An Open Letter to the ODA
- You wrote to residents to address concerns that have been “expressed about these works in recent weeks”. These concerns have been expressed from the very beginning; in fact since some residents and councillors first became aware of the plans back in December. Councillor Ian Rathbone raised 11 questions at that time to which he has only just received a reply. Why has it taken you so long to address fundamental questions relating to the development, especially as you were prepared to lodge hugely punitive injunctions against people before answering their basic questions about the development?
Furthermore the multitude of issues of concern, including those raised by Cllr Rathbone, were spelled out in the 115 letters of objection to the ODA’s planning application, and of which the ODA will have been fully aware.
- Why did you send this letter and a previous letter out to far more residents than the original ‘consultation’ letter which was sent to a mere 250 residents?
- Your agreement with LOCOG was that you would have finished work on the development by 7th June and yet in your letter you say work is due to be “completed by early July”. Have you re-negiotated your agreement? What other aspects of your stated objectives can we expect to change?
- In response to statements and actions by Save Leyton Marsh Group, you claimed repeatedly in the media that the site would be “restored to its original condition by 15th October”. We knew this would be impossible since Leyton Marsh is a habitat and took years to establish itself as such. However, you now insist “reinstatement works” will “begin to restore Leyton Marsh to its original condition”. So it appears you have stopped asserting Leyton Marsh can be restored to its original condition. Please provide us with details of these reinstatement works that should have been published as part of the planning conditions back in February.
- You claim that the “vast majority of the land” remains open to the public. Is this based on the wholly inaccurate map included as part of your letter which labels Walthamstow Marshes as ‘playing fields’ and does not provide a to-scale depiction of the basketball facility? This map is frankly an insult to local people, many of whom live directly opposite the facility and others who walk the marsh everyday and know exactly the extent to which the land has been confiscated from them for your private use and desecrated.
- You refer to “recent unlawful disruptive action” to stop work, yet the actions taken by local residents and their supporters were of a peaceful and lawful nature. It was only through the imposition of a costly injunction that you were able to criminalise previously lawful protest on Sandy Lane. Whilst claiming you have “no issue with peaceful and lawful protest”, all information about our campaign, that the judge gave permission to be attached to the fences, has been ripped down and bailiffs have been covering their identity to film residents, including local Green Party candidates that came to visit Leyton Marsh.
- You state that you “regret” that you “had to involve the courts and police”. In fact, you never at any stage attempted an alternative approach. On not one occasion did your Authority attempt to engage our group in dialogue and when in an attempt at mediation, Waltham Forest police arranged for a group of us to meet and talk to you, you refused to enter into any dialogue with us. Your use of extremely costly injunctions has been at tax payers’ expense and has not reflected the democratic will of the people. It has been a blatant attempt to intimidate people into giving up peaceful protest in order for you to build an unnecessary and unpopular facility which will not benefit local people at all.
- You declare that your concern has always been “the safety of the public, our staff and contractors”. We have seen very little evidence of this. The Ground Investigation Report done on behalf of the contractors in January stated that lead and potential asbestos were present in the ground; you have since acknowledged presence of the latter, yet none of your (non-unionised) workers were aware of such hazards when we spoke to them nor have ever worn the protective clothing recommended in the report. Piles of dangerous rubble have been sitting on site for weeks. If you had adhered to the planning conditions set out in the planning permission granted by Waltham Forest, there would only have been a “15cm skim of topsoil”and no such mounds of rubble would exist. Mark Sorrell also assured residents directly that there would only be this shallow skim of topsoil when he met with them, at their behest, back in January. Yet you have dug far far deeper than claimed in the planning application. Consent was given on the basis that no environmental impact assessment or full site survey was necessary due to the shallowness of the excavations. Yet the ground investigation report conducted before the Council meeting, as we have documented, stated the intention to go up to 50cm to lay concrete foundations on our marsh.
- It is wholly dishonest to claim of the rubble stockpile that ‘the delay in removing material from site was due to the unlawful activities of protestors’. It was excavated without planning approval weeks before protests started and should not have been there at all. When approval (an unlawful use of a Non-material Amendment) was granted on 5 April, work on site started again almost immediately. Yet the stockpile remains there over a month later, and as your letter admits, the statutory bodies have not yet approved any plan for its disposal.
- Your assertions about the lack of alternative venues are simply a case of too little said too late. Many training venues for London 2012 do not meet the 30 min travel time ‘requirement’ of the IOC. Paralympic athletes have no need to be close to the Olympic Park since they are performing in Greenwich – as local residents we can assure you that this does not take 30mins or less to travel to. Why were the original sites outlined in the Bid documents rejected? Once again, you have had months and can only provide inadequate answers.
- You say you will give details of the reinstatement plan that you are only now “finalising with the LVRPA” (this should have already been published as part of the planning conditions) as part of a ‘drop-in’ session at Riverside Close Nursery on 15th May from 6.30pm – 8.30pm. None of us in the group have ever been invited to a ‘drop-in session’ where you have to provide your name, address and contact details in advance (and are then sent the location, published here, in secret). We wonder why you think you need this information and what exactly you will intend to do with people’s private details.
Through our campaigning, we will continue to hold your dishonest, undemocratic and unelected quango responsible for its gross actions on Leyton Marsh.