bromley College.  As discussed in our September 2015 Newsletter, some of you may remember the fiasco in 2008 when the Council’s chosen developer for 70 plus flats was refused by the Development Control Committee and was savaged by the Inspector at the subsequent planning appeal.  The Council claim they keep their development activities separate from their planning control activities and in this case it worked.  However, we were told in an interview with the former Head of Regeneration, Marc Hume (now no longer employed by the Council) that the Council as developer is trying a different tactic to avoid another such fiasco where the Council as developer find their application refused by the Council as Planning Authority.  So, Consultants Holder Mathias, were commissioned to do a ‘massing study’ which showed 24 flats in three blocks.  Normally this would be produced as a planning application with the required public notices and required consideration of any representations made as a result.  A report listing all the considerations, in this case including listed building and conservation area matters would go to the Planning Committee for a decision.  However, the study, which was not a planning application was only shown to a select few including the Society and on the basis of this a report was submitted to the Planning Committee, not seeking an approval as this would be unlawful without due process but seeking “endorsement” to go forward to marketing the site.  Certainly, having “endorsed” what is, in effect an unofficial outline application the Planning Committee would not feel justified in objecting when it comes to an application if it conforms to the massing study they have seen and “endorsed”.   
Local Green Space designations
As reported in our May 16 newsletter Friends Groups were requested by the Council to nominate Local Green Spaces under the terms set out in the National Planning Policy Framework.  This policy is important in that while Urban Open Space and Metropolitan Open Space designations protect open space use they do not formally acknowledge environmental quality. The new NPPF designations are based upon criteria such as natural beauty, wildlife, biodiversity etc. etc and their value to the local community. Designations can only be done at the time of preparation of the Local Plan or as part of a Neighbourhood Plan under the Localism Act.  All this should have been done several years ago when the environmental section of the draft Local Plan was being prepared. Thanks to the Bull Lane Allotment Association this oversight was spotted which prompted the Council to notify groups last year that they could apply for designation of their local green spaces in a six week consultation period last year.  BCS and the Friends worked together on this nominating all of the Town Parks as well as Shortlands Golf Course, the Valley School Field, the Parish Churchyard as well as Havelock Recreation Ground which had previously been under threat. Firstly we had to challenge the criteria set out by the Council which was different to that set out in the NPPF and sought to disqualify nominations if they were already designated Urban Open Space and also required ‘uniqueness’.   These requirements which constituted an unauthorised re-writing of national policy were subsequently abandoned by the Council.  Those town centre sites which have been accepted to go forward into the Local Plan are Queens Garden, Martin’s Hill, Queens Mead, Library and Church House Gardens, College Green and Havelock Recreation Ground and part of Bromley Palace Park.  Those rejected which we will challenge at the Local Plan Inquiry are the Parish Churchyard, the rejected parts of the Palace Park and Shortlands Golf Course. This latter we have passed to the Ravensbourne Valley Preservation Society who have duly taken up the cudgels.  
The proposed site for the new Academy is the former DSS office at 1 Westmoreland Road.  There have been several different applications on this site which is earmarked in the Area Action Plan as Opportunity Site L.  The last was in 2013 which was never determined because at the last minute the Department of Pensions sold or passed the site to the Department of Education. The present application is for a Science based educational establishment which is intended to serve a wide rather than local catchment area. The key planning issues are the impact on the adjacent 2 storey residential area, the implications of traffic generation for the ‘school run’ and the impact on the protected view of Keston Ridge from the lower High Street. No doubt the first two considerations will be discounted through interpretation of policy but the protection of the view of Keston Ridge is firm and unconditional and will be seriously damaged by the L shaped configuration of the proposed tall building. What is so suspect is that the Academy in its application to the Council present before and after pictures in which the view of Keston Ridge has either been airbrushed out of the picture taken on a hazy day against the sun and cannot be seen.  The Society will be objecting, at least to the loss of the protected view.  The Planning ref no is 17_00429_FULL1-REVISED


At the Residents’ Seminar in November 2016 BCS Chairman, Tony Banfield, was presented with the Wilkinson Cup for long service in voluntary community, planning and heritage work. He was invited to speak and as the audience were all from similar voluntary residents groups he chose firstly to ask the question why we all did what we did. In his case he traced his own commitment to two childhood experiences 1. a visit, aged five, to the Festival of Britain which initiated a fascination with architecture and the built environment and 2. around the same time a visit to the Catford Hippodrome Theatre which sparked an awareness of the need for conservation of historic buildings when, a few years later he witnessed the Hippodrome being demolished for an uncompromising office block, Eros House, of typical 1960’s brutalist design by architect Owen Luder.  On moving to Bromley in 1970 he was shocked to find familiar landmarks such as the White Hart Inn replaced in 1964 by another brutalist concrete lump now used by Top Shop and by the same Owen Luder in addition to his Sherman House, Cosmos House and Colman House. The Old Library was gone and a favourite part of Library Gardens was being redeveloped to house a new theatre. TB described the wholesale demolition of Bromley High Street in the 70s and early 80s and the need to act which manifested itself in the formation of the Heart of Bromley Residents Association (HOBRA –later to become BCS) and his involvement in a tortuous but successful campaign to get the major part of the Town Centre designated a Conservation Area. This had to be done by the Historic Buildings Division of the GLC because Bromley Council refused to act. TB touched on the irony of now receiving the Wilkinson Cup bearing in mind that, as Ward Councillor and Chair of the Development Control Committee at the time, Councillor Wilkinson opposed the Conservation Area designation and even sought to cancel it once the GLC was abolished. Fortunately it was saved by English Heritage who inherited the GLC powers and said, in no uncertain terms to Bromley Council, that any cancellation would be unlawful and if attempted would be met with a re-designation.  After 2 more years of wrangling the Council, itself, finally adopted 95 per cent of the GLC designation.  Without this we could not even begin to save what is left of historic Bromley. The full story can be viewed on the BCS website under Archives- Conservation Area- The Battle For Bromley.
It has always been our assertion that the heritage of the Town is and should be one of its commercial assets and a significant reason why visitors might choose to shop here rather than Croydon or Lewisham.  Go to just about any historic town in the country and you will find a heritage interpretation/information board telling the visitor what the place is all about. When Mayor of London funding for Town Centre Improvements was made available in 2011 BCS were asked for a wish list which duly included Heritage Interpretation Boards as a priority similar to those in Queens Garden and Library/Church House Gardens. This was accepted but later abandoned without us being informed because, apparently, the Council’s urban design consultant decided they would constitute ‘street clutter’.  After much badgering on our part the idea has been re-instated but the resultant draft proposal by Council officers is limited in scope we have said we would provide the content material to ensure justice is done to the heritage of our town.
Naval Walk connects the Hill Car Park to the Upper High Street yet, inexplicably for years, Council signage directed shoppers along Edison Road and Church Road depriving a major part of the trading community from footfall.  Former Town Centre Manager, Lorraine McQuillan did much work to remedy this by changing signage and closing the Edison Road exit at the far end of the Car Park but still the old habit of using the back way into town survives.  BCS have for several years been supporting the traders’ campaign to get shoppers to use the Naval Walk link by closure of the back way. But despite all the money spent on Naval Walk improvements efforts were thwarted when all signage from the Car Park to Naval Walk was removed over two years ago.  Now after endless badgering the Council have put up a small, ineffectual sign just saying ‘to the shops’.  The issue of closure was also nearly thwarted when the Council’s own recent planning application for a key pad operated gate was recommended for refusal by the Council’s own planning officers with no reference to why the gate had been proposed!  At the Development Control meeting Ward Councillor Nicky Dykes highlighted the need and the plight of traders deprived of footfall and the gate was approved.  It may not be the best solution but will be effective. Really if the Council is serious about making the Town Centre and the neglected Upper High Street a viable shopping centre then the best solution would be relocation of the Car Park exit a few metres further along to bring it right opposite Naval Walk.
Event organiser Nicky Barclay, for the second year running, put together a fine one day Sci Fi event in Market Square in September 2016 with a focus on the acknowledged godfather of the genre, our own HG Wells. The day included a special conference event for members of the HG Wells Society followed by an HGW walk around the town conducted by BCS committee members Jane Secker, Peter Martin and Tony Banfield in suitable Victorian costume kindly supplied by Bromley Little Theatre. The walk was inspired by the article in our May ‘16 newsletter and featured extracts in Wells’ own words about his early life in Bromley read out at various relevant stopping points. These included the site of Atlas House, under the ‘ark’ of the Primark sign, where he was born in 1866 and Martin’s  Hill which he describes as one of the great battleground of history played out in his boyhood imagination.  We were happy to repeat the walk the next day to members of the public and this led to an indoor version of the walk using lots of then and now photos.  The talk was well attended by over 50 people and it was heartening to find how many people are interested in this sadly un-commemorated son of Bromley in his home town.  We are currently putting together an ongoing programme of walks and talks throughout the coming year dates for which will be published in due course.
TB represented BCS at one of the Council’s recent BBB presentations headed by Stephen Carr, leader of the Council, Peter Morgan Head of Renewal and the Chief Executive, Doug Patterson. Those of us present were given a broad sheet with all the things the Council was doing and proposing to do.  TB queried with the Leader, why in all this list there was nothing related to conservation of the built heritage. The same concern was also raised by the Beckenham Society. No satisfactory explanation for the omission was forthcoming despite protestations that the Council did take the issues seriously. The most surprising disclosure of the evening was from the Chief Executive that the Council had been so successful in making cuts to the budget (and services and jobs) it was in surplus by quite a few millions !
Making money from our parks !
Is the Council sell-off of the Italian Garden in Queens Garden for the Intu restaurant complex just the beginning we wonder? In July we received a copy of a Council document aimed at developers which read.....
Exciting Leisure Opportunity - Church House Gardens   The Council is exploring potential Leisure opportunities at Church House Gardens. Expressions of interest, subject to contract, are invited for Leisure and / or Catering projects. Interested applicants are asked to provide outline proposals. Church House Gardens has been identified as having further potential for complementary leisure activities to enhance the attractiveness of Bromley as a retail and leisure destination.”
Dan Jones,  Assistant Director Street Scene and Greenspace  explained that:
“The intention of the notice is to see if there are any organisations or businesses who might wish to operate some form of complementary franchise in the park, thereby increasing its attraction and footfall for all, which in turn could generate valuable income to supplement the Council’s parks and green spaces budget over the difficult financial years which lay ahead.”
Bearing in mind this same intention led to the Council sale on a 128 year lease of a great chunk of Queens Garden to Intu for their own ‘Catering project’ Tony Banfield on behalf of the Friends emailed the Chief Executive, Doug Patterson, to clarify things and to point out:
“While we (The Friends) may wish to support an initiative for more leisure facilities we are concerned that that the document being issued to potential developers makes no mention of the Council’s planning policy constraints affecting the Gardens i.e. the Urban Open Space Designation, the Conservation Area Designation and the Local Green Space designation in the emerging Local Plan.
“We ask you, please, to:
1.     clarify how and why CHG Gardens has been “identified as having further potential for complementary leisure activities” and in what way it is deemed to be deficient in these? 
2.     clarify what is meant by “catering projects”?
3.     clarify whether or not it is intended the revenue generated by leasing parts of Church House Gardens to developers will be used to supplement the currently inadequate provision for parks maintenance or whether it will be subsumed into the Council’s general funds?
4.     ensure that the documentation is amended to clearly outline the Urban Open Space Conservation Area and Local Green Space planning constraints?”
The Chief executive’s response to each point:
1        “Church House Gardens is not seen as having deficiencies.  Conversely, Church House Gardens is seen as potentially attractive for complementary activities, due to the range of existing activities and its advantageous location close to the main retail area of Bromley High Street. These factors can be viewed as mutually beneficial in encouraging visitor numbers.”
2        “There is not a definitive view of a type of “catering project”.  The marketing particulars were seeking to generate ideas.  Some leisure activities look to link food sales with their main activity.”
3        “Given the Council’s financial position Members must be free to consider their priorities in respect of the Council’s whole budget requirements. Members may decide to direct any additional monies generated to parks maintenance, however, Members will make final determinations as part of our financial strategy and in the light of competing demands.”
4.       “The particulars are part of an informal process with three stages.  Potential applicants were advised to contact the Planning Department to seek advice on their proposals.  The initial closing date for submitting outline proposals has passed. Any proposals of merit, in terms of the type of activity proposed, will be subject to consultation with interested parties; the Friends of Church House Gardens, stakeholders, other site users.  The Council is under no obligation to pursue any proposals submitted.  Thus there are safeguards in the process adopted.”
However in March ’17 we were informed that  “Following initial expressions of interest by leisure operators and subsequent investigations regarding planning restrictions and feasibility of the proposals I can now inform you that one operator has withdrawn their expression of interest and the other is not deemed commercially viable.“ But the story has taken a new turn which may or may not be related. It appears that the Council’s landscape contractor, idVerde, has now been authorised to generate money from the parks.  At the Friends of the Parks AGM Tony Banfield was approached by officers from IdVerde, with a plan for them to hire out part of Queens Garden for a mobile ‘Creperie’ franchise in school holidays and weekends. On behalf of the Friends TB declined the proposal because a) Queens Garden had already been seriously harmed for commercial catering exploitation, b) the lack of any justification bearing in mind the restaurants in QG all of which do takeaway and the proximity of the food outlets all around and c) the unsightly nature of the proposals in a conservation area. The officers of idVerde, however, were very persistent and followed this up with an email offering the Friends 10 per cent of the profits to spend on plants if they agreed. TB responded as follows:
“I would also say that, as Council contractors, it is entirely inappropriate for idVerde to be making money from our parks and equally inappropriate for idVerde to be offering the Friends a percentage of the profits to buy plants as offered in your email of 25th November. I’d be grateful to know who in the Council has given permission for idVede to take on this role and who in idVerde has asked you to pursue this?” 
The response was “Following on from your email and earlier correspondence, we have extensively consulted with the relevant members of the council to also gather their view. They have been generally supportive of this type of initiative that supports our wider parks, whilst also reserving judgement until an initial period of the concession has been carried out in April (during weekends and school holidays). We would seek opinion from the Bromley Town Parks Friends Group and all other stakeholders after the Easter period has concluded as to whether the concession should continue or not, where we would appreciate any relevant concerns you do have to be shared.”
The Friends have been campaigning for restoration of the historic Millpond for a number of years and conducting working parties at the site with the charity,Thames 21 attended by members of both the Friends and BCS.  This activity was called to a halt when the charity’s funding was cut but not before they had produced a workable restoration scheme in conjunction with the Environment Agency from whom funding is required. The Chair of the Friends, Jeff Royce, reports that Thames 21 co-ordinator,  Lawrence Beale-Collins, has confirmed that he has now submitted a funding bid to the Environment Agency (EA) as part of the Agency’s six year plan and that it fits with all their targets for the Ravensbourne catchment improvements. It is hoped that EA will decide on funding by this June. Lawrence had factored in contributions ‘in kind’ by LBB (machinery supply), and other volunteer groups such as the Friends. If no favourable bid decision from EA is forthcoming he will go to other possible funding sources. Lawrence was very happy to work with us and other local stakeholders in a future working group to support the project and to give a talk at the Friends AGM– date to be confirmed. (All welcome.)
The beginning of April ‘17 saw a serious oil spill on the Millpond which the Environment Agency are investigating.  Sadly several nesting birds were affected and at least one Moorhen died as a result.
We are sad to report the recent death of three of our valued nonagenarian members and supporters.  Joan and Philip Winter were founder members of the Friends of the Town Parks and Bromley Civic Society. Philip formulated the Friends constitution and instigated the Friends fortnightly walks around the parks while Joan served for many years along with Tony Banfield representing the Town Centre on the Council’s Conservation Area Advisory Panel. Photographs of old Bromley from Joan’s grandfather’s collection now make a major contribution to our archive material.
Lorna Mackenzie-Calder was a much loved and familiar figure in St Paul’s Square and at the ‘Diners Inn’ cafe in the High Street. Lorna was a staunch supporter of BCS from its beginning and many of us will have fond memories of her lively, encouraging and ongoing support for our efforts.
Copyright © 2017 Bromley Civic Society, All rights reserved.

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