Dear Shaun Dawson
Leyton Marsh riverbank moorings.
We are writing to protest at the Authority’s damage to the Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation and the threat to public access on the riverside adjacent to Leyton Marsh, in connection with the recent renting by the Authority of de facto residential moorings.
A much-valued area of natural habitat is being turned into an area whose primary purpose is to provide access and amenity for the live-aboard vessels that have recently been persuaded to sign mooring agreements with the Authority in order to generate revenue.
The Authority proposes to excavate 132 square metres of existing habitat along the stretch of moorings, and replace it with a constructed path “for use by vessel owners”. This has already involved the mowing down of all standing vegetation which it appears will be routine if the path is built and the area ‘managed’ as an adjunct to the moorings. The reasons for our objection include:
- The loss of wildlife habitat through mowing and cutting back of vegetation cover, and the installation of sterile path material designed to prevent plant growth.
- The new path and clearance of the area for moorings use will harm the character of a formerly wild and natural area of the Park. It is contrary to Policy DM13 which requires character and biodiversity value to be preserved or enhanced.
- It will offer no genuine benefit to regular marshes users, and the existing informal path has always been perfectly adequate as an enjoyable alternative to the adjacent Sandy Lane.
- There is a real risk that the soil to be excavated is contaminated due to proximity to a historically polluted watercourse and the known contamination of the main body of Leyton Marsh.
- Construction impacts are likely to be severe particularly if excavated spoil is dumped indiscrimately onto the adjacent vegetation as has been threatened in the planning application.
We also take exception to misleading claims made in support of the scheme in your recent planning application and correspondence with Cllr Ian Rathbone.
- It is not the case that “There was a trail of trodden down undergrowth along the river bank where the vessel owners had created a ‘path'” . It is the original Lea towpath and has always been regularly walked by marshes users since long before boats began continuous mooring there.
- The project will not “significantly reduce the impact of vessel owners on the habitat along the river bank”. The damage caused by the path and its construction, and the impact of intensive vegetation cutting, will far exceed any minor impacts of vessel owners’ activities.
- The application form in section 13 wrongly claims that designated sites, important habitats or other biodiversity features within or adjacent to the development site will not be affected. This is untrue as the site lies within the M071 Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation and its habitat value will undoubtedly be reduced.
- The photographs of the site show it immediately after the vegetation had been razed by contractors with strimmers, so does not illustrate the previous landscape character or “existing muddy riverside path” as claimed.
- We strongly object to the repeated use of the term “tidying up” to describe this loss of SMINC habitat and character.
- The vessels were not “illegally moored” prior to signing agreements and paying rent to the Authority. The owners were not committing any criminal or actionable civil offence. However, the Authority is acting unlawfully in establishing and charging for what are in reality residential moorings and outside its statutory powers.
- We are also very disappointed that yet again a project has been launched secretively without the wider public being informed via any of the channels available (noticeboards, User Forum/Management Workshop, email list), nor apparently has it been presented at any Authority meeting. This is in spite of repeated assurances that communication and public engagement is important and would be improved.
You cannot be unaware that building of additional footpaths and loss of habitat on the marshes has long been a sensitive issue, as has the process of creeping annexation and enclosure of open land for revenue raising purposes, and the associated sharp practices the Authority is prepared to engage in regarding planning approval.
We are unable to trust any assurances that the area of moorings will not eventually be enclosed for use only by moorings residents, as is the case at the existing Springfield Marina moorings.
We welcome people living on boats alongside the marshes as they have done up till now. But we firmly oppose the Authority changing the nature and usage of the riverbank by stealth to facilitate unlawfully raising income from the boat residents, and would urge you to cancel any further works.
Save Lea Marshes Group