In the current edition of Hackney Citizen, Cllr Jonathan McShane has claimed that there are a number of ‘practical barriers’ to constructing the new sports pavilion on the footprint of the old changing rooms on North Marsh. We will elucidate here why each of these stated ‘barriers’ are in fact nothing of the sort. They are an attempt to mislead the public about a perfectly good construction plan that the Council described as being in the ‘optimal’ location and which already received planning consent from the Planning Inspectorate.
Save Lea Marshes wish the marshes to be protected for everyone’s enjoyment. The marshes are extremely important for informal recreational use and sport. By re-building the pavilion on the original footprint as approved in 2009, not only will green space be protected, but the sports clubs who have been left scandalously without appropriate facilities for too long will have the best possible facilities for their needs and with minimal risk and delay. However the Council have claimed that they are unable to adhere to this superior plan for reasons that they imply were previously unidentified barriers. This is not the case. What is new since they applied for consent for their old proposals is the Council’s post-Olympic 2012 events policy that allows 3 major events on Hackney Marshes each year (unaltered despite the abandonment of an application for PINS consent for events as a result of the public’s overwhelming opposition to their consultation).
It is clear from the Council response to our support for the 2008 plan, which does not involve building on the presently green space of the marsh, that their present misconceived proposals are intended to primarily support future festivals, rather than sport. The Council have refused to refute our claim that the car park will be constructed for this purpose and have instead issued a series of misleading and false statements to justify their plans. They have used arguments similar to those that they used to recommend approval for the 2008 plan and twisted them upside down to support their new plans.
Practical barriers: nothing of the sort!
Firstly, the Council claim that the new proposal does not place the building in a flood risk zone unlike the previous plans we support. However, the environment agency website clearly shows that all of the existing and proposed new sites is in a flood zone. The previous application was deemed acceptable because ‘In accordance with PPS 25, the facilities are water compatible and located in the most appropriate location, in Flood Zone 1. As such, the development itself will not be at risk from flooding, and will also not place additional pressure on the existing flood situation or on the flood risk to adjoining areas.’
Secondly, since the proposed new site covers all of the area of the existing site and more besides, it is geometrically impossible for the proposed new site to be further away from the SINC than the existing site is.
The Council need to produce evidence that the funders do not want a two-storey building as ECB guidlelines do not discourage two-storey buildings and it is very common to find two-storey cricket pavilions across the country. Moreover there is no reason for the building to require a two-storey construction, unless it is to support an extended car park for large vehicles such as coaches. The present plans in fact fail to meet ECB guidelines as there is no view of the pitch from any of the changing rooms, whereas in the previous plans the changing rooms were located at the end of the building, nearest the pitch.
The previously approved plans did not reference any issue with the water main which the Council are now claiming is a reason for rejecting these same plans. In any case, the building in its original location is more than 5m from the water main.
Whilst claiming that the community and sports clubs will all support their new plans, the Council will be providing 4 fewer changing rooms than originally planned. It will also cause the sports clubs further delay by submitting brand new and contentious plans for building on green space that may be rejected by the planning inspectorate with the potential for unknown issues related to the ground conditions and potential contamination, such as bomb rubble and unexploded ordnance that were so hazardous at the Leyton Marsh construction site.
We do not object to the visual impact of a building on the orginal footprint, which after all is screened by tall poplar trees (at least one of which will be felled under the new plans) and was described as the ‘optimum’ location by the Council themselves! We ask the Council to look again at what they themselves said regarding the 2008 plans we support: ‘The redevelopment of the changing rooms with the majority on their current footprint is considered to be the optimum location to ensure that they do not impact on the open nature of the Marshes. This is an important consideration especially because the land is designated as Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) and part of the Lee Valley Regional Park.‘
The Council make no reference to the site being common and Metropolitan Open Land in their present proposals, which is extremely revealing. Their silence on the matter of the car park being constructed and utillised for future festivals is deafening. Their original proposals were better for the sports clubs, better for the marshes, better for everyone!