Open Letter to the LVRPA Re Future Plans for Leyton Marsh

Dear Authority Member,

We have become aware that you are shortly to make a decision about the replacement of the current Lee Valley Ice Centre.

We are writing to you in hope that you will take into full consideration the points we raise about the preferred site for the location, Leyton Marsh. Whilst the presentations made on behalf of the Trust refer to Leyton Marsh as ‘the Lea Bridge Road’ site, the current facility is located on Leyton Marshes and any replacement will also be on this area of Metropolitan Open Land.

Firstly, we would like to express our disappointment that the consultation process has been almost non-existent. Whilst Save Lea Marshes were approached by Shaun Dawson regarding our involvement, we were under the impression that this would be part of a meaningful community consultation with users of the facility and the marshes. However, once we took part in the sessions, we were informed in no uncertain terms that the presentations were ‘not consultations’. If this is the case, no consultation has been made with the community prior to the recommendation for Leyton Marsh to be chosen as the site for the enlarged replacement of the Ice Centre. Nonetheless, Waltham Forest Council has already expressed its support for the current site to be chosen, in advance of any planning application process or consultation of its own. Views of the community appear entirely absent from consideration of the sites in question, including Leyton Marsh, which is not only prised as a valuable open green space by many people from both Waltham Forest and Hackney, but is also directly adjacent to residential dwellings at Essex Wharf.

The preferred location has been selected by means of a “scoring matrix”. This appears to be little more than a crude tally of tickboxes – the more boxes ticked for a site the higher its score.  Such a naïve method is woefully inadequate.  Firstly, the scores for each criterion are expressed as percentages, but there is no indication what they are percentages of.  Secondly, no thought appears to have been given as to how the scores for the different criteria are to be combined together.  To give a concrete example from the table:

Criterion LV Ice Centre Eton Manor
Physical characteristics 17.6% 10.8%
Commercial/Financial 13.2% 14.0%

This shows (if the figures are to be believed) that the Ice Centre is better than Eton Manor for Physical characteristics, but worse for Commercial/Financial.  But without much more information there is no meaningful way to compare the relative advantage for one criterion with the relative disadvantage for the other.

Thirdly and most importantly, there are many crucial areas for consideration which are missing from the scoring matrix altogether. We would like to share with you some of these most important considerations, although they are by no means comprehensive, and demonstrate that the decision of where to locate the new Ice Centre will have far reaching ramifications for both people and wildlife.

Despite the fact that Leyton Marsh is valuable as a wildlife habitat; contains a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation; is protected Metropolitan Open Land and forms an important buffer to Walthamstow Marshes, the Site of Special Scientific Interest, no Environmental Impact Assessment has been carried out. Walthamstow Marshes is increasingly being cut off by new developments and in areas of non-contiguous habitat, nature cannot thrive. The lack of such an EiA shows a disregard for the environmental aspects of the new development, which surely must form a comprehensive part of any viability report and recommendation.

Metropolitan Open Land has been given protected status in order to preserve openness in increasingly built-up urban environments. If Leyton Marsh is chosen as the site for the new Ice Centre, views of the marsh will be seriously obstructed from Lea Bridge Road and the integrity of our valued Lea Valley marshes as a green lung for East London will be compromised. One of the reasons Eton Manor was not selected as the prime venue is due to the fact a higher building specification would be required, suggesting the building on Lea Bridge Road will be visually poor, not unlike the current building. The best possible design should be selected, not the worst.

Ground contamination must be considered since the site is contaminated by heavy metals, asbestos and alkaline soils, as well as known UXOs as it was used for the burial of post-war bomb rubble and as a graveyard for UXOs as it was believed the land would not ever be excavated. Excavating toxic waste on contaminated land should clearly be a last resort.

Despite the proximity to residential housing, noise pollution has not been considered. This will be an issue for local residents, particularly at Essex Wharf, and especially during the night. Local residents already face noise pollution and some suffer from sleep disturbance as a result of the close proximity to the current facility. Light pollution will also increase and inevitably affect wildlife.

One of the most concerning aspects of the chosen site is that it is preferred due to its potential for expansion. Leyton Marsh scores highly due to its ‘physical characteristics’. This category has been determined by: how the curtilage of the ice pads would fit on the site; capability of expansion; ability to generate other revenue opportunities and ground and landscape constraints. Expansion is the explicit criterion by which Leyton Marsh scores highest and therefore has been deemed the overall first choice. If it hadn’t been included, Leyton Marsh would be deemed third choice. However, our community love this marsh and do not wish to see it built on. The stables have already seen 12 expansions on to previously open public land on Leyton Marshes. The very nature of the scoring assessment is incompatible with the public claim that there will be no expansion on to Leyton Marsh.

The increase in car parking will undermine the recent structural changes made to reduce traffic and pollution through the Mini Holland scheme. A bigger car park will lead to yet more felling of trees and reduction of green space, yet a bigger venue will no doubt have one. Car parking increases will increase traffic, congestion and air pollution on the Lea Bridge Road which is already badly congested. The Mini Holland scheme, which has just led to the destruction of mature trees on the marsh, was meant to reduce reliance on cars. If Leyton Marsh is chosen, more cars will be encouraged to use the Lea Bridge Road. Presumably this is the reason why a car wash has already been given permission to set up business in the car park, despite this contravening MOL guidance.

We request, therefore, that the LVRPA hold a proper consultation, carry out a proper scoring assessment (showing all their working), and in the meantime remove the decision on the new Ice Centre from the meeting on 16th June.

Your sincerely,

Save Lea Marshes Group.

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