1) Good schools are part of their local community but most struggle to have any significance in the lives of people who do not have children at the school. Whilst a Community Use Agreement as part of the planning application is welcome, it does not ensure that this huge area of Metropolitan Open Land is open to the public. Public access will be both limited and paid for; automatically excluding many people. I believe that one response to this point of view has been something along the lines of, ‘public access will be better once the schools have been built than it is at the moment’. And while that is certainly true, it is not, in my opinion, an adequate argument. While good schools should have aspirations for their pupils, I have aspirations for green space in Waltham Forest. Local people expected that they would have access to the Thames Water Depot once the project to replace the Victorian water mains was finished, and I still believe this is what many people want. If the London Borough of Waltham Forest do approve the building of the schools, then the very least we should receive in compensation for this loss of expectation, is full and free access to our Metropolitan Open Land.
2) You state that, ‘Building the two schools is the only viable way in which the Depot site can be returned to a largely green and open space.’ This is patently untrue. Firstly, the site was bought by central government so there would be no need for it to be sold and re-purchased; ownership could be transferred if the political will was there. Furthermore, nature is wonderful at taking back land that humans have tampered with. If the Thames Water hoardings were torn down and the works machinery removed, we would very soon have a large green open space teaming with wildlife and it would cost very little.
3) You state that, ‘the increase in green space will significantly enhance the green wildlife corridor running along the Lea Valley.’ Again I take issue with this statement. Playing fields have some value as a green corridor, but it is disingenuous to insinuate that the project will be beneficial to wildlife. Playing fields are not a return to nature, especially if pesticides and herbicides are used to keep them ‘in good nick’ and the area is flood lit on winter afternoons and in the evenings. I also understand that those involved with the project have limited understanding of the impact the development will have on the nature reserve that borders the site. I live next door to a school and school children are noisy; on sports days I have to close all my windows and wear earplugs because the noise from the tannoy is so loud. I chose to live where I live and I’m not complaining, but such noise will not be welcomed by the birds and other wildlife that live in the nature reserve and it would be absolutely tragic if the haven that has been created was destroyed as a result.
4) The presence of Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed is a significant challenge. Can you commit to irradicating them without indiscriminately spraying weed killer, during the build and once the schools are in use? The most widely used pesticides in towns and cities are weed killers based on the active substance Glyphosate, which the World Health Organisation classified as a probable human carcinogen in 2015. Dozens of other pesticides have also been associated with illnesses, including leukemia and neurological and reproductive disorders. Pesticides also harm biodiversity. Populations of bees and other insect pollinators have fallen dramatically in recent years and there is growing scientific evidence that pesticides are playing a significant role.
5) At the previous consultation, local people asked for a number of things, including: the reinstatement of Black Path, public access to the river’s edge and a green bridge. You have dismissed all three ideas because, I surmise, they weren’t part of your original plans and would be challenging to implement, and you tell us that we don’t really need these things anyway. Many of us have lived in the area for a long time and have long-considered reasons behind the requests. Which brings me back to my first point. If you truly wanted to be at the heart of the local community you would work much harder to find a way to compromise.