The day after we handed in our large petition to Waltham Forest Council, we received a copy of the official letter that has been written by Shaun Dawson, Chief Executive of the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, to the council regarding the plans for the Waterworks, Leyton Marsh and the Thames Water Depot.
We were expecting much of what was is contained therein – mostly Newspeak guff about improvements, regeneration and access whilst they plan to sell off marshland, an existing community asset and de-register MOL:
However, there is also a very telling backtrack on the plans to develop the Waterworks site, it is stated that the Authority “intends when more detailed work is carried out to restrict the actual land used for residential development to the current ‘built footprint’ of the building and surrounding car park area. We will retain the rest of the site as public open space.”
So what does this mean?
Although this new position demonstrates the effective pressure exerted on the Authority from the community to protect the marshes, this alteration does next to nothing to address the issues raised by the proposed development of Leyton Marshes.
Our Metropolitan Open Land can only be protected by opposing any sale or development of it for housing. What we have seen in the myriad of developments in the Lower Lee Valley is the piecemeal erosion of open space and the gradual privatisation of public land. In each case, the argument is made that the particular development is justified and only constitutes a temporary exclusion of the public or comprises of a small area. However, the cumulative effect of each development is not only the net loss of public land but the weakening of protections that are meant to protect all our most valued green spaces, keeping them open for all.
It is acknowledged that the new Ice Centre will go ahead if an ‘exception’ is made to the current protections for the land. We were informed that the basketball training facility erected on Leyton Marsh was justified by the ‘exceptional circumstance’ of the Olympic Games. There is no such exceptional circumstance here, just the desire to create a leisure facility, which could be constructed elsewhere without necessitating loss of public space.
The current position of the Authority will not do anything to protect the fragile Waterworks Nature Reserve, created in part to mitigate the effects of the conversion of the adjacent site into the Thames Water Depot, now also marked for further development. Nature reserves cannot exist as islands of nature, akin to zoos, surrounded by human habitation polluted by noise and light. Development works and housing on the footprint of the Waterworks Centre and car park, even if limited to just that area, will have a degrading effect on the nature reserve. The location of the centre where it is did support education and enjoyment of nature, until it was neglected by the Authority. This large facility will be lost to beneficial public uses forever.
Much of the car park area remains green and supports trees and wildlife, this will also be lost. As can be seen from the image, the majority of the land in front of the Visitor Centre is green space, not car park! Very little of the area is actually hard surfacing; the access road, the semicircle in front of the building, and the parking areas themselves on the east side cover no more than 16% of the area under consideration for development. The whole western side next to the flood relief channel is completely green and is more than one third of the area.
The following table, measured in hundreds of square metres, demonstrates the composition of the site:
|Waterworks Centre and carpark||South of Waterworks Centre|
So as can be seen from the table, the Waterworks site which presently contains a marginal ‘built footprint’. Eighty four percent of Waterworks is green space. Whether or not this development area is reduced, the public did not want partial building on the Waterworks but complete protection for land valued very highly. The signatures of 4800 people on our petition attests to this.
You can still sign the petition here
And do share this video of Abigail Woodman, creator of the petition, being interviewed on London Live. There is no evidence the flats being proposed will be affordable, let alone ‘solve’ the housing crisis especially as the Auhtority explicitly intend to sell the area to create maximum revenue to finance the new ice centre: http://www.londonlive.co.uk/news/2017-02-03/are-open-spaces-more-important-than-dealing-with-the-housing-crisis
The campaign continues!