We are disappointed with Mayor Jules Pipe’s response to our petition. The reply does not address the key demand of the petition, that Hackney Council withdraw their own application for two car parks and a pavilion on presently green space.
We have made it clear that we are not disputing the benefit of suitably designed 21st century facilities for local sports groups. The petition in fact requested that the new pavilion be located on the footprint of the current facilities, rather than on presently green open space on the common land of Hackney Marshes.
The Council’s proposal involves inflicting unnecessary damage on the open landscape and needless loss of green space. There are no valid reasons that the pavilion cannot be located on the present site.
It is clear that no efforts were ever made to design a new facility that could fit within the current footprint. The starting point was an excessive amount of space dedicated to vehicles and a building designed such that it could not fit on the brownfield site on North Marsh.
Certain design features of the building that do not serve community sport, such as a large bar area, do not provide adequate justification for loss of common land.
The petition response refers to improving general public health. Encouraging people to drive to the marshes is incompatible with good public health. Hackney suffers from poor air quality and for this reason has been declared an ‘Air Quality Zone’, requiring Council action. Air pollution seriously affects people’s health and 9% of deaths in the capital are related to air pollution. 65% of the emissions that are responsible for poor air quality are due to transport.
As part of its own transport policy, the Council is meant to be discouraging car use; increasing walking and cycling; and supporting reduction of personal exposure to pollution from roads and cars. Hackney Council should therefore reduce its own impact on air quality, initiating car free developments, rather than employing public funds on vastly increasing car parking with this project.
As a borough with the highest level of bus usage in London, renowned for having the most cyclist-friendly routes and public realms, the Council is ideally placed to observe it own objectives rather than contravene its own transport policy with this proposal.
The issues are not complex. They are in fact very simple. The Council should reconsider its priorities and design the proposal to be compliant with its own policies and observant of the rights and protections afforded to Common Land. A redesign could easily include far less car parking; creating a better building that would meet the requirements of all users – accessible and safe for all the community and not located on green Metropolitan Open Land. This could have been done in the first place.
Such a proposal would be more likely to be passed by the Planning Inspectorate, could enjoy the support of all users of Hackney Marshes and lead to much needed facilities for the sports teams being provided without unnecessary delay.