A MAJOR battle over the future of Crystal Palace Park will enter its final phase next week.

The Government’s long-awaited planning inquiry into whether the controversial £67.5m London Development Agency (LDA) masterplan to transform the historic park should go ahead, is to begin at the Salvation Army Hall in Upper Norwood on Tuesday.

Campaigners against the plan have billed it as a David against Goliath clash - with many community groups representing themselves against top lawyers defending the position of the LDA and Bromley Council - which gave the plans outline approval in November last year.

Residents’ objections centre on the building of 180 flats on 2.5 acres of metropolitan land to fund much of the refurbishment.

More than 7,000 people signed an original petition objecting to the loss of the green space, with more than 1,000 residents’ letters of objection logged during the planning application process.

John Payne, chair of the Crystal Palace Community Association (CPCA), said: “The outcome of this inquiry is significant not only to the future of Crystal Palace Park, but all parks in general.”

The LDA and Bromley Council are expected to argue plans for the flats should be given approval because of “special circumstances” surrounding the application, that would ultimately benefit the park as a whole.

The ambitious masterplan includes a new regional sports centre, 50m swimming pool, tourist information points, and a museum.

Mayor Boris Johnson allowed the application to go ahead, despite it conflicting with his published vision for the capital’s parks.

But it was passed to the Planning Inspectorate, after former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears, said further scrutiny was needed.

Other objectors scheduled to make representations during the four week inquiry include Sport England, The Joseph Paxton Society, residents of Anerley Hill, The Crystal Palace Foundation, and Friends of the Crystal Palace Nature Garden & The Ridge Wildlife Group.

The inquiry is set to begin at The Salvation Army Hall in Westow Street at 10am on July 7.

Campaigners, including the CPCA, are expected to stage a protest outside.