During the excavations last spring, far more than the planned depth of land had to be unearthed, because of the presence underneath the meadow surface of thousands of tons of toxic landfill dating back sixty years. Save Leyton Marsh campaigned to have this asbestos-polluted spoil removed safely, but while the waste lay uncovered for weeks on the marsh site it was doing further damage of its own. The parts of the site now presenting the greatest difficulty to reinstate appear to be those that suffered the weight and toxic seepage of the excavated spoil. Contractors spoke of the difficulty in removing surface water, which was quite significant in some patches, from the site that has been subject to deep infill of mineral-based material covered by a membrane and then topped with imported or displaced topsoil. It now awaits the installation of 2000 square metres of thick turf.
Workers could be seen using hand-held pumps trying in vain to remove water from vast stretches of black polythene cover. A tractor digger that was having to scrape up yet another part of the surface still not ready for turfing was having to be operated by three workers: the driver who for most part was in a stationary vehicle, and two others who were manually retrieving and placing, in turn, hardboard runners from behind and in front of the tractor wheels so that it could proceed in stages across the mud. The atmosphere was of a very dissatisfied bunch of people. NUSSLI bosses stated that any closer inspection by the site visit group would be “bad for morale”.
Save Leyton Marsh had earlier in the year challenged the turf solution in favour of re-seeding, and it now appears to others that this would have been more manageable. The turf solution is being used not in the long term iinterests of the land, but in order to meet the short-term contractual requirements and planning conditions laid down by London Borough of Waltham Forest. The turf contractors STRI stated that they will have to use feed in order to ensure the turf beds down into the imported topsoil, and SLM have urged against this. STRI have agreed at least to use organic feed and not chemicals. SLM have demanded documentary evidence of all the materials, soil and feed being used on the site, and a map of where imports have been placed and existing soil moved around – which has been considerable.
Save Leyton Marsh have always pointed out that the whole project was not feasible, and they are now being proved correct. The rainy weather is being used by the ODA and its contractors as a lame excuse for being unable to properly and timely reinstate this unprecedented, appalling and so unnecessary attack on open green land. Waltham Forest was naive to expect that it could be done and connived with the ODA’s holding back of environmental evidence hoping that no-one would notice. LVRPA was only in it for the money, but are now presiding over the legacy of damaged land, ruined community relations and an uncertain winter. The ODA is likely to be served with levy damages by the LVRPA for every day that it overruns on the contract – no one will weep any tears over this!
Save Leyton Marsh will be monitoring the reinstatement over the long term, and will also be vigilant in watching out for any further attempt to build in any way on this area of the River Lea marshes, which are so precious to this area of east London