The London Borough of Waltham Forest’s oversized and unnecessary replacement bridge over the Dagenham Brook will increase flood risk to nearby properties, and needs additional expensive and environmentally damaging mitigation works – a fact concealed from the public during the planning consultation, and not mentioned by Officers and Councillors during the planning committee meeting that approved the development on 26 March.
There was no prior public consultation on the Council’s plans before it submitted a planning application to itself, and the nearest residential properties – Manor Lodge and Marsh Lane Cottage – were not notified of the application despite lying in the flood zone affected by the bridge development.
The new bridge, which LBWF have admitted will cost at least £250,0000, was stated in the planning application to be providing a cosmetic ‘gateway’ into Marsh Lane Fields – which they have insisted on renaming ‘Leyton Jubilee Park’ – and to make the park entrance ‘more inviting to the general public’. However it will be a basic structure of tarmac roadway and pavements and only one of five access points to the park.
The Council’s extravagant plans to replace the present perfectly functional and recently constructed separate vehicle and foot bridges with a wider, higher structure and massive approach ramp in the Dagenham Brook flood zone required the involvement of the Environment Agency.
Increased risk to nearby properties was identified and as a consequence, hundreds of tonnes of soil will need to be dug up in the vicinity to compensate for loss of flood storage due to the bulk of the bridge structure. Trees may need to be felled, contaminated material disturbed and the wildlife corridor and Site of Importance for Nature Conservation along the brook will suffer further damage.
Waltham Forest’s obsession with this bridge, despite the expense, complexity and flood risk, can only confirm the suspected hidden agenda of easing access for large vehicles and increased traffic so giant events can be staged, damaging development of the park facilitated and ultimately fully opening Marsh Lane to through traffic.
The disturbing and potentially unlawful aspect is that these flood storage mitigation works were omitted from the main planning application during the public consultation period and only became apparent in the Planning Officer’s report published days before the decision. Though the bridge construction can’t begin until these excavation works are completed, no information has been provided on how or where they will take place.
The public and neighbours cannot comment on matters of which they are unaware. So they were deprived of their right to have their comments on this important aspect of the project, and its impacts on amenity and the environment recorded and brought to the Committee’s attention.
At the Planning Committee meeting, one of the speakers objecting to the proposal tried to raise the matter of key documents and information being withheld until after the close of the consultation period – denying the public the opportunity to make informed comments and effectively concealing the full impact of the development.
Ian Ansell of LBWF’s Development Control dodged this by claiming statutory duties had been complied with (by displaying a single site notice and sending letters to two properties, neither of them directly affected by the bridge) – ignoring the lack of full and accurate documentation during the consultation period and concealment of the flood impacts and associated works.
It is to the credit of one member of the planning committee that he took up this issue of consultation, pointing out that there had been no attempt to inform or consult with local community groups about the bridge plan prior to submitting the planning application, and voted against.
The application should never have come before the Committee with such poor consultation, inadequate information and misrepresentation as a ‘relatively minor proposal’ whe it clearly has significant effects on flood risk.
In addition to the mystery surrounding the flood capacity excavations, other unanswered questions are how much additional public money will be squandered on these works and how access to the houses on Marsh Lane and allotments will be maintained if protracted bridge works take place.
This is a disgraceful example of cavalier behaviour and irresponsibility by Waltham Forest in managing its own planning applications where public trust depends on transparency, probity and good communications.