Leyton Marsh Development Plans: Local Campaigner Laurie Elks Speaks Out

SLM agree with Laurie that Leyton Marsh is the wrong place for the new enlarged ice centre, here Laurie expresses his views about the nature of the plans. Much food for thought:

Open Letter to Shaun Dawson re: The Ice Centre

Thank you for your prompt response to my letter.

It seems to me that the most important statement in your letter is that the Authority is determined to go ahead on 16th June, whatever the arguments, and from that point the die will be cast.

I will nevertheless, make this further iteration, drawing attention to some of the difficulties of your arguments.

Let me at the outset offer a personal vision as to the way things should go.  The Olympic Park should be a sporting campus offering top class sporting facilities on a site well served by roads and public transport benefitting from the brand of the Olympic Park and the network effect of co-locating elite venues.

The public transport can and undoubtedly will be improved.  With the increase of population in Chobham Manor there is clearly scope for a shuttle bus which could draw up in a forecourt serving the Ice Centre.  (This would be hugely more attractive to the female users you mention than walking down Lea Bridge Road and waiting for a quarter hourly service at Lea Bridge Station.)

Car users (whom you confirm would be the majority of users) would approach the Centre via high capacity roads.  Contrast the situation at Lea Bridge where large numbers of motorists converging for sporting events will be taken by their satnavs along Homerton High Street and Chatsworth Road.

The Lea Bridge Road site would be greened by the removal of the execrable ice centre – a smaller building serving the open space with café, cycle hire and the like could be provided.

If there is an established business case for local facilities such as a gym and dance centre, the underused space north of the Waterworks Centre (and adjacent to the new station) could be considered.

I repeat that I do not doubt the Park Authority can build a successful ice centre but the vision I set out would be manifestly better and I am not persuaded that the case has been fairly considered.

I will turn to some of the arguments you make.

Capacity for Expansion

We were told at the engagement meeting I attended that “capacity for expansion” and “ability to expand” had been taken into account.  Both phrases were used by your colleague and appeared to make up two of the four sub-criteria going to make up “physical characteristics”.

Now you tell me that any expansion will be

within the 7200 m2 building footprint which was presented to the public information sessions in April” and that “everything will be contained within one roof from the outset”.

 As both Lea Bridge and Eton Manor are shown as accommodating a 7200m2 building (and both graphics show a corresponding cryptic red dotted line) I am mystified how the greater capacity for expansion of Lea Bridge has found its way into the scoring matrix.

This is a desperately important point and needs to be clarified – you cannot have it both ways.

Ancillary Uses and Business Plan

Your business plan, which tips the scales in favour of Lea Bridge, is clearly based upon local facilities including a fitness gym and dance studio.  You make the point that the Lea Bridge Road area is poorly provided with fitness gyms.

May I make the point that the history of the Park is littered with local facilities that have failed because of their relative isolation in the Lea Valley.  Broxbourne, Picketts Lock, the old Eton Manor site all failed and closed.  Also, the old sports centre at Three Mills.

This is a remarkable litany of failure which should lead to pause for reflection.  Perhaps the Lea Bridge Road area is poorly served because it is a poor location for such facilities. You should also recall that there have been several attempts over the years to interest private leisure investors in the site – all without success.

You might also reflect that your projections for usage of the campsite at the Waterworks site were wildly off the mark.

You can put any figures you like in the Business Plan for usage of the gym but I forecast they will prove grossly over-optimistic.

Transport

Your travel time matrix smacks of advocacy.  A 9 minute journey time from Lea Bridge to Tottenham Hale implies a very brisk walk and a perfectly timed arrival to meet the incoming train.  A 25 minute journey time from Eton Manor to Stratford disregards the obvious fact that it would be a straightforward matter to have a shuttlebus service to Stratford (see my previous letter).

Personally, I do not think that many users, particularly women, will fancy the journey home by Lea Bridge.  As the station is now open, I suggest that your members try it before the decisive meeting – this is a serious suggestion.

Car Parking and Eton Manor

I have now seen so many different explanations of the car parking problem at Eton Manor that I am confused.

  • Capacity limited to 180 cars – 220 needed (engagement meeting)
  • Co-locating so many elite regional sporting venues in one place – Eton Manor, does have drawbacks: when a venue is hosting an event the other venues are inhibited and public use sometimes has to stop.” (This comes from Cllr Chris Kennedy but based, I assume on information from your officers.)
  • The LLDC have indicated that only ‘blue badge parking would be allowed” (Your recent letter)
  • The local planning officers have suggested that the planning authority is unlikely to agree to this quantum of car parking spaces” (Your recent letter)

In effect, both LLDC and LBWF are invoked as in some way inimical to Eton Manor but there is no evidence to support this.  Personally, I find it hard to understand why LBWF would be more favourable to parking provision in Lea Bridge Road, which is notoriously congested, than at Eton Manor.  Have you any evidence to substantiate these claims?  It would be an extraordinarily grave matter if these objections had been in some way exaggerated.

Landscape and Open Land

Your letter is not particularly clear but you seem to say that Lea Bridge and Eton Manor came out equal on the scoring matrix because both are on Metropolitan Open Land.  You also make the point that a centre at Lea Bridge would be the redevelopment of an existing site.

This seems to me disingenuous.  It remains a central part of the Park Authority’s remit to protect and enhance the Park as open space and green lung.  It must be correct to evaluate the impact of each site on the Park as green lung comparing the erection of the Ice Centre on each proposed site with the counterfactual (i.e. no ice centre on the site).

The Lea Bridge site, striding across the gap between Essex Wharf and the Riding centre, manifestly affects the Park as green open space; to use planning parlance, it affects the setting of landscape assets in a very prominent and unsatisfactory way.  The Eton Manor site whilst also MOL, is entirely surrounded by roads, traffic and other built facilities.  You are not comparing like with like and to score them equally, because both have the same status as MOL, is bending reality.

 Area 2 Proposals

 The adopted Area 2 proposals include the following:

2.A.6. Lea Bridge Road

Develop new leisure and recreation facilities within the Lea Bridge Road visitor node. Potential sites for such development include the Thames Water Depot (see inset 2.A.6 .1), land adjoining the Waterworks Centre, reuse of existing buildings at Connaught Close and redevelopment of existing industrial land along the eastern edge of the Park. Such development would need to contribute to an enhanced regional offer and would have to be considered in terms of its impact on Metropolitan Open Land, the openness of the Park, its ecological value and need to enhance landscape quality and views through to the rest of the Park.

2.A.6.1 Thames Water Depot

Work with Thames Water, London Borough of Waltham Forest and other stakeholders to identify options for a development at the Thames Water Depot site that will bring this site into a Park compatible use. Appropriate uses would include (but are not restricted to) one or more of the following:

  • A waterside visitor hub incorporating leisure related uses
  • A biodiversity based and/or heritage related visitor attraction
  • Accommodation serving visitors to the Park
  • ‘Community’ related activity and uses as defined by the Authority’s adopted Thematic Proposals
  • New recreational or sporting facilities.

The type, scale and design of any development would need to be appropriate in term of the sites designation as Metropolitan Open Land and its location within the heart of the Regional Park. Development or use of the site would be expected to support and complement existing leisure and nature conservation activity and facilities in the area. It should also enhance landscape quality, the ecological values of the environment and adjoining waterways and protect and bring back into public use buildings of heritage value. The frontage of the site on to the waterways should be protected from any development as an ecological margin. Development of the site should encourage sustainable modes of transport, improve pedestrian and cycle networks and safeguard the route of the Black Path through part of the site. Development of the site which is not appropriate under the terms of the Park Act 1966 and the Park Authority’s remit and does not accord with the proposals set out in the Park Development Framework will be resist

 You have confined yourself in your letter to the statement that: ”We are working with the local planning authority to review how the proposed twin pad can be integrated into its plans for the regeneration of the area”.  Let me pitch my question at a realistic level and ask you whether you are also working with the Local Authority to review how the proposals in the Park Development Framework – for the Thames Water Depot site in particular – can be integrated into its plans for the regeneration of the area.  It is a fair question which deserves a specific reply.

I am copying this letter to Mr Osborn.

Yours sincerely,

Laurie Elks.

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