Cllrs Ian Rathbone and Deniz Oguzkanli say:
We are disappointed that the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) has gone to such extraordinary and unnecessary lengths by going to the High Court, wasting public money and court time on a matter which could have been discussed in the usual way of talking with one another.
They have been high handed and unreasonable in their dealings with local people on the ground – including us as elected representatives – they can’t even provide a proper liaison officer for elected representatives as is usual practice in such situations. We are still waiting three months on for answers to simple questions put to them about the construction of this basketball court. Some of these questions and our general concern were published in a letter to the Hackney Gazette on 2 February 2012 – not answered.
In particular we asked what plans they had for allowing local young people to use this facility. No answer so we assume that’s a no to local people again. And that’s despite the UK winning the Olympic bid to address the deficit of sports facilities here in the East End of London!
We understand a claim for £300k is being made by the ODA against persons unknown. This in our view an attempt to silence people who have very valid questions about their environment.
It would be interesting to see if local people sued they would have a counter claim for loss of amenity, irreversible loss of wildlife in an inner city area.
This week the ODA head of communications rang up Cllr Rathbone in a hostile and aggressive manner about the office phone number of one of the ODA communications officers being put on facebook – only minutes before. But when it comes to decency and courtesy of answering questions from elected representatives, they are quite happy to ignore for months. Those questions were given to the same Head of ODA communications two days ago. Again, silence. That’s their idea of ‘communications’ – don’t answer, just go to court and sue.
The eyes of the world are on the UK because of the Olympic Games – we are of the view that this the kind of behaviour from the ODA and the Government is worrying and not the right way to treat ordinary people who live around the Olympic site? They are the unacceptable face of British life.
We publish below a statement from the Save Leyton Marshes group which we fully agree with:
Statement by Save Leyton Marsh group
The ODA claim they have “no option” but to take legal action against this peaceful protest in order to fulfil their obligations “to provide practice facilities for the Olympic and Paralympic athletes”. This is fundamentally untrue. Eleven questions were put to them in December by a number of local councillors and still remain unanswered, including why the ODA chose not to utilize one of several alternative sites that would not require destroying this much loved green space.
Kelmscott Leisure Centre is less than 10 mins from Leyton Marsh with recently refurbished basketball courts suitable for disabled athletes, it will be shut for the duration of the Games. Walthamstow dog track is a disused brownfield site within 30 min of the Olympic park – specified as a requirement for the training facility. These both appear to be reasonable alternatives, but whether these sites were even considered has not been forthcoming despite requests for the selection process to be made available to the public.
Since planning permission was granted for these two huge 11m high 3 storey structure on Metropolitan Open Land, the ODA have refused to engage with local people and their very serious concerns relating not just to loss of green space but alarming health and safety irregularities arising from the construction. From the very beginning, local campaigners pointed out to the authorities concerned that Leyton Marsh was used for landfill and was known to contain unexploded bombs from WWII. Unsurprisingly work had to be halted during the first week of excavations when a bomb was discovered, workers were evacuated but not the surrounding area.
The ODA’s own injunction mentions the discovery of asbestos on site, which is highly hazardous to health. Three of the five samples taken from the site survey prior to work commencing had such
high concentrations of lead that they constituted ‘hazardous waste’, it is therefore extremely troubling that the planning application sought to avoid an Environmental Impact Assessment by claiming that only 15 cm of topsoil would be removed. Ian Ansell from Waltham Forest planning department has confirmed that the ODA have already excavated to at least 50cm in breach of their planning permission. Mounds of exposed soil several metres high containing significant concentrations of rubble are piled all around the site.
Whilst Lea Valley Park Authority claim that they are concerned with unlawful use of their land and are “keen to safeguard Leyton Marsh”, they saw fit to let the majority of Leyton Marsh for a huge construction project requiring significant concrete foundations, in the process destroying a habitat that has taken years to establish itself and in no way can be restored to its previous condition in October as claimed.
Why have the ODA and WFC failed to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment when excavating several feet deep into the marsh? Why have the ODA and WFC not published the restoration plan that was part of planning conditions? Why are the ODA and WFC committed to destroying protected public land when viable alternatives which provide legacy and regeneration benefits exist? These are the questions to which local residents and councillors want satisfactory answers…