Let me explain…
Earlier this week I sat down to review the papers for Thursday’s LVRPA meetings. These are the meetings in which officers of the LVRPA brief members of the LVRPA (councillors who, theoretically, represent the interests of their constituents) on what has been happening over the last month or the last quarter.
The papers for the Executive Committee Meeting contained an item on the proposed new ice rink on Lea Bridge Road. Looking at Appendix A of Paper E/618/19, I was shocked to discover that there are plans to take a bite out of Leyton Marsh to build the new ice rink. Whatever your feelings about the new ice rink – crave it or despise it – what’s distressing is that the LVRPA is proposing to do something it promised it would not do.
The minutes of the Annual Authority Meeting that took place on 7 July 2016 state:
the new ice rink, the temporary ice rink and any associated works will be limited to land south of the northern perimeter of the current ice rink. Nothing connected with the new ice rink will encroach north further onto Leyton Marsh
However, the plans clearly show that the intention is, indeed, to encroach further onto Leyton Marsh.
So I decided to attend the Executive Committee Meeting and raise this issue with officers and members. Perhaps they would consider rejecting the proposed orientation of the new ice rink because of their previous promise? A vain hope perhaps, but worth the effort…
In response to my comments, Dan Buck, Head of Sport and Leisure, said that he and his team have always taken the ‘perimeter’ to be the edge of the land leased to Vibrant Partnerships and that this is further north than the northern wall of the ice rink. Neither the Chair, Paul Osborn, nor the Chief Executive, Shaun Dawson, nor any of the members present said a word. Eeek, I thought, did we make a catastrophic mistake when we secured the promise in 2016? Did we fail to recognise that ‘perimeter’ was open to interpretation, that it could be read as anything other than the perimeter of the building itself?
Knowing that I had another opportunity to speak at the Full Authority Meeting in the afternoon, I scuttled away with two colleagues from Save Lea Marshes and over lunch we discovered the perfidy.
On 27 July 2017, the LVRPA responded to an Environmental Information Regulations request from Save Lea Marshes with a map of the land managed by Vibrant Partnerships. It clearly shows the northern boundary of the ice rink to be further south than the boundary that is now being claimed, only a few metres north of the northern wall of the current ice rink. In other words, exactly where we always believed it to be.
Have a look at the two images yourself. The first image shows the perimeter of the land managed by Vibrant Partnerships in 2017 and the second image is taken from the papers discussed at Thursday’s meeting:
It is clear to me that the boundary of the land leased to Vibrant Partnerships has been moved to justify the proposed orientation of the new ice rink. Yet no one in the Executive Committee Meeting was prepared to admit this.
It wasn’t until I presented the evidence I had unearthed at lunchtime that things began to shift. Dan Buck repeated his earlier statement, that he and his team have always taken ‘perimeter’ to be the edge of the land leased to Vibrant Partnerships and that is considerably further north than the northern wall of the ice rink. But the LVRPA member for Hackney, Councillor Chris Kennedy did, however, point out that this now appeared not to be the case and that the boundary had moved. The Chair then admitted that it had. Both had said nothing at the Executive Committee Meeting earlier in the day.
It’s a known known that parameters change as a project moves through the planning stages but I do call out a public body that makes a promise – because that’s what the statement in the 2016 minutes was – and then denies making that promise; I call out a public body that makes fundamental changes and then denies making those changes; and most of all I call out this organisation for failing to apologise when it gets caught out misleading the people it purports to represent.
We have, however, been here before with the LVRPA.