Below is a letter sent to the Mayor of London regarding the proposed loss of land in Waltham Forest. Contact him with your own views: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mayor of London and GLA Members,
I am writing on behalf of Save Lea Marshes, a community group that exists to protect open green space in the Lee Valley. I would like to ask you if you are aware of the proposals to enclose two large areas of protected Metropolitan Open Land in Waltham Forest?
I know that you have all made pledges to protect M.O.L. and Green Belt in London so I expect that you will regard the following proposals with concern and will therefore make objections to them on that basis:
The current Thames Water depot site on Lea Bridge Road, which is on the border of Hackney and Waltham Forest, has already been acquired by Lion Academy Trust for the creation of two new schools, without planning permission or prior consultation with the community.
As stated, the area is Metropolitan Open Land and should maintain its status as such. We have faced a massive loss of Metropolitan Open Land under the last Mayor of London and we should not lose any more.
The proposal to construct free schools is opposed in the local community. The schools will simply be the wrong type of schools in the wrong location. The proposed schools will be for Waltham Forest residents yet the site is in close proximity to more homes in Hackney. This means the majority of school attendees will travel via cars on an already badly congested road, worsening air pollution and dire congestion in this area.
The site is directly adjacent to sensitive biodiverse areas, including a nature and bird reserve in the Lee Valley. It borders the historic Victorian filter beds and the Waterworks Nature Reserve.
The Trust claims ‘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 utilised. 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, in light of its close proximity to wild areas, and it would cost very little.
This particular Academy Trust, which has no experience running secondary schools, has been involved in projects at extortionate costs to the public, such as Brook House primary free school in Tottenham, where £468,000 is paid to Legal and General Property (LGP), an investment fund, every single year for rent of the land. We would not even be losing MOL to a trustworthy cost effective provider of secondary education if the current plans were approved.
Current ‘consultations’ are insufficient as the acquisition for a school has already been decided and environmental impacts have been entirely disregarded. Suggestions made by the public including: the reinstatement of Black Path, public access to the river’s edge and a green bridge have been rejected outright by the Trust as ‘too challenging’.
Whilst a Community Use Agreement proposed 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, which would not be the case if the area were re-opened to the public as green open space which could be easily achieved, as outlined above.
The scheme seems to originate with a serious mismanagement of an existing facility, the Score Centre, which would be demolished and its existing sports facilities lost to the community. It is not acceptable that the public should lose protected land due to neglect and mismanagement of existing facilities by the Council.
In a Cabinet Report Waltham Forest Council, who are applying to themselves for permission, have stated : ‘To deliver the scheme, planning applications will have to submitted for both sites. It is likely that the submission of the Ive Farm application maybe contentious given its status as Metropolitan Open Land and as a designated Playing Field. Whilst this is not envisaged to be a significant problem…‘ which reveals a deeply concerning disregard for upholding the protections afforded to the land.
The Planning Statement says that the “social [and economic benefits] outweigh any environmental concerns raised regarding the location”. This claim is not quantified with evidence and presents an unacceptable disregard for biodiversity and sustainability in planning.
The proposal includes a car park, which will encourage car use and increase air pollution, running counter to policies on sustainable transport. The bridges included in the plans to facilitate the movement of cars will also lead to the urbanisation of green space. The car park is proposed to be situated on currently biodiverse green space.
Moreover, the high flood risk of the area would entail huge costs and mitigation schemes, rendering the development ill-conceived in yet another respect, aside from the unacceptable loss of 5 hectares of open public land.
We look forward to hearing from you urgently in relation to these planning matters.
On behalf of Save Lea Marshes.