A ‘Consensus’ Without a Vote: How the LVRPA Waved Through Selling Off Waterworks

Around 15 objectors attended the special meeting of the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority to consider Waltham Forest’s Eastside Vision document which included the proposal to build housing on the Waterworks site at Leyton Marsh. The LVRPA had deliberately moved the meeting from Waltham Forest to its headquarters at Myddleton House on the outskirts of London to make it hard for objectors to attend. It had been claimed Myddleton House was more convenient for Board members, however, about ten of the members failed to turn up. A disgraceful attempt to limit public participation.
Four objectors and one former member of the Authority spoke urging the Board members to oppose the Vision document where it related to the Waterworks site, highlighting the Metropolitan Open Land status of the site and the purpose in establishing the Authority to protect open space from development, warning members against setting a precedent for future misuse of MOL, pointing out the incompatibility of building housing next to the Essex Filter Beds Nature Reserve. They referred to the LVRPA’s own statements about the vital importance of the Lea Valley as a Green Lung, especially with modern day air pollution, and how when it was proposed to build Essex Wharf on the edge of the Park the LVRPA had opposed the development with the statement ‘Residential development does not fit within the remit of the Park.’ Yet in this case not only was the LVRPA not opposing development it was actually proposing it within the Park itself. No mention of this land sale had been made when the initial consultation about the future of the Ice Centre was carried out, even though it has since turned out that the sale of this land will contribute to the construction of a new Ice Centre.
Not one Board member asked a question of the objecting speakers. It was plain they had no arguments to counter the obvious strength of the opposition. All the points raised were ignored. The attitude of the Board could be summed up in the statement of one member that he was a pragmatist and did not think things could just stay as they were for ever. One member, Denise Jones from Tower Hamlets, did express astonishment at the idea of building on MOL. However, she still concurred with a supposed compromise proposed by Hackney Councillor Chris Kennedy that house building be limited to the footprint of the car park and cafe. This was presented as meeting objectors’ concerns, which it completely failed to do and was not a proposal endorsed by the objectors. Ms Jones also came up with a proposal to limit the height of any housing to be built on the site. This met with little support. Plainly this further limitation could make any proposed development unviable. Mr Kennedy showed no interest in it. To demonstrate how completely out of touch members were one even asserted that air pollution was getting better!
The Vision put forward by Waltham Forest of building housing at the Waterworks site ties in with the LVRPA’s decision to allow the sale of land. In turn, the sale of land for housing at the Waterworks is intimately linked with the Authority’s plans to build a new Ice Centre at its present site on Lea Bridge Road. Illustrating the confused thinking on the Board, one member suggested these two projects, the Ice Centre and the sale of land for housing, should be treated as being entirely separate! If this was to be done then there would absolutely no rationale behind the sale. In fact, not all the members were convinced of the need for an Ice Centre. Bizarrely, another member who expressed this point of view still made no objections to the idea of selling the land.
Stephen Wilkinson, the LVRPA’s head of planning, when invited to speak, said nothing of any consequence simply rambling through a feeble attempt at putting the plans ‘in context’, although he did insist, incorrectly, that it had always been a part of the LVRPA’s remit to support major venues, like the Ice Centre. He made no attempt to counter any of the points presented by objectors. One of the objectors had referred to counsel’s opinion that the LVRPA claimed it had received. He considered the LVRPA had gained little support from this opinion. Mr Wilkinson failed to provide any concrete statements from the advice to counter the objector’s comments. He avoided any discussion of the legal status of the land and the difficulties the LVRPA and Waltham Forest would have in altering this status.
He then handed over to a representative from Waltham Forest’s planning department to explain the ‘Vision’. The officer from Waltham Forest had little to add apart from the usual bullish discussion about the housing needs of the Borough and its desire to attract investment. Much of her presentation concerned Waltham Forest’s desire to create an attractive ‘Gateway’ to the Borough. Of course, the present green spaces at Leyton Marsh along with the facilities at the Waterworks provide exactly this kind of gateway and were specifically designed to achieve that purpose.
Essentially this vote is just another step along the road that the LVRPA has decided on. As Gerry Lyons pointed out, it was the LVRPA which had approached Waltham Forest with its proposal for building housing at the Waterworks. Disingenuously the Waltham Forest officer maintained the Vision is not a planning document. Strictly speaking this is so, however, it is plain the whole point of the exercise was for the two Authorities to co-ordinate their plans for the area.
Predictably the LVRPA Board went ahead and endorsed the ‘Vision’, including its proposal for housing at the Waterworks. It tried to make out that this did not imply approval at this stage, although in reality those in charge are determined to push ahead with this proposal. However, it was well worth making a show at the meeting. The presence of so many objectors was plainly a shock to the members of the Board. They know they will fact determined opposition. Unacceptable as Mr Kennedy’s suggestion was it shows that at least some of the Board are aware of the difficulties they face with public opposition. The Council will have to consult on its new Area Plan and get the agreement of the Mayor of London that it is compatible with the London Plan. Then it will have to be submitted to the Secretary of State who, in light of the public opposition, will probably have to send it to a public inquiry. Faced with public hostility and multiple objections and finding the site available for development restricted in size and height may convince Waltham Forest that it is on a hiding to nothing. Leyton Marsh has been the site of many famous and successful battles by local people to protect their open space. This will be another one.
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Update on Decisions by LVRPA re Waterworks

dsc00444The Land and Property Strategy that over two hundred people had asked the Authority Members to oppose passed today, without a vote being taken on the issue, as the Chair argued none was required. Save Lea Marshes spoke powerfully against the Strategy, arguing against the leasing or selling of land to finance leisure facilities, however the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority argued that the Strategy was merely a general ‘approach’ and any details would be decided later.

Before the meeting, Hackney residents who had written to Cll Chris Kennedy, the Hackney representative on the LVRPA, received an email detailing his views on the matter. He supports the new twin-pad ice centre on the site of the existing facility at Leyton Marsh and believes “the Authority should raise some of the money by development at the Waterworks, but only on the footprint of the current visitor centre and the car park to the north. ”

As the Waterworks Centre and car park were built with the explicit justification that they would facilitate access and enjoyment of the Waterworks Nature Reserve, the fact that this area is no longer open space should not be used as an excuse to develop it for commercial ventures. There should be no re-designation of Metropolitan Open Land under the stewardship of the LVRPA.

However, this battle to retain the Waterworks, part of Leyton Marshes, as MOL is far from over. The next crucial event takes place on Thursday 26th January. Next Thursday LVRPA members will meet to make a ‘formal’ response to the Council’s Eastside Vision document, which includes the plan to convert the northern area of the former golf course, the Waterworks centre and car park adjacent to the nature reserve into private housing.

This meeting was due to take place at Walthamstow Town Hall, in the local vicinity, however the Authority have changed the location of the meeting so it will now take place at Myddelton House, in Enfield!

We need as many people to attend this crucial meeting to demonstrate the depth of feeling about the issue. We understand that many people will be working but if you are available, please do make the journey to Myddelton House for the 2pm Authority Meeting.

There will be a SOCIAL BIKE RIDE to the meeting venue. Setting off from Walthamstow Library at 12.30pm. Pace will be gentle – all welcome!

The documents that will be discussed at the meeting are here: http://www.leevalleypark.org.uk/en/content/cms/corporate/about-us/meeting-documents/authority-meetings/

We will have further details soon – please contact us at: leamarshes@gmail.com with any queries.

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Lee Valley Park Plan to ‘Dispose of’ Waterworks To Fund New Ice Centre!

Up until today we thought the plans to rezone part of Leyton marshes for housing came from Waltham Forest Council, and were hoping that the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA) – the organisation that owns the land on our behalf – would object to them. However, a document – lea-valley-eastside-summary-and-position-11-jan-2017-3 – we have seen today shows that the LVRPA have long been in league with the Council.

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The LVRPA wants to ‘dispose’ of the 5 acres of land around The Waterworks Centre to fund the building of a new ice centre across the road, on what is also Metropolitan Open Land. We believe it is wrong for an organisation set up specifically to protect open, green spaces to act as a property developer and ‘dispose’ of land we care deeply about. The Members of the LVRPA are meeting to consider this proposal on 19th January. Therefore we’re asking you to email all the Members of the LVRPA before the meeting on 19thJanuary to object.

If you’re short of time, there is a pro forma email you can send below.

Let’s flood the inboxes of Authority Members and show them how strongly we feel about this!

To: paul.osborn@harrow.gov.uk; derrick.ashley@hertfordshire.gov.uk; david.andrews@hertfordshire.gov.uk; kathy.bee@croydon.gov.uk; john.bevan@haringey.gov.uk; Stephen.Carr@bromley.gov.uk; malcolm.cowan@hertfordshire.gov.uk; gwyneth.deakins@redbridge.gov.uk; cllr.christine.hamilton@enfield.gov.uk; linda.haysey@eastherts.gov.uk; cllr.r.houston@barnet.gov.uk; heather.johnson@camden.gov.uk; Cllr.Denise.Jones@towerhamlets.gov.uk; christopher.kennedy@hackney.gov.uk; cllr.john.knapman@essex.gov.uk; cllr.gerry.lyons@walthamforest.gov.uk; graham.mcandrew@eastherts.gov.uk; smcdermott@wandsworth.gov.uk; cllr.valerie.metcalfe@essex.gov.uk; salim70@hotmail.co.uk; marysartin@yahoo.com; alan.searing@hertfordshire.gov.uk; cllr_alan.smith@lewisham.gov.uk; sydstavrou@hotmail.co.uk; cllr.simon.walsh@essex.gov.uk; lyn.white@ntlworld.com
Cc: sdawson@leevalleypark.org.uk; leamarshes@gmail.com
Subject: Please reject the Land and Property Strategy on 19 January

Dear Authority Members

I am writing to ask you to reject the Land and Property Strategy that will be presented to you on 19 January.

Over 3000 people have already signed a petition (https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-council-s-plan-to-build-on-leyton-marshes) calling on the London Borough of Waltham Forest to scrap its plans to rezone a large swathe of green open space around The WaterWorks Centre – part of Leyton marshes – for housing, and I am asking you to play your part in ensuring our green open spaces are protected. This land is Metropolitan Open Land, which means it should be protected from all inappropriate development, just like Green Belt land. Housing is not, and never will be, appropriate for Metropolitan Open Land.

The founding rationale of the Lee Valley Regional Park was to protect the Park as a green lung for London, and all Authority Members have a duty to uphold this. At no point during the consultations about a new ice rink was anyone told that it would be funded by selling off land presently held for recreational use. To do so would subvert the clear intention of the Act of Parliament with which the Park was founded.

Under the Lee Valley Regional Park Act, the Park Authority was given financial independence by virtue of the power to draw a precept from the GLC (now London boroughs) and Essex and Hertforshire, the power to borrow and the power to make charges. In addition, it can receive contributions to its capital facilities from third party bodies. Up until now, the Park Authority has lived within its means, limiting its plans to what it can afford from the resources available to it. To depart from this funding model, by selling off recreational land for development, goes against the principles upon which the Park was established. If the Park Authority concludes that it cannot afford to build a new ice centre without resorting to selling off recreational land for development, then a new ice centre is currently beyond the Park Authority’s means.

Furthermore, it is disingenuous to argue that the fact that The Waterworks Centre is underused is justification enough for closing it. It is underused only because those managing it have let it steadily run into the ground over the last few years, and have resisted all suggestions from local people about how it can be made a vibrant community hub.

Please protect the future of the Lee Valley Regional Park, and reject the Land and Property Strategy that will be presented to you on 19 January.

With best wishes

 

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Stop Council’s Plan to Build Flats on Leyton Marshes

Please sign this petition against Waltham Forest’s proposals to build flats on the Waterworks, Leyton Marshes:

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-council-s-plan-to-build-on-leyton-marshes

The former golf course at Leyton Marshes

The former golf course at the Waterworks, Leyton Marshes

We love the Lower Lea Valley marshes (Leyton marshes, Walthamstow marshes and Hackney marshes). We love having such an amazing, unique, open green space on our doorstep, a place to reconnect with nature and let our imaginations run wild right in the heart of one of the most densely populated cities in the world. And we want to make sure the marshes are there for future generations to enjoy.

This is why we are devastated to learn that the London Borough of Waltham Forest has launched a consultation on their vision for the Lea Valley Eastside (http://walthamforest-consult.limehouse.co.uk/portal/leabridge/leyton), which involves rezoning the large swathe of green open space around The WaterWorks Centre – part of Leyton marshes – for housing. This can be seen on page 26 of the document, where the site is marked in blue, symbolising residential development. This land is Metropolitan Open Land, which means it should be protected from all inappropriate development, just like Green Belt land. If these plans are approved, then the spectre of our marshes disappearing under high-rise tower blocks comes one step closer.

We have until the end of January to tell the Council – loud and clear – that we will not tolerate building on our marshes. If we can stop these plans in their tracks, then we have a chance to save our marshes for the future.

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Brand NEW merchandise available on our website! Visit: http://www.saveleamarshes.org.uk/Shop.html

New greetings cards of marshes wildlife, Tree Musketeers 2017 calendars and much more available now.

htc2017_frontcover

Snap it up in time for Christmas – all purchases supporting ecological conservation and our campaign work.

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Victory: Polluting Car Wash on Leyton Marsh Refused Permission!

We are delighted to announce that Waltham Forest Council has refused to give permission for the car wash on Leyton Marsh, constructed prior to planning approval, due to its contravention of local policy and the fact it is an inappropriate development on Metropolitan Open Land.

The cordoned off car wash at Leyton Marshes car park, on Lea Bridge Road.

The cordoned off car wash at Leyton Marshes car park, on Lea Bridge Road.

Save Lea Marshes have conducted a long-running campaign against the car wash, for which an inaccurate planning application was lodged, the Park Act was ignored and M.O.L. policy was contravened.

The car wash was constructed and became operational back in June, prior to planning permission being obtained. We wrote to the Chief Executive of the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, Shaun Dawson, pointing out that in authorising the car wash, the Authority was acting outside its powers as set out in section 12 of the Park Act  – to operate the park as a place for the “occupation of leisure, recreation, sport, games or amusements and similar activities… the provision of nature reserves and provision and enjoyment of entertainments of any kind.”

Moreover, Section 13 of the Park Act specifically states “nothing in this section shall empower the Authority[…]To carry on the business of maintaining [or repairing] motor vehicles.”

Dawson wrote back to us defending the creation of the car wash facility as not constituting ‘car maintenance’. However, we did not give up on resisting this unsightly and polluting business, adjacent to the river Lea, which is one of the most polluted rivers in Britain, already polluted by oil and detergent run off from roads and car parks. We spoke at the LVRPA Annual General Meeting on 6th July making many arguments against its approval.

SLM Protest at the car wash

SLM Protest at the car wash

After our delegation at the annual Authority meeting in July, we then received news that the LVRPA had responded to our complaints by informing us that their Leisure Trust had “requested that the operator cease trading until such time planning permission is obtained.” We asked people to write to Waltham Forest Council and object to the planning application. We would like to thank everyone who did so.

The Council decided the application under delegated powers, stating that the car wash “constitutes inappropriate development on Metropolitan Open Land and would have an adverse impact upon the visual amenities and openness within the designated Metropolitan Open Land.” They also stated its contravention to several local policies, namely the Waltham Forest Local Plan – Core Strategy (2012) and policies DM12 and DM24 of Development Management Policies (2013).

Due to its proximity to the Essex Wharf residential development and the hours of use of the operation, the Council also concluded that it “would result in noise disturbance to the nearby residential occupiers.”

Since the decision cites the site’s location within Metropolitan Open Land and the effect of pollution on local residents as grounds for  refusal, this is a welcome boost to our campaign against the schools being built on Metropolitan Open Land opposite.

Well done to all those involved in any way with this campaign!

 

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Our Campaigns Work – Be Part of Them!

It is certainly a difficult political environment for protecting open public spaces and it would be easy to become overwhelmed or despondent about the level of encroachment and development of our protected land in the capital.

However, we would like to share with you some of our campaign victories since we formed in 2012.

No.1 Leyton Marsh

After the 2012 debacle of the ‘temporary’ basketball courts, Leyton Marsh was suffering the semi-permanent effects of a botched restoration. Save Leyton Marsh continued our campaign, putting pressure on the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority to demand Leyton Marsh was put back as promised by the Olympic Delivery Authority.

Although, the reinstatement efforts were far from ideal, we made sure that something was done about the appalling drainage and that a new surface was laid on Sandy Path.

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With then Assembly Member Jenny Jones on waterlogged Leyton Marsh

 

No. 2 Hackney Marshes

The sports pitches on Hackney Marshes were seriously damaged by the Radio 1 concert during the summer of 2012.

We successfully campaigned with local sports teams to prevent the use of Hackney Marshes for three private mega-events every summer which would have seen local residents fenced out of the area during the best time of the year for enjoying the outdoors.

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Birbeck Orient wearing our custom T-shirts for the campaign

 

 

3. North Marsh

We launched a petition to demand that the proposed pavilion on Hackney Marshes was situated on the site of the old building, at North Marsh, rather than being located on presently green space in order for the Council to accommodate a 68 space car park. Our petition got hundreds of signatures and we successfully took Hackney Council to a public inquiry where we represented ourselves for 4 days against a professional barrister.

The footprint of the proposed pavilion measured out by SLM members

The footprint of the proposed pavilion measured out by SLM members

 

No.4 East Marsh

Although as a result of the Planning Inquiry, the Inspector did not demand that the pavilion was re-designed in order to protect common land, she did find in favour of our arguments at East Marsh, where there was an unlawfully constructed car park. She ordered that it be removed.

We requested that the car park would be created into a biodiverse habitat and worked with Hackney Council and Hackney Marshes Users Group to achieve this. Works to create this habitat are currently taking place at the car park site on East Marsh.

Dog rose

Dog rose

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