Our Response to Mayor Jules Pipe re Petition

The footprint of the proposed pavilion measured out by SLM members

The footprint of the proposed pavilion measured out by SLM members

We are disappointed with Mayor Jules Pipe’s response to our petition. The reply does not address the key demand of the petition, that Hackney Council withdraw their own application for two car parks and a pavilion on presently green space.

We have made it clear that we are not disputing the benefit of suitably designed 21st century facilities for local sports groups. The petition in fact requested that the new pavilion be located on the footprint of the current facilities, rather than on presently green open space on the common land of Hackney Marshes.

The Council’s proposal involves inflicting unnecessary damage on the open landscape and needless loss of green space. There are no valid reasons that the pavilion cannot be located on the present site.

It is clear that no efforts were ever made to design a new facility that could fit within the current footprint. The starting point was an excessive amount of space dedicated to vehicles and a building designed such that it could not fit on the brownfield site on North Marsh.

Certain design features of the building that do not serve community sport, such as a large bar area, do not provide adequate justification for loss of common land.

The petition response refers to improving general public health. Encouraging people to drive to the marshes is incompatible with good public health. Hackney suffers from poor air quality and for this reason has been declared an ‘Air Quality Zone’, requiring Council action. Air pollution seriously affects people’s health and 9% of deaths in the capital are related to air pollution. 65% of the emissions that are responsible for poor air quality are due to transport.

As part of its own transport policy, the Council is meant to be discouraging car use; increasing walking and cycling; and supporting reduction of personal exposure to pollution from roads and cars. Hackney Council should therefore reduce its own impact on air quality, initiating car free developments, rather than employing public funds on vastly increasing car parking with this project.

As a borough with the highest level of bus usage in London, renowned for having the most cyclist-friendly routes and public realms, the Council is ideally placed to observe it own objectives rather than contravene its own transport policy with this proposal.

The issues are not complex. They are in fact very simple. The Council should reconsider its priorities and design the proposal to be compliant with its own policies and observant of the rights and protections afforded to Common Land. A redesign could easily include far less car parking; creating a better building that would meet the requirements of all users – accessible and safe for all the community and not located on green Metropolitan Open Land. This could have been done in the first place.

Such a proposal would be more likely to be passed by the Planning Inspectorate, could enjoy the support of all users of Hackney Marshes and lead to much needed facilities for the sports teams being provided without unnecessary delay.

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Public Inquiry: Applying to speak/ submit your views

If you objected to common land consent being given for ‘Works on Hackney Marshes’ (two car parks, one on North and one on East Marsh, and pavilion on presently green space) you will have received an email inviting you to speak at a Planning Inspectorate public inquiry into the plans.

This inquiry is intended to investigate whether the proposed loss of common land is justified. Unless consent is given, works would be illegal.

You can still apply to speak, attend or submit evidence to the inquiry even if you did not object.

This inquiry is likely to take place next year. We do not yet know the date. The venue will be somewhere in Hackney.

We strongly encourage you to take the opportunity to attend the inquiry. You will be asked for how long you would like to speak. You can speak for as long as you wish to. You can also attend the inquiry without speaking or submit a written statement if you are not able to attend and wish your views to be considered.

To do so, please write before 15th October:

To: Naoual.Margoum@pins.gsi.gov.uk

BCC: saveleytonmarsh@hotmail.co.uk

Subject: PROPOSED WORKS ON HACKNEY MARSHES

APPLICATION REFERENCE NUMBER: COM603 and 604

[Please state whether you wish to attend, submit written evidence and if you wish to speak how long you would like to speak for].

We are asking people to copy us in so we have a rough idea of how many people will be taking part in the inquiry.

 

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Commercial Predation of Hackney Marshes spelled out 15m high

adidas 4
As Hackney Council goes through the bureaucratic charade of giving itself planning permission for another extravagant building to spoil the Hackney Marsh landscape, it has spelled out loud and clear its commercial agenda and disregard for Metropolitan Open Land at the other end of the Marsh.

A 46m by 15m ad promoting Adidas, the rapacious billion euros a year profit sportswear brand, is covering the side of the Hackney Marshes Centre and shouting its message of “predator instinct” across the landscape with arrogant disregard for the setting of spaciousness and greenery that makes the Marsh such a special place.

It appears to have been put up without the required planning consent and we are currently investigating how much Adidas paid for the privilege.

The Council’s planning agents Firstplan, experts in misrepresenting the grim reality of plans in order to win consent, claimed in the Hackney Marshes Centre planning application in 2009:
Great attention has been paid to the setting of the proposal, including landscaping and car parking arrangements. As such, the scheme has been designed to cater for community needs whilst respecting the Metropolitan Open Land designation.”

Firstplan subsequently claimed on their website that one of the ‘key challenges’ for the HMC application were ‘restrictive’ policy designations – ie. Metropolitan Open Land protection, intended to keep open spaces free from intrusive developments.

adidas 2

Besides now doubling as a  giant advertising hoarding the so-called ‘changing rooms’ are also hired out for wedding receptions and corporate events.

Confronted with this vast wall of vinyl now dominating the landscape, one can almost admire the audacity of the Council in pontificating in their North Marsh Pavilion application:
“development on MOL can only be considered if the development is ancillary to the use to which the open land is put and if it does not have an adverse effect on the visual quality of landscape. These were material considerations when a planning application was sought for the development of the Hackney Marsh Centre” .

adidas 1At least we know what to expect if they succeed in constructing the North Marsh Pavilion.

 

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Building on Hackney Marshes: How To Object To Hackney Planning Committee

Please write an email to: planning@hackney.gov.uk

Subject: Hackney Marshes (REF 2014/2582)

Dear Sir/Madam,

[Declare that you wish to object to the plans and introduce how you use the marshes/ will be affected by these proposals]

Please cut & paste  the following points (if you have time, please put in your own words):

East Marsh car park.

This represents an unacceptable and unjustified loss of green space.

Other public parking facilities exist in the immediate area recently built on former green space and use of these should be explored before losing more. A 1300 space multi-storey car park is 5 mins walk away, also situated on Hackney Marshes. 100m to the south surplus parking exists at the Eton Manor Hackney and Tennis Centre and also at the Velodrome.

The concrete block paved surface is visually obtrusive and unsympathetic to the landscape. No lower-impact alternatives have been considered. The proposed North Marsh car park uses cellular reinforced grass and gravel.

There are good transport connections locally and no justification for encouraging additional unnecessary car use.

Environmental impacts from encouragement of car access onto the common include air pollution, risk of illegal vehicle access and fly tipping.

A car park in this location cannot be said to be essential for recreational use of the land and so does not conform to Metropolitan Open Land policy.

North Marsh pavilion

Its size and prominent location will obstruct the openness of the distant views across Hackney Marsh, one of its unique features, particularly from the heavily used access points at the north east corner and Cow Bridge.

The elongated design and pale colour will make it highly visible from most points on the marsh and attempts to disguise it with vegetation will not mitigate its impact on the sense of openness.

The reasons given for choosing to place it out on open green space rather than on or near the current building footprint are not credible, since permission was granted in 2008 for a building larger than the current proposal yet located on the existing changing rooms footprint.

Its provision of the essential core facilities, ie. team changing rooms  at 270 m2, is inferior to both the consented 2008 plan (331 m2)  and the existing building ( 413 m2) while being larger and more obtrusive (87m long vs 49m). This suggests a very inefficient design with large areas given to non-essential uses and cannot justify its impact on MOL.

The unacceptable impact on MOL appears to be driven largely by its claimed function as a cricket pavilion yet it does not confirm to ECB guidelines which require a clear view of the pitch from the changing rooms.

The large social space and bar is not an essential facility supporting recreational use of the land yet appears to be a significant factor in the placement of the building.

It is undesirable and unnecessary to have a general drop off area adjacent to the building – visitors without mobility problems can be dropped off in Millfields Road and have a short walk over the bridge to the changing rooms.

Vehicle access will be over a steeply humped bridge with poor visibility and across a footpath where vehicles come into conflict with pedestrians, dogs, runners and cyclists who should be able to use the Common without risk from traffic.

Managing the car park to control usage and limit the number of vehicles to 68 will not be possible, and all accessible areas will be used as happens at the South car park, with associated danger and congestion.

While an area used for parking once existed on what is now the cricket show pitch, this became inaccessible over 10 years ago, and prior to that was largely unused. It is misleading for the applicants to claim that there will be a net reduction in parking provision by reference to this ‘former’ parking.

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Planning Inspectorate to Hold Public Enquiry into Hackney Marshes Works

We have really good news to report. The Planning Inspectorate today notified everyone who made an objection about the proposals for building on Hackney Marshes that there will be a public enquiry into the plans. This is recognition that the plans need further examination and may not be approved due to their impact on common land.

Public enquiries are held when:

  • a lot of objections have been received in response to the application;
  • the issues of the case are particularly complex;
  • it appears to be the only way to obtain the information needed to decide the application.

There is no doubt that the petition and the objections the Planning Inspectorate received have helped lead to this decision to hold an enquiry, so thank you for everything you have done up to now.

The enquiry will be an opportunity for the applicant to explain their proposals but also for witnesses to explain their objections. If you were someone who kindly took the time to make an objection, please check that you received a notification of the decision. We strongly urge everyone who possibly can to register to attend the enquiry. If you attend, you can explain how the proposals will adversely affect you as a user of the common land of Hackney Marshes. We will notify everyone of how to go about registering soon and will include this information on our website: http://www.saveleamarshes.org.uk

We realise that many of you will not have attended such an event before, however we will provide support and guidance to everyone who wishes to attend, outlining how to go about giving your evidence.

Even if as a result of the enquiry, the plans are given Planning Inspectorate approval, Hackney Council Planning Committee will still need to approve the plans. For this reason, we are asking that people also object to Hackney Council about the proposals.

The consultation period has now started.  It runs until 29th September, so there is very little time to submit your comments!

To submit your comments online, please follow this link

If you prefer to submit your comments on paper (or if your comments are more than 2000 characters long), please send them to Hackney Planning Service, 2 Hillman Street, London E8 1FB.  Be sure to quote the application reference number 2014/2582 .

Please get writing now!

Let’s save Hackney Marshes from unnecessary car parks!

 

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Spin Doctors Employed to ‘Remake the Marshes’

London Borough of Hackney hire planning spindoctors Firstplan to give themselves permission to build on Marshes.

Hackney Council are again spending thousands on planning consultants Firstplan, to mastermind the charade of obtaining planning permission from themselves for two new car parks and an extravagant mega-pavilion out on the supposedly protected open space of Hackney Marshes.

Firstplan specialise in helping unscrupulous developers evade planning restrictions and inconvenient policies such as flood risk zones and  Metropolitan Open Land, and get permission for environmentally harmful proposals which generate widespread objections.

Their website boasts of success winning planning approval in the face of such ‘challenges’ as:

  • “very significant and organised objections from the public, Council Members and MPs” (Ferme Park concrete plant)
  • “drive-thru Costa Coffee unit in flood risk zone 3b, following objection from the EA” (Derby)
  • “High density of the development (approximately double the policy target)”  (housing development in Bow)
  • “Overcoming policies which restrict further restaurant development” (Nando’s)

Firstplan were previously hired by Hackney Council to bamboozle its own Planning Committee into granting permission for the giant 2-storey architectural folly of the Hackney Marshes Centre, despite it falling foul of the rules restricting development on Metropolitan Open Land (M.O.L.). Firstplan boast on their website, on which they describe the building as “changing rooms”, that a key challenge was “restrictive policy designations”.

Developments like this on M.O.L. are in theory supposed to maintain the openness of the landscape, be small in scale and essential to open air recreational use of the land.

Yet the upper floor of the Hackney Marshes Centre which looms over the open space has nothing to do with open air recreation –  as this wedding planning website enthuses:

“The main bar and terrace give guests stunning views over the vast green space. These are perfect for summer weddings looking for both inside and outdoor space. Adjoining these rooms are the meeting rooms, perfect for seminars and smaller break-out meetings. The venue also offers 184 car parking spaces and a dedicated event manager for all events.”

Firstplan and Hackney Council are pulling the same stunt with their new application for the mega-pavilion on North Marsh.

What was originally to be a genuine provision of new essential changing rooms on the site of the original block has now mushroomed into a sprawling edifice stretching out over pristine green, with a palatial bar and viewing area – ripe for rental to private clients.

As well as attempting to drive through planning permission for what is clearly another inappropriately commercial enterprise, FirstPlan have dreamed up a number of fictitious, misleading and contradictory arguments for the Council to use.

In their planning statement, FirstPlan claim that The Transport Assessment explains that the Hackney Marshes North Pavilion will not generate any new trips from users of the sports pitches (paragraph 6.56). This is in direct contradiction to a statement Hackney Council tweeted on 29th August claiming the car park would attract new users of the sports pitches: “@juliancheyne current car park is adequate because few people want to use the existing changing rooms. The new pavilion will have more users.”

At certain points to justify the new car parks, the statement resorts to Orwellian logic, for example: The new entrance to the [East Marsh] car park is situated closer to the existing bus stop and will therefore encourage access by public transport (paragraph 6.59). If it wasn’t contradictory enough to claim that car parks encourage use of public transport, we could still ask why on earth would people arriving by bus be expected to enter through a car park?

An entire “extensive consultation” on the East Marsh car park has been fabricated on the basis that it had been inconspicuously included on a tiny map in a 7 year old publicity leaflet but otherwise never mentioned.

The same document simultaneously claims that both carrying out landscaping and not carrying out landscaping to disguise a car park ensure the openness of Metropolitan Open Land. For North Marsh car park, they claim: “the car park landscaping includes planting between the proposed car parking spaces to green the car park in a way which is graduated to be consistent with the edge of the Marsh. The use of cellular reinforced grass will also ensure that there is minimal visual impact when the car park is not in use. Therefore the car park proposals will not harm the openness of the M.O.L.” Whereas they claim the complete opposite when describing the proposals for East Marsh car park, also on a wooded edge, where they claim “the proposals for East Marsh do not include any landscaping in order that the openness and long views across the marsh are protected.”

Para 4.4 states The Cow Bridge project is another element of the Remaking the Marshes programme and the refurbishment of Cow Bridge was included to open access back onto the Marsh which was stopped in 2004 when the bridge was deemed unsafe for vehicles.  Therefore the reality is that for some 10 years there was no parking at all in the vicinity of the North Pavilion as it was inaccessible to cars. The main claim the Council are making, that they are reducing car parking spaces for North Marsh from an apocryphal “approximately 240” to 68 (plus coach parking) is somewhat brought into doubt by the fact that for the majority of the last ten years, there was zero car parking actually accessible on North Marsh at all.

The Council, in particular Cllr. Jonathan McShane regard this ‘Remaking the Marshes’ programme as a ’21st century’ endeavour. It certainly is! Using public money to exort the maximum construction potential from green spaces, enriching corporations at public expense, is certainly all the rage these days.

 You can still sign our petitions against these proposals here

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URGENT: PLEASE Object to Planning Inspectorate About Hackney Council’s Plans

Hackney Council has to get consent from the Planning Inspectorate to build its new car parks and pavilion on the Common Land of Hackney Marsh. It’s vital to get as many objections in as possible by 12 September. So we are putting an urgent appeal out to all our supporters to please email this by the 12th. It won’t take long but may help save precious green space.

A high level of public concern and controversy may lead to a lot of difficult questions being asked of the Council and hopefully a public enquiry.

We are including points against both East Marsh Car Park and the North Marsh Pavilion – these are both in the one application so should go on the same email.

We are asking people to send emails to: commonlandcasework@pins.gsi.gov.uk .

Subject: Hackney Marsh consultation response

Dear Planning Inspectorate,

I am objecting to the granting of consent for the current proposals by the London Borough of Hackney for works on Hackney Marsh Common Land.

[I am a local user of Hackney Marsh.]

[Optionally add what’s most important to you here about loss of green space/lack of benefits/harm etc.]

I agree with following points:

 

East Marsh car park

  1. It will result in no benefit to the Common or advantage to the majority of its users, who either live locally or do not have or choose not to use cars.
  2. There are good transport connections locally for visitors from outside the neighbourhood and no justification for encouraging additional unnecessary car use. The Transport Statement is out of date, and ignores post-Olympic connections to the major transport interchange at Stratford East.
  3. Environmental impacts from encouragement of car access onto the common include: air pollution; risk of illegal vehicle access and fly-tipping
  4. There are no residential roads nearby so not providing this will not cause any parking pressure impact on neighbours.
  5. It will mean a permanent and continuous loss of a natural area of the Common with a negative effect on all users, while only being used for very limited periods (Sunday mornings) and a very small number of drivers.
  6. There is no general need for additional parking on Hackney Marsh as demonstrated by the emptiness of the existing car parks at any time other than Sunday mornings.
  7. The applicants say that the car park is “designed to meet the needs of the Borough’s residents, as well as any other visitors, who wish to use the marsh for education or recreational purposes”. This would appear to be untrue as they have previously stated that it would be available only for paying customers using the pitches.
  8. An additional > 3000m2 of East Marsh has already recently been lost to superfluous hard surfacing through unconsented works. This is more than the former parking area. Many hectares of green Common have been recently covered with paving, roads and buildings at Arena Fields, White Hart Field and Morris Field in the southern parts of Hackney Marsh. The effects of this proposal will add to this progressive erosion.
  9. It is incorrect for the applicants to describe it as a ‘reinstatement'; it is a new generic car park in a new location; the former parking surrounded changing rooms which no longer exist.
  10. A great deal of underused parking space exists in the vicinity. A large multistorey car park has been built on Hackney Marsh Common approximately 7 minutes’ walk away; surely footballers are capable of walking this distance. New and little-used car parks have been built at the Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre only 100m from the proposal site. Hundreds of parking spaces remain empty during the daytime at New Spitalfields Market directly adjacent to the site.
  11. The claim that the proposal will ‘prevent cars being parked on the grass around the pitches’ makes no sense as this never happens, driving onto the Common is illegal, and access for vehicles is physically prevented by posts and railings.
  12. Additional cycle parking could be achieved in a low-impact way in various locations around the Common and would not require this large area of paving.
  13. No demand for disabled parking in this location has been proven – ample provision exists at the Hackney Marsh Centre, close to its facilities.
  14. The heavy-duty block paved surface is excessive, obtrusive and completely inappropriate for minimal traffic for a few hours a week; no lower-impact alternatives have been considered.​

North Marsh Pavilion and associated car parking

Pavilion / Changing rooms

  1. It will incur an unjustified loss of an additional presently open, green and accessible area of Common.
  2. The proposed pavilion location will cause harm to the landscape by its elongated design and prominent position​​ . It will block current views east across the marsh and be a dominant artificial feature in the entire northern area of the marsh.​
  3. Planning approval and commons consent was obtained in 2008/9 for 20 new changing rooms plus officials’ changing and other facilities on the site of the existing building, without extending out onto new green space. All considerations led that to be considered the optimum location. This continues to be the only acceptable option in the interests of the environment and neighbourhood.
  4. The applicants now claim that using the site of the current building is not practical as the current building must be retained until the new one is in use to provide continuity of facilities, and providing temporary changing facilities would cost money. Such minor cost considerations cannot justify such a major loss of open green space and impact on the Common. Furthermore this was never raised as an issue when the 2008 plans were approved.
  5. Avoiding loss of Common Land and damage to its utility should be the first priority in this sensitive location, yet the primary consideration now seems to be the provision of a large parking and vehicle zone entirely consuming the current site.

    Car parking

  6. Access is over a steeply humped bridge with poor visibility and across a footpath heavily used by runners, cyclists and people with dogs, who should be able to use the Common without risk from traffic.
  7. It is undesirable and unnecessary to have a drop-off area within the Common as part of the proposal – visitors without mobility problems can be dropped off in Millfields Road and have a short walk over the bridge to the changing rooms.
  8. Environmental impacts from encouragement of car access onto the Common include: air pollution, risk of illegal vehicle access and fly-tipping, as well as risk of collision with pedestrians, dogs and cyclists.
  9. The provision of the parking and vehicle circulation area appears to be the reason for the design ‘solution’ of placing the new building out on new green space.
  10. It will result in no benefit to the Common or advantage to the majority of its users, who either live locally or do not have or choose not to use cars.
  11. While a former car-parking area existed on what is now the cricket show pitch, this became inaccessible over 10 years ago, and prior to that was rarely utilised. It is misleading for the applicants to claim that there is a net reduction in parking provision by reference to this.
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