Leyton Marsh Moorings: Statement by Concerned Boaters

A meeting of boaters concerned with the implementation of private moorings on the River Lea, London, at Leyton Marshes was held on the 21st March 2012.

The mooring site comprises a stretch of river bank approximately 150 metres long on the east side of the river Lea, and will provide moorings for perhaps 10 boats.  The land is designated as Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) and consists of open parkland, which is currently used for leisure and recreation by members of the public. Management of the mooring is being carried out by the Lea Valley Springfield Marina, which is owned and run by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA).

Google Map link to the location:

The mooring site comprises the land on the east side of the river, south of the cattle grid in the adjacent Sandy Lane, and to the north of the nearby pedestrian bridge over the River Lea.

Sign at the mooring site:

Private moorings at Leyton Marsh


The site has been habitually used for many years as casual moorings by many different live-aboard boaters.  The boats moored at this site have been defined and licensed as Constant Cruisers (CC), which is a term used by the Canal and River Trust (CaRT), who manage the River Lea, to describe boats without a home mooring. These vessels are required to move to a new mooring every 14 days.

In 2012 Leyton Marshes was the subject of conflict between Olympic Delivery Authority and many local residents, dog walkers, and other concerned individuals and groups.  The conflict centred around temporary basketball courts which were built as part of the London Olympics.  Campaigners feared that the courts would set a precedent and that development and buildings would become permanent on the site.  The campaign turned quite nasty with campaigners imprisoned and slapped with claims for legal costs by the authorities. Trust between many locals and the LVRPA have not recovered, and many still fear a creeping development of the Marshes. The campaign group Save Lea Marshes (formerly Save Leyton Marsh) is opposing the imposition of the new moorings, which amounts to another privatisation of public space.

During the meeting boaters raised a number of issues and concerns over the Leyton Marsh mooring plan.  These are set out below.

1) The “privatisation” of this mooring site removes it from use by Constantly Cruised boats.

2) That the rental and privatisation of these moorings may set the precedent for other locations and leaves open the possibility that CaRT will work with the LVRPA to privatise and commercialise significant portions of the Lea.  Also this model could be used on other waterways in London and the rest of the country. This would mean a reduction in available mooring sites for the CC community.

3) A LVRPA report from 2013 (Note 1) shows the Park’s “concerns relate to the poor state of the boats”.

And in a letter dated 26th May 2011 to Sally Ash, Head of Boating at British Waterways (now CaRT) (Note 2) from the Lea Valley Park’s chairman says “I acknowledge the limitations on your powers to enforce against physical appearances.”

Lee Valley Springfield Marina, who have been inviting applications for the moorings on Leyton Marsh, require a photograph with the application.  One boater reported a Lea Valley employee informing her that she would be unlikely to be allocated a mooring due to the poor visual appearance of her vessel.

The LVRPA chairman’s wish for “powers to enforce against physical appearances” appears to have become a reality.

The above evidence was discussed at the meeting. All persons present at the meeting were unanimous in their condemnation of this, and agreed this constitutes a form of social cleansing.

4) The implementation of these moorings may be not be lawful insofar as virtually all boats in the area are live-aboard, but the new moorings are classified as “leisure”, i.e not live-aboard.  A residential mooring requires planning consent from the local authority.  These moorings do not have such permission, which is presumably why they are classified as “Leisure”.

5) Another question and concern raised at the meeting was whether any land adjacent to the moorings would be closed off. The group was concerned that if even the smallest amount of land was closed off this would mean a loss to the local community of MOL.  Concern was raised that although an enclosure of land may not be carried out now, it may eventually be enclosed, and as such form a gradual loss of MOL. However if no land is closed off the group wondered what benefit any boater paying for a mooring at the site would gain, especially because they would not benefit from any rights as residents owing to the fact that the LVRPA are claiming the moorings are not residential.

6)  The land registry shows that the land and river bed which constitute this mooring site is owned by the LVRPA, and has been for decades.

7)  The land immediately adjacent and parallel to the mooring appears to have a public right of way over it.

8)  The LVRPA report and letter mentioned above gave the meeting cause for concern due to the fact that it clearly regards live aboard boaters as a problem, not an asset.


(1) Lee Valley Regional Park Authority Scrutiny Committee 7 Nov 2013 at 1100.


(2) Letter included in the above report from Derrick Ashley, Chairman, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority to Sally Ash, Head of Boating at British Waterways. 26th May 2011

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Piecemeal Privatisation of Lee Valley Regional Park

Ever since the temporary privatisation of Metropolitan Open Land for a private training facility on Porter’s Field Meadow (Leyton Marsh) for the London 2012 Olympics, we have seen a number of areas of previously open marshes enclosed and part-privatised.  The old golf course area by the Waterworks, turned into a private campsite for the London 2012 Olympics, was due to be restored in 2013. Now it is partly fenced off for a pony paddock, which only received permission for temporary use and was meant to be mobile.


The area behind the Lee Valley Riding Centre received permission from Waltham Forest Council to be further developed for commercial horse livery. The adjacent paddock was consequently subdivided into tiny electrified pens, over-grazed by horses and left in a state that even shocked the Hackney representative on the LVRPA when he visited last month (see picture below). An agreement between the New Lammas Lands Defence Committee and the LVRPA was meant to see this land transformed every other year into a wildflower meadow for all. That was another broken promise, clearly.

Conditions of horses

Yet all of these enclosed or part enclosed spaces are Metropolitan Open Land (M.O.L.). M.O.L. is a unique designation for London that is meant to protect strategically important open spaces to serve the needs of Londoners. It has the same status in law as greenbelt.

The most recent form of ‘income generation’ from publicly owned assets will be from the waterways adjacent to Leyton Marsh. The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority has written a letter to all the boats mooring there temporarily on a continuous cruising licence informing them they must pay the Authority for a residential leisure mooring in order to remain. The letter claimed that the Springfield Marina is ‘responsible’ for the nine moorings on Leyton Marsh. The boats have been ordered to vacate unless they are willing to provide details of their licence, boat etc and are to pay for a permanent residential mooring at the site.

Work has already begun on the land in anticipation of this imposed arrangement, clearing it of undergrowth and mowing one of the few spots that had previously escaped the savage mow down every year. This is despite the fact that the towpath is part of the Metropolitan Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, which extends down to the water. The clearance was not discussed, consulted upon or approved at any previous LVRPA workshops or forums with the community.

New moorings

However, the propriety and legality of the LVRPA’s actions is doubtful. There is nothing in the byelaws restricting mooring and the Park Act sections 36 & 37 only deals with vessels ‘sunk, stranded or abandoned’ and houseboats in a condition ‘injurious to the amenity of the waterway’.

Derrick Ashley of the LVRPA argues that the LVRPA is opposed to residential moorings as they’re contrary to the statutory purpose of the park as a leisure destination – somewhat at odds with the fact that they’re making money from it and now trying to expand!

Moreover, the deeds which cover the area of the Willows, Leyton Marsh and the actual site of Springfield Marina itself state that the land was left in ‘perpetuity for public use.’ Yet the land is being rented for private use at commercial rates by the Marina, which is managed by the LVRPA.

At an Authority meeting we attended back in October 2012, the representative for Haringey, John Bevan reported on his ‘pleasing’ visit to the Marina, with the exception of the ‘junk boats’ he had seen there and on the waterways. He reported that they were working on a ‘solution’ to what he and the Marina management regarded as the problem of these boats.

Whilst each of these developments and changes in land use can be viewed in isolation, it is important to consider that there appears to be an overall pattern for restricting access and use of our marshes by the public for the purposes of so-called ‘income generation’. The history of this area, the nature of the land and the founding purpose of the Authority should be re-examined in the light of recent history. People gave up their commoners’ rights to grazing cattle on the marshes at the turn of the 20th century in return for use of the land freely and in ‘perpetuity’. All the marshes is Metropolitan Open Land. Legally development should only occur when such development is essential for ‘preserving open use’ of the land. Finally and perhaps most significantly here, the purpose of the Authority when it was established during the 1960s was to act as guardians of the land, preserving the whole park for public use.

Is the LVRPA following its remit by pursuing a focus upon ‘maximising the return on land and property assets’ as stated in its recent report? This report led members of the Authority to decide to transfer LVRPA venues (and in future possibly other assets including open spaces) over to a charitable Industrial Provident Society. The treatment of our open spaces in the recent past suggests whether or not public assets are managed by this unelected Trust or by the Authority, the focus will be on commercialisation of public land.

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Winner of 2014 Save Lea Marshes Competition

The overall winner of the 2014 ‘What I Love About the Marshes’ photo competition was Rebecca McLaren with ‘Big Sky Over Ice’. Rebecca’s photo will go on the cover of the 2015 Save Lea Marshes calendar, along with 11 other winners, announced here:

Big Sky over Ice (copyright: Rebecca McLaren)

Big Sky over Ice (copyright: Rebecca McLaren)

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Marshland: Dreams and Nightmares on the Edge of London

Gareth Rees, author of Marshland, on Hackney Marshes.

Gareth Rees, author of Marshland, on Hackney Marshes.

It’s never recommended to sneak a peak at the end of a book before you’ve finished. However, before I started reading Marshland properly (from the beginning as you should), I had already been invited by Rees to fact-check the chapter ‘Endgames’ which extensively features our campaign to try and save Leyton Marsh from the Olympic machine, a struggle set in its proper historical context via description of valiant  battles for our marshes by the commoners of the past, albeit from the standpoint of,  at times, a rather detached and weary narrator. Focused as I was solely on the accuracy of the facts, the nature of Rees’ Marshland definitely eluded me at this juncture, impressed as I was at Rees’ ability to both precisely and concisely convey these events whilst remaining non-plussed at his narrator’s borderline cynicism for the camp which had been established on Leyton Marsh in a fierce attempt to save it.

What mattered little was that I didn’t read the book in chronological order, since this heady mixture of fact and fiction exceptionally and masterfully weaves its way from past to present, to imagined past, to imagined future and back again. Anyone who has stumbled across the marshes as a solitary and unprepared visitor will share much of Rees’ surprised fascination with this unique place nestled in the heart of East London. Marshland is an apt title for an adventure taking place in a ‘land’ both far away in the past, mystical as a dark fairytale, giving hazy definition to the borders of this wild land, astonishingly still here in the present and reached by a number of regular London streets.

Rees’ wry and detached persona has elements of Self’s witty but misanthropic narration, yet contains a humanising reverence for the history and idiosyncratic splendour of the marshes. The opening of the journey is many ways the same humble and mundane one many of us take, from our familiar and at times claustrophobic modern domestic set-up, as we set off on a daily walk with our pet canine. Yet Rees elevates the narrative through a self-deprecating humour which afforded me more than a few laughs of familiar self-recognition, as his dog Hendrix lands him in some uncompromising positions by the river Lea. We’re led on inexorably to his ardour for the pylons dotted about the marshes. Whilst unusual, this love is somewhat infectious and  expressed with witty aplomb, avoiding getting tangled up in the type of obscure prose that has put me off the works of other highly rated psychogeographers (mentioning no names).

Imaginative flights of fancy are spurred on through random encounters, snippets of news and an undoubtedly meticulously researched obsession with historical landmarks on the marshes. When out walking on Hackney Marshes, on the vast open ground, you are cast back in time by the medieval sounds of a murder of crows. Your interest is piqued at the knowledge of the Victorian water system at the site of the Middlesex Filter Beds. You wonder at the bomb rubble beneath your feet (or piled up high into the sky, as the Olympic Delivery Authority left it, fully exposed for weeks at Leyton Marsh). Yet its to Rees’ almighty credit that he is able to transform these fleeting imaginings into full colour motion, inhabiting his scenes with characters earthly enough to relate to, yet unearthly enough to convey the mystical magic of the marshes. For me, this makes the fine illustrations redundant; all this is achieved through the accomplished and genre-bending prose alone.

The spectre of development lurks in the shadows of this book and leaves you perversely rather looking forward to Rees’ prescient projection of flooded future, rather than the reclamation of this land by ugly capital, passing itself off as benign-sounding ‘regeneration.’ That is, unless the rival spirit of the commoners, which flashes across the pages, can illuminate a better shared future for our marshes. After all, the Games may be over but the ‘Endgames’ haven’t happened yet!

Marshland: Dreams and Nightmares on the Edge of London by Gareth E. Rees is available from Influx Press

N.B. This review was written by Caroline Day and does not necessarily reflect the views of every Save Lea Marshes member, some of whom may appreciate the undisputed talents of Ian Sinclair.

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SLM Photo Competition

SLM Photo Comp Poster

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LVRPA Considers Transferring Operations to a Leisure Trust

Here is the Future of LVRPA letter they sent out this week, outlining their plans and below is the response by Laurie Elks, of the Lea Valley Federation, to this communication which elucidates our shared concern as to what will happen to our green spaces, presently under the remit of the Authority, in future:

Dear Shaun and Derrick,
I have received your e-mail about the Authority’s future intentions.  We were aware that this was contemplated and I can see the financial logic from the Authority’s point of view.   As it happens, in my now distant days as a commercial lawyer I acted for a Trust on a “bulk transfer” of a local authority’s leisure facilities so I understand the contractual ramifications.
As you have raised this now I will let you know that it has been agreed within the Lee Valley Federation that I will write a pamphlet, provisionally to be called Lee Valley – Time for a Rethink revisited.  It will revisit the themes of Time for a Rethink (published in 1980 and available on the LVF website) which had some considerable impact on the thinking of the Authority at the time.
I will go further and let you know that (although the Park Authority has done and continues to do good work at some sites such as Fishers Green and Walthamstow Marsh) the view we take is that the Authority as a custodian of the Park as a “green lung” is a busted flush.  The regional remit, the Olympic legacy, and the financial pressures mean that the cost of running regional facilities is such that the energy and resource to care for the Park as a green lung is always going to be inadequate and residual.  A demerger of the Authority’s functions with a separate, committed and adequately-resourced body with a “green” remit is the only way to resolve this situation.
The reason I am telling you this now is that in principle, your proposal could be a step in precisely this direction.  However, it is impossible to respond to your consultation without a clear understanding of how the residual green arm of the Authority will be organised, staffed and – above all – resourced. 
I would expect that your members will also require this information and – to be frank – if they do not require this they will not be doing their job very well!
Would you please let me know what further information about this is going to be forthcoming to consultees and to members in advance of the Authority meeting on 27th February.  Since your consultation has gone out less than three weeks before the decision-taking meeting could you let me have an answer by the end of the coming week?
Best regards
Laurie Elks
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Replies to Our Joint Letter Requesting Hackney and Waltham Forest Recruit Biodiversity Officers

Dear Ian and Deniz

RE: Biodiversity officers

I am writing to you as signatories to a joint letter dated 17 December 2013 regarding the above matter, which was addressed to both myself and Cllr Chris Robbins, Leader of Waltham Forest Council.
I would like to assure you that Hackney Council takes its responsibilities in relation to biodiversity very seriously, and – as I’m sure you know – the Council published a borough-wide biodiversity action plan in 2012.
Whilst I understand that the biodiversity officer post within the Council’s Leisure & Green Spaces department is currently vacant and under review, during 2013 this service has continued to work towards the targets set out in the action plan, and the Hackney Biodiversity Partnership meets every two months to discuss progress.
Amongst the action plan targets already met are:
- the appointment of a GIS mapper to map the borough’s parks and their habitats
- running a wildflower meadow training course for Hackney’s gardeners
- running a wildlife recording campaign
- commissioning the London Wildlife Trust to deliver biodiversity enhancements to Clissold Park (which has so far generated 459 volunteer hours)
- planting Hackney’s largest wildflower meadow in London Fields
It is also worth emphasising that the biodiversity officer would not be responsible for commenting on any non-parks related planning applications. If this service is required the planning department will continue to seek the advice of independent ecologists – as it does currently for any parks-related or other applications where appropriate.
I hope that this information is helpful, and I am happy for you to forward this to the other signatories to the letter if you have their contact details. I would also encourage residents to visit www.hackney.gov.uk/biodiversity, where you can find links to Hackney’s biodiversity action plan and also to the London-wide action plan, as well as other information relating to Hackney’s approach to biodiversity issues. I hope that you will be reassured that this is an issue that Hackney continues to recognise as of vital importance to the borough and its residents.
Yours sincerely
Jules Pipe
Mayor of Hackney
To: Ian Rathbone (Cllr); Deniz Oguzkanli (Cllr)
CC: leader@walthamforest.gov.uk

Dear Caroline Day,

Thank you for your recent email asking Waltham Forest to appoint a full-time biodiversity officer.

The Council’s Nature Conservation Officer covers biodiversity for the Waltham Forest administrative area.  We take a proactive approach to biodiversity and geological conservation, taking full account of our statutory obligations and their impact within the planning system.  The Nature Conservation Officer is the internal consultee for planning applications within the authority and applications are properly scrutinised with our planners.  Following careful consideration of applications appropriate protection and mitigation measures are put into place where pertinent and wherever possible enhancement measures in respect of biodiversity are included. Therefore biodiversity is given full, proper and appropriate consideration in all decision-making within the borough.

LBWF policies including the LBWF Biodiversity Action Plan, Development Management Policies Local Plan Adoption Version 36 Policy DM35 – Biodiversity and Geodiversity,  give clear guidance with respect to Biodiversity in Waltham Forest along with the core strategy 8 Policy CS5- Enhancing Green Infrastructure and Biodiversity.

We have strong links and good working relationships particularly with Lea Valley Regional Park Authority and City Of London Conservators of Epping Forest, along with Natural England, and also work with (TCV) Trust for Conservation Volunteers & (LWT) London Wildlife Trust &  Lea Valley bats as well as local Friends Groups.

Generally, the Council’s Grounds Maintenance & Arboricultural Contract Monitoring Officers are aware of the importance of biodiversity and where appropriate enhance through species selection for planting schemes in shrub beds, highway verges, also parks and open spaces owned by the authority.  Furthermore schemes designed by the Council’s Strategic Parks & Open Spaces Officer will also enhance and further improve biodiversity on land managed by the Council where appropriate.

I trust this information is helpful but please do not hesitate to contact me again if you need particular clarification on any point.

Best wishes,

Cllr Chris Robbins

Leader of the Council

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