Correspondence relating to the alarming sign off of the reinstatement plan despite the multiple issues unresolved can be found on Jo Brind’s website
Here is a comprehensive letter sent to Shaun Dawson, chief exec of the LVRPA, about the poor state of reinstatement of Leyton Marsh by a SLM member. This letter outlines the multiple issues with the reinstatement chosen:
Dear Mr Dawson,
I have some concerns with your recent letter to Cllr Ian Rathbone which I believe should have correctly been dated 4 January 2013. I’d appreciate it if you could initially provide clarification on the following -
You say that “With reference to the areas of waterlogging we have carried out a process of ground probe aeration to alleviate the situation” and refer to the Gwazae website.
I visit Leyton Marsh frequently and have seen no evidence of any such process having been undertaken. There are no vehicle tracks or probe holes, or any sign of the waterlogging improving. I have been back to confirm this on 9 January – and there is now a strong smell of anaerobic decay in places as the turf and imported topsoil is rotting.
Indeed, I am sceptical that ground probe aeration can be used at all since the probes used by Gwazae are desgned to penetrate soil, not the compacted Type 1 concrete fill that has been left in place under large areas of the site. I believe the misguided retention of this poorly draining fill together with the overlying geotextile membrane is a major contributor to the waterlogging problems which are only likely to be resolved by its complete removal.
Could you please explain this apparent discrepancy? If you believe the aeration was done,when did it happen and over what area? And when you say ‘we’ do you mean you believed this process to have been commissioned by the LVRPA?
You made statements of fact regarding the seed mix used, species composition, rates of sowing and method. Do you have any documentary evidence that the range of seeds were procured and sown as you say?
From enquiries to the ODA it appears there is no evidence for any of this apart from unsubstantiated assertions originating from the subcontractors responsible.
According to the Reinstatement Plan timetable of works the seeds were to have been sown in June and July/August. There is no valid reason why the majority would not have germinated. The range of species agreed in the plan are visibly absent from the turf which is composed almost entirely of perennial ryegrass with some white clover,
I also find it implausible that “wildflower seed was then distributed as a second operation through hand application at 2-5g/m2 and also pressed into the surface to ensure no loss through wet or windy weather” . taken at face value and based on the 16000sqm of turf prepared at the farm this would require around 60kg of seed – I cannot see this quantity of seed being manually pressed by hand into the surface over such a large area.
I think it would be very helpful in alleviating mistrust over the reinstatement process if the LVRPA were transparent about what, if any, evidence it holds to demonstrate that the agreed Reinstatement Plan was properly followed and that the statements you have made about the seeding are verifiable. Unfortunately I suspect as with a number of aspects of this project, you as well as the general public have been misled.
GTTV Temp Basketball_LeytonMarsh Reinstatement Update (20120711 v1) is the latest document on reinstatement from the ODA and supersedes the documents below. This plan will be discussed by the full Waltham Forest Council PLANNING COMMITTEE (as requested by SLM) ON WEDNESDAY 12th SEPTEMBER.
The plan should be read in conjunction with the ODA Response to Claire Weiss. Please submit your comments to Waltham Forest Council and attend the committee meeting on the evening of 12th September if you can.
The following files are the reinstatement plan that the ODA has sent to Waltham Forest Council. Please read through the reinstatement report and send your comments to Waltham Forest Council as soon as possible:
2) Cover Letter
Responses to our ‘Enough is Enough’ letter to all the responsible authorities regarding Leyton Marsh. Although when we say ‘responsible’, well…read on!
1) Response from Chris Robbins, Labour Leader of the Council:
RE: LEYTON MARSH
Thank you for your email dated 19 April concerning the above. I would like to reassure you that my Officers are aware of the situation at Leyton Marsh and are dealing with the situation.
The Council’s Environmental Health Service are in receipt of the Ground Investigation Report by RSA Geotechnics Ltd. It showed elevated levels of lead in soil samples but no asbestos was identified. In addition, the asbestos screening tests carried out on cement sheeting found in borehole 1 did not identify the presence of asbestos. While the potential for asbestos containing materials within the made ground cannot be ruled out, vigilance will be maintained by groundworkers during excavation.
The stripped soil is to be exported with documentation giving a written description of the waste. The Duty of Care legislation requires the contractors to handle, manage and transfer this waste to a suitable permitted facility (the Environment Agency is the enforcing authority for waste material).
With regards to an Environmental Impact Assessment, a screening option has been received by the Council and the Council concluded that the proposal will not have significant environmental impact onsite and surrounding area, so an Environmental Impact Assessment is not required.
Officers from the Council’s Environmental Health Service have been liaising closely with their counterparts in the London Borough of Hackney.
If I can be of any further assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Cllr Chris Robbins
Leader of the Council
Subsequent letter from London Borough of Waltham Forest:
2)Response from the Environment Agency:
3) Response from the LVRPA:
Our Response to the Reinstatement Plan
You can look at the Reinstatement Plan for Porter’s Field Meadow (Leyton Marsh) here:
1. Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) do not have the necessary experience to carry out the reinstatement of Leyton Marsh and should be replaced by an organization that do have the required specialist knowledge.
STRI carried out the site condition survey and seem to be taking responsibility for the reinstatement of the turf, yet have no experience of managing this kind of project. On page 24 of Appendix C, it says that ‘STRI retain a reputation for being the world’s leading environmental consultants working in the sports and leisure sectors.’ Yet, a detailed examination of their website provides absolutely no examples of their involvement with environmentally complex projects. Instead, it tells us that STRI provides natural and artificial sports surfaces. Leyton Marsh is neither a playing field not a recreation ground.
STRI’s lack of experience working with this kind of habitat is evidenced by the flaws in the species list. The mistakes made with the Latin names have been corrected, but it needed members of Save Leyton Marsh to point them out. The survey itself is also inadequate. There is no information on where the plant surveys were done and over what area. They cannot show what was on the excavated areas because the surveys post-date the work on the site, and they were completed at only one point in the year and so cannot show the diversity of plant life across the year. They is also no mention of fungi or microorganisms despite the a statement on page 5 of the main reinstatement report saying, ‘There was lots of worm activity in the profile’ and paragraph 4.7.1 of the Atkins ecology report stating that the only chance fungi have to re-establish themselves is from spores in the topsoil as the actual mycelia are likely already dead.
2. We would like the findings of previous surveys of Leyton Marsh to be taken into consideration.
On page 8 of the main reinstatement plan it states that the LVRPA have said that, ‘The surveys undertaken by STRI look to be comprehensive and should therefore supersede the previous surveys that have taken place on Walthamstow Marshes (dated 1970 and 2002) as there has been the opportunity for new species to have become established on site’. This reflects poorly on the LVRPA if this accurately reflects what was said, and indicates a lack of attention to the contents of the surveys and a failure to do their own checking. Park users who are not plant experts have been immediately able to identify species on site that are missing from the ‘comprehensive’ STRI survey, and it would have been reasonable to expect a park ranger to have checked the list on site to confirm its accuracy. It should be noted that the previous surveys are more comprehensive and include the limited range of species noted in the STRI survey, which therefore does not include any ‘new species’. Given the limited nature of the STRI survey, it is reasonable to assume that the valuable data contained in the previous surveys would be taken into account when preparing the reinstatement plan and we would like to see this happen.
3. The seed specification appears incomplete. More than one seed mix must be developed, by an organization that has specialist knowledge of this kind of reinstatement works.
The rationale behind excluding relatively invasive species, such as daisy and dandelion, from the seed mix appears sound, but it is unclear why other species identified during the survey (for example, wall speedwell, thistle, ragwort, horn plantain and cinquefoil) have been excluded.
It is also misguided to propose reinstatement of the scrub grassland using the same turf and seed mix as the short mown areas. This proposal is based on the erroneous assumption that ‘their different appearance is due to their management and public uses’. The most cursory examination of the areas reveal that this is not the case, and this is in fact supported by the March STRI survey. Specifically, the 16 species in the replacement seed specification includes 8 not listed in the STRI rough grassland survey, while the survey records 13 species not included in the seed specification.
4. Many questions surrounding the topsoil remain and we would like them fully answered.
On pages 5 and 10 of the main reinstatement report it says, ‘XX% of the topsoil has been found unsuitable for reuse because of contaminates’. The use of the past tense suggests this has already happened so the percentage should already be known. Why hasn’t it been included in the report?
How have you sorted the topsoil to determine what is safe to reuse and what isn’t? We are not aware of any testing being undertaken on the topsoil, have no knowledge of a practical way to separate contaminated topsoil from uncontaminated topsoil, no remediation strategy for dealing with topsoil has been submitted for planning approval in accordance with condition 12, and as far as we are aware no material has been removed from the topsoil stockpile at the time the subsoil/hazardous waste pile was removed.
While the main reinstatement report claims that some of the topsoil cannot be used, the Nussli Method Statement 21.10: Spreading of Topsoil states, ‘Where topsoil was removed, the existing topsoil was stored on site and is going to be replaced in situ’. It also states that, ‘Separately stored topsoil from the rough grass area adjacent to Sandy Lane will be used for refilling where the access and exit roads are located’, yet all the topsoil has been piled into an undifferentiated heap. These discrepancies are extremely concerning and demonstrate either a willful attempt to deceive or incompetence, and need to be resolved.
While the reuse of a minimal scrape of topsoil was a fundamental (and misleading) claim used to facilitate the granting of planning permission, there has been a failure to follow good practice for management of soil. This is set out in DEFRA’s Construction Code of Practice for the Sustainable Use of Soils on Construction Sites. For example, the grass turf was not separated but has been buried in the stockpile. No Materials Management Plan or Soil Resource Plan has been produced for this project to ensure correct handling and storage. It was also not established at the planning stage whether excavated topsoil was sufficiently free of contamination to be suitable for reuse. How can we be confident that the reinstatement will not be plagued by similar bad practice?
5. Discussion of the sub-base is conspicuously missing from the reinstatement plan and it should be included.
The reinstatement report focuses on the topsoil but what about the sub-base? How will the volume of rubble removed from the site be replaced? This being done well will be critical to the long-term health of the turf. The report states that the turf will be re-laid if it fails, but what will happen if the sub-base isn’t laid properly? What precautions are being put in place and what working methods will be established to ensure the land won’t turn to bog, subside or collapse in the years to come?
6. The turf specification is wholly inadequate and needs revising.
The impression was given, at the resident’s meeting of 15 May 2012, that custom turf was to be grown to attempt to accurately replicate the pre-existing grassland. However it appears from the reinstatement plan that the turf will be selected from stock (page 11: ‘The turf farm shall be visited to identify the required turf’) and augmented with some additional seeding. This is referred to as ‘intraseeding’ though we believe the correct term is ‘interseeding’.
There is a lack of information in the STRI survey about the relative percentages of different grasses and, even if this information was available, it is unclear whether this could be easily achieved with a customised off-the-field product.
The information regarding species mix on pages 11 and 12 of the reinstatement plan states that turf will be selected with a ‘generally even blend of Lolium perenne, Festuca rubra and Poa pratensis with no more than 15% Poa annua’. However, the seed specification on pages 12 and 13 lists 10% Lolium perenne, 25% Festuca rubra, 25% Poa pratensis and no Poa annua. This is a significantly different mix and is perhaps intended to adjust the proportions although this is not at all clear. The discrepancy is all the more worrying, when you add to it the fact that the STRI category has Poa pratensis in the ‘few’ category, yet it seems there will be at least 25% Poa pratensis in the final turf.
If the amenity grassland turf is used to replace the roadways through the scrub area, the density of grasses (95% of the mix) will prevent other species re-colonising and the turfed areas, if left to grow, will remain indefinitely entirely different to their surroundings.
Finally it seems as if many of the decisions about the turf are yet to be made. These are fundamental to the reinstatement plan and should be incorporated in the report, for consultation and to help LBWF make their decision.
7. The timetable of works is unrealistic and should be revised to accurately reflect the time needed for full reinstatement.
The timeline provided on page 16 is unrealistic and indicates that no attempt has been made to accurately plan the reinstatement works. It simply indicates ‘lay turf’ over a three-week period apparently beginning on 15 September. With the removal works starting Monday 10 September, following the end of the Paralympics, there is no way that it will be possible to strip out, dismantle and remove the buildings and infrastructure, break out and remove the roadways, and remove the fill and replace the soil in one week. It is unlikely to take less than four weeks, and it should be noted that Nussli’s Project Programme R07 of Feb 2012 shows a 30 day allowance for ‘Removal of Temporary Venue’, from 11 September to 10 October, followed by two days ‘Making Good of Site’.
The Nussli Reinstatement Method Statement notably fails to include any start date or duration for any of the subtasks. Why is this, given that the size of workforce is stated and the scope of the works is accurately known? We suspect this is because it would be immediately apparent that the works cannot be completed within the timescale promised in the planning application.
Furthermore, surely the timetable of works should start after permission has been given by LBWF? If, in fact, work has already begun on the turf (which, if it has, makes a mockery of the process of consultation and planning permission) then we would like to see the results of the analysis that should already have taken place and which is currently missing from the reinstatement plan.
8. The site area is inaccurate and should be amended.
The site marked up in Appendix C is much larger that the area fenced off by the development. Why? We would like to be reassured that you won’t be re-turfing areas that haven’t been affected by the development.
9. The reinstatement plan fails to tackle the issue of logistics and should be amended accordingly.
The reinstatement plan ignores the logistics of managing stockpiles of incoming soil, waste arising and vehicle deliveries. It needs to be explained how this is to be managed without impacting either on areas already reinstated or encroaching on areas outside the licensed land causing further damage.
10. The reinstatement plan should explain how the reinstated land will be rich in fungi, earthworms and other organisms and confirm that no pesticides or fertilizers will be used on the land.
On page 12 of the reinstatement report it says, ‘and is regularly tested for harmful pests and diseases’. What is the definition of harmful? And how will you be eradicating harmful pests and diseases without damaging microorganisms? We are concerned that non-native species, which might not be considered harmful, will be introduced to the marsh and that microorganisms that are required for a healthy soil structure will not be reintroduced with the turf.
Even if the stored topsoil is re-useable, the site will still suffer a net loss of valuable soil resource together with its indigenous population of fungi, earthworms and other organisms. To apply 1 ha of 30mm thick turf requires removal of an equivalent volume of topsoil, ie. 300 m3 or around 450 tonnes. This represents a considerable loss to the local environment as well as potentially entailing high disposal costs.
We do not want to see any pesticides or chemical-based fertilisers used on the land. In fact, It is unclear why fertiliser should be applied in these circumstances as we are not aware that fertiliser has ever been used on Leyton Marsh.
11. The statements regarding the consultation are flawed and we would like them to be rewritten.
On page 9 of the main reinstatement report it states that, ‘The ‘thick’ turf option was also supported by the majority of the Residents engaged with’. This is a completely disingenuous reading of local people’s opinions. There is little, if any, support for the ‘thick’ turf option. We recall residents trying to point out that promising to give Leyton Marsh back to us by 15 October 2012 AND returning it in the state it was in before the vandalism began is absolutely impossible; that the only way you could return it to us in a useable state by 15 October 2012 was to use the ‘thick’ turf roll and that we were therefore being offered a choice that wasn’t really a choice at all. This statement must therefore be changed to ‘Residents are unhappy about the options presented to them and do not feel that any of them will return the land to its original state.’
It is also cynical to suggest that the attendance of thirty people at the meeting was in any way indicative of lack of support, which is what you imply. The ODA did little to ensure a greater number of people were able or willing to attend: the event was overrun with uniformed and plain clothes policeman which was extremely intimidating, the room was very small and the omission to invite anyone at all from Leyton to a discussion about Leyton Marsh speaks for itself. Similarly, the 15th May LM Resident’s meeting document is also missing many of the individual discussions attendees held with representatives of the ODA and the LVRPA, and cannot be considered a true reflection of the concerns raised by residents. We believe the section on the consultation should be rewritten to better reflect the true nature of the conversation with local residents.
We also feel that the draft reinstatement plan would benefit from an introduction that puts the need for reinstatement into context. Without this, it is difficult for anyone to judge the detail in the plan effectively. We feel the following key points should be included in any introduction:
- Six months ago, when Leyton Marsh was a green field, the ODA submitted a proposal to Waltham Forest to skim 15cm of topsoil from the land in order to use it for the construction of a temporary basketball training venue.
- Evidence of the contamination in the land was known about in January 2012 but did not appear in the information presented to the Planning Committee in February.
- The extent of the contamination and the nature of the uncrushed rubble that was excavated was not known before excavation began because an Environment Assessment had not been completed. When it became apparent, a revised construction plan had to be drawn up.
- Excavation in excess of the 15cm was made across the site in advance of obtaining an amendment to the planning conditions for the purpose of the revised construction plan.
- For two months, contaminated mounds of rubble were heaped on the south side of the site. For many weeks these mounds were uncovered. This was in direct contravention of the original planning application granted.
- There has been, and continues to be, huge and vocal opposition by local people, not only about the construction of the basketball courts themselves but also about the environmental damage being caused.
Local people think it is extraordinary that plans for reinstatement of the site, which is a critical part of a project in such a sensitive location, should have been left until now to be hastily considered. Use of the site was agreed with the LVRPA over 18 months ago and so there has been ample time to consult, research and plan in detail the method of reinstatement. The choice of a date of 15 October by which the land would be ‘reinstated to its original state’ appears to have been entirely arbitrary and little more than a ‘planning fiction’ and unrelated to any proper consideration of the process and practicalities.
Local people also believe it is reprehensible that the concealment of the intention to excavate beyond 15cm of topsoil in order to facilitate planning permission led to damage to an additional ~1000m2 of grassland necessitating its removal together with a layer of topsoil, in addition to the other impacts of the hazardous waste stockpile. Had this subsoil excavation been acknowledged in the first place and responsibly planned it could have been removed as it was excavated and this additional damage prevented.
12. The appendices are missing and without them we cannot fully judge the reinstatement plan.
Why are many of the appendices missing? What do they contain?
Response from ODA regarding request for correspondence relating to the site investigation report
Save Leyton Marsh Group have obvious interest in the Ground Investigation Report carried out by the ODA’s contractors Nussli in January.
The report outlines the plans to dig up to half a metre into Leyton Marsh and the acknowledgment of potentially hazardous landfill at this depth.
We wish to know why the ODA did not present this report to Waltham Forest Council who considered the planning application the following month – an application which expressly stated an intention to only excavate up to 15cm!
The response to our request for information demonstrates the ODA’s absolute commitment to transparency and accountability:
Reinstatement concerns and proposal for Leyton Marsh
sent to Lee Valley Regional Park Authority
- Is there a LVRPA officer responsible for liaising with the ODA/contractors regarding the activities and procedures on the land, and monitoring what is actually taking place and whether agreed procedures are being adhered to? If so who is it?
- Is monitoring of the site regularly undertaken by the LVRPA and recorded to ensure works are being carried out ‘in a good and workmanlike manner’ and ‘using all reasonable skill and care’ as required by the License? (This is vital to ensure deviations from method statements and unplanned damage to the land is prevented or remediated. E.g. failures to handle and store topsoil properly, ground compaction, vehicles causing damage by driving off the roadways).
- Will the topsoil be reused as planned? Has this been considered? Paragraph 4.7.1 of the Atkins ecology report states the only chance fungi have to re-establish themselves is from spores in the stored topsoil (the actual mycelia are likely already dead). It seems the topsoil has to be used.
- Have the LVRPA seen the soil management plan for the top soil? If so when was this, and has the LVRPA ensured that it conforms to DEFRA guidelines in order that the risk of damage to its land is minimised?
- Area covered – all 3 options in the ODA proposal appear to be replacing an area in excess of that covered by the entire site, and twice the area excavated for buildings & vehicle areas. The current site area within the fencing is less than 13800 m2 but the proposals refer to 16000 m2 of seeding or turfing.
- If turf is used, is it matched in every way to the soil etc that was there before e.g. soil ph and type, wildflowers, fungi and microorganisms?
- Inconsistencies and inaccuracies have been identified in the species listed which suggest a lack of care and competence:
- The ODA short grass section proposes Anthemis nobilis / Chamaemelum nobile. This species is not mentioned in the two flora lists for Walthamstow Marsh from 1970 and 2002.
- The unmanaged scrub grassland section proposal includes ‘Yarrow / Galium aparine’, where G. aparine is in fact Cleavers, or Yarrow is Achillea millefolium. It also incorrectly gives the latin name for the hybrid Russian Comfrey as Symphytum officinale (which is Common Comfrey).
- The ODA proposed replacement seed specification includes 4 species which are not included in the two available flora lists for Walthamstow Marsh (1970 and 2002) Common Bent – Agrostis capillaris, Hoary Plantain – Plantago media, Common Hawkbit – Leontodon hispidus and Common Chamomile – Anthemis nobilis (see note above). Moreover Common Bent is not in the ODA’s list of found plants.
- The two plants that are currently flowering in the short grass are Daisy and Dandelion, and neither are in the suggested seed list.
- On the ‘Scrub grassland’, 8 of the 13 wildflowers listed for this location have been confirmed by a local resident but so have 11 species not on the ODA proposed list. In particular, Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris, fl. 4-6) (not in the ODA list). Hemlock (Conium maculatum, fl. 6-7) (which is included on the list) was not evident. The tall yellow-flowered plant (either oil-seed rape, or wild turnip) is not in the ODA proposed list.
- The ODA list fails to record where the plant ‘surveys’ were done or over what area, and bears little relation to what is in the immediate vicinity of the land to be restored. The report cannot show what was on the excavated areas because it post-dates the works.
The ODA list also misses common plants that were noted in appendix E of the planning application Ecology Report from January 2012 e.g. cow parsley.
8. How will the proposed turf be screened for organisms etc so unwanted species are not brought on to the marsh?
9. Who is the consultant that the ODA are using?
10. When any document states that the site will be restored to its ‘original condition’ – what does this actually mean? What is the hole going to be filled with?
11. How does the presence of concrete/limestone affect the soil structure and pH?
12. Has the top soil for the rough grass areas been stored separately? How does concrete affect the rough grass areas?
13. What precautions and working methods have been/will be taken to ensure the land won’t turn to bog, subside or collapse in the years to come?
14. Who is responsible for checking the ground works are done properly? What is the process of checks and who does what?
15. What recourse to law does the LVRPA have if there are problems with the reinstatement works?
16. Have to date any issues of concern been raised with the ODA and contractors?
- Time O’Hare Associates have a proven track record with remediating the allotments and the Olympic site. They are experts in their field and we propose that the LVRPA insists these specialists are used. They would be able to check the viability of the top soil and restore the land fully.
- We don’t want the ground to be ‘levelled’. We want it be the same as it was before.