No to Council’s Plans to Build on Leyton Marshes
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). It’s hard to spot, in amongst all the positive rhetoric but, if you look carefully at page 26, you’ll see that the Council are proposing to rezone the swathe of land around The Waterworks Centre – part of Leyton marshes – as housing.
Why does it matter? Some, although by no means all, of the area is already covered by a car park and The Waterworks Centre itself, so why does it matter if blocks of flats are built?
It matters because the land is designated as Metropolitan Open Land. This means it should be protected from inappropriate development. If the Council ignores this protection, it sets a dangerous precedent that will make it very much easier for developers to build on our open green spaces. 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. Please sign the petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/leytonmarshes
It’s on Saturday 17th January 2015 at the Ferry Boat Inn from 6pm, which is at 1 Forest Road (in the middle of the Walthamstow Reservoirs) near Tottenham Hale, about halfway between Tottenham Hale and Blackhorse Road rail stations (7-8 minute walk from either). Buses 123 and 230 stop outside.In case you think that Christmas ends on Boxing Day (well, of course you don’t!), here is something to end the festive season in truly spectacular style! – APPLE YOWLING!This is a great community event that is held every year soon after the Winter Solstice and takes place in many towns and villages across southern England. It is intended to celebrate the natural environment and the fruits – especially apples! – of the Earth, and to wake the trees up (a bit like the ancient Jewish festival of Tu B’Shvat, the New Year of the Trees that is also celebrated about the same time). It is intended to promote a season of growth and fertility, and a good harvest. It celebrates not only apples, but especially cyder, the (usually, but not always, alcoholic) drink made from apple juice.
Wassailing – wishing good luck and good health – traditionally takes place during the Twelve Days of Christmas from St. Stephen’s (Boxing) Day through to Old Twelfth Night (17th January, which was Christian festival of Epiphany in the old calendar that England used until 1752). It’s a general luck-wishing custom that happens all over England and Wales, where people go around wishing good health and a prosperous New Year to their neighbours.
Apple Yowling is a special form of wassailing that is traditionally held on Old Twelfth Night, when people in apple-growing areas of Southern England go out to wassail apple trees, the hives of the over-wintering bees that will pollinate the apple-blossom in the Springtime, and the chickens and pigs that often rummage in the orchards (and indeed, in some places, any other farmyard creatures imaginable) – and of course to wish good health to the human beings who care for the land and the plant and animal life it sustains as well!
Before the Yowling, we will have an opportunity to watch traditional English Morris Dancing, and afterwards there is a Big Sing – where traditional songs appropriate for the time of year, almost all with choruses, are sung.
We ask participants to come along from 5.30pm so you have plenty of time to get a drink (and buy a song-words sheet if you need one). Morris Dancing outside starts at around 6.00pm. The Yowling happens after that, whenever it feels right to go out and do it and the weather looks okay! There’s no set time-table!
Not all the songs that get sung are necessarily English, or even in the English language! As an Atlantic island with a seafaring history and a tradition of welcoming others to our shores, adopting songs and traditions from elsewhere has always been a big part of the rich tapestry of the British (Anglo-Saxon and Celtic) musical heritage – so if you know a good song, even if it isn’t in English, please be prepared to sing it and (if necessary) help others to join in the chorus!
Most songs are in English, though, and are still quite well-known in most parts of the country even nowadays. And besides those there will doubtless be a good few sea-shanties, which are truly international – as were the crews of the mercantile sailing ships who originally sang them (who often hailed from places as far-flung as Africa, China and Pacific Islands such as Tahiti, as well as many from all over Europe and the New World, of course). In other words – there should be something for everyone!
And even if you don’t feel like joining in yourself, we hope you will come along and have a good time!
Press Release (Friday 14th June):
Fewer Holes in Our Plan Than Yours!
Save Lea Marshes group call on the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority to turn Waterworks site into organic golf course, not private campsite
Save Lea Marshes group (SLM) have called upon the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA) to halt their plans to close the 18-hole golf course at the Waterworks Centre off Lea Bridge Road in order to turn it into a private campsite aimed at tourists going to the Olympic Park.
Inspired by successful organic golf courses in America, Europe and closer to home in Cambridgeshire, SLM are calling upon the LVRPA to maintain the area as an affordable golfing venue but improve its green credentials by establishing London’s first organic golf course in the lower Lea Valley.
Despite the LVRPA’s promises to reinstate the popular par-3 golf course after the Olympics and re-open it in spring 2013, it remained abandoned and its permanent closure was announced without warning in April this year. Local residents were not informed or consulted before the Park Authority decided to transform this area of open land on Leyton Marshes (adjacent to Hackney Marshes) into a trailer-park style campsite -which will mean fencing off the whole area and keeping local residents out. As well as cars, caravans and trailers covering the 20 acre site the LVRPA plans entail the construction of showers, toilet blocks and other built facilities, likely to include holiday chalets or ‘mobile home’ style trailers, to be used by visitors from outside the area.
Since its closure as a golfing destination, the area has been popular with local walkers who have appreciated the abundance of wildflowers and wildlife that has sprung up in the absence of the usual mowing regime and treatment of the ground with surfactants (pesticides).
Caroline Day of SLM explained, ‘It has been really wonderful to walk round the former golf course and see such biodiversity. However, we have talked to many local people who appreciated having an affordable and accessible pitch and putt course there for ordinary people. In setting up a 9-hole organic golf course, the LVRPA have the opportunity to protect the openness of this Metropolitan Open Land, offer local people affordable sporting activity and make use of the land without harming its importance for plant species and as a wildlife corridor along the River Lea. We need to encourage bee-friendly flowers, and this can easily be done as part of a successful organic golf course’
The Waterworks area is also the site of a Nature Reserve and there is concern about the effect of the campsite and proposed ponytrekking adjacent to the reserve. Whilst the planning application is being considered by Waltham Forest Council, Hackney resident Charlie Charman points out, “There are no plans as to how the LVRPA plan to deal with the sewage and animal waste associated with these present plans. The present peaceful grassland site will be damaged by hundreds of vehicles and intensive camping occupation. In choosing to establish an organic golf course, there would be no such issues of possible pollution. Wildflower areas could be integrated into the design of the course and this naturalised setting would only increase its popularity with golfers, as well as being attractive to people passing through between Leyton and Hackney”
The call to transform the area into an organic 9-hole course would, SLM believe, ‘be in accordance with the LVRPA slogan – for nature, sport and discovery – delivering all in one’ and is supported by both local and national nature organisations including the Pesticides Action Network (PAN-UK), River of Flowers, Waltham Forest Friends of the Earth and Project Maya.
Kathryn Lwin explains why establishing wildflower areas is so important and why she supports the plans: “River of Flowers would like to add its support to creating an organic golf course with the aim of increasing native wildflowers as forage for wild pollinators and other indigenous wildlife. Our wild pollinators feed us through pollinating our edibles but we are not feeding them with wildflowers that provide forage on either side of our fruit and vegetable season.”
Nick Mole from PAN-UK adds, ‘Here is a great opportunity for the LVRPA to adopt a really forward thinking plan that will establish habitat for bees and other pollinator species that are facing sharp declines throughout the UK. By creating an organic golf course the LVRPA will be able to claim with justification that it takes London’s wild spaces and biodiversity protection seriously.’
Waltham Forest Council are due to decide whether to grant approval for the change of use of the Lammas Road Golf Course by 9th July, and the Planning Department at the Town Hall are still inviting comments from members of the public.
“Protest at Council ‘drop in’ session about proposals for Hackney Marshes
Members of Save Lea Marshes group and other locals staged a protest both inside and outside the Hackney Marshes User Centre on Wednesday (17th April) to protest the Council’s plans to host three major events on Hackney Marshes every summer for the next five years.
A petition of approximately 850 signatures against the plans was handed in to the Council officials by a representative from the Save Lea Marshes group. An online petition started on 19th March has collected 850 signatures in the last month and was handed in alongside supplementary paper petitions as part of a silent protest at what Save Lea Marshes group regard as a sham ‘consultation’ by the Council about the plans, which have already been decided as Council policy.
Campaigners from the community wore ‘Keep Our Marshes Open & Green’ T-shirts and took in placards with a range of messages for the Council such as ‘Mud Money’ and ‘Your profit = our misery’. They maintained a silent presence in order to demonstrate against the nature of the ‘informal’ consultation which was not a public meeting and was only attended by minor Council officials rather than the Cabinet member responsible for the plans, Jonathan McShane.
Whilst the Council officials claimed to individuals at the drop in that the Council had not already requested consent from the Planning Inspectorate for the plans, they were unwilling to go on record and say so, demanding that any such statements should be requested from the Council Press Office.
Save Lea Marshes is one of a range of local groups, including Hackney Marshes User Group, Old Streetonians Rugby Club, Birbeck Orient Football Club, Stoke Newington Cricket Club and the Hackney & Leyton Football League who have stated their public opposition to hosting major events on the marshes. The sports clubs have pointed to the ongoing damage inflicted on the marshes which has disrupted their season and led to long-term problems including waterlogging and rutting of the soil.
The petition demands that more suitable venues like the Olympic Park are used for major music events instead of Hackney Marshes, which is described by the Council on their own website describe as “the internationally recognised spiritual home of grassroots football” The online petition will remain open for people to sign until 23rd April when the consultation closes.
SLM have pledged to stage similar protests in future if the Council presses ahead with plans in spite of community opposition from marsh users.” ENDS
Leyton Marsh under threat again!
Ever since the ill conceived basketball training court was constructed, Save Leyton Marsh Group has been pressing for a long-term commitment from the LVRPA that the land would be properly restored and never built on again. The basketball courts only received planning permission on the basis that the facility was “temporary”, that the Olympics were “special circumstances” and that the marsh would be “restored to its original condition”.
However, despite all the community campaigning that took place during 2012 a recent letter sent from Shaun Dawson, Chief Executive of the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, to Hackney Councillor Ian Rathbone, confirms that Leyton Marsh is being considered as a possible site for a brand new larger ice centre.
The letter states that the LVRPA are “looking at a range of sites” in the Lee Valley for this new ice centre including the “existing site on Lea Bridge Road.” As the proposal is for a larger ice centre, if the present site is chosen, this will include construction on Metropolitan Open Land, green space our community so desperately needs.
And if that isn’t disturbing enough the concrete foundations laid for the temporary basketball courts were left under the ground when the courts themselves were removed, and they could be used to support a future structure. A geo-textile membrane was also laid just beneath the top soil despite the fact that this has hindered the return of the marsh to “its original condition”. The reason given for the membrane in the reinstatement plan – that it would assist “possible future excavation” – was queried by local residents at the time. We were told not to worry, that this didn’t mean the land was going to be developed, but the opposite appears to be an increasingly likely reality.
We are calling for local people to make their views clear to the LVRPA as a matter of urgency. Leyton Marsh is part of a Noth-East London’s green lung and it should be protected from all development.
Reinstatement Begins Without Approval
Historic Olympic Protest Torch Relay in East London
(Contact Julian Cheyne after 1pm on 020-3560 4064 and 07988 401216)
Press Release from Counter Olympics Network – 16th July 2012
The iconic Vancouver Poverty Olympics Torch will make an historic appearance in London . The East London Poverty Torch Relay will herald the ‘Whose Games? Whose City?’ Demonstration against the Corporate Olympics to be held on July 28th. Counter Olympics spokesperson, Julian Cheyne, said:
‘The Poverty Torch Relay highlights long-standing Olympic issues of eviction, land seizure and the exclusion of the poor. London 2012 is no different. The Olympics epitomises corporate power and growing social inequality.’
The Torch was handed over to London at a ceremony at the Olympic Cauldron in Jack Poole Plaza , Vancouver in 2010, visited Glasgow in March 2012 and was received by the Counter Olympics Network at the Bishopsgate Institute in April 2012.
Julian Cheyne added: ‘This is a milestone in Olympic protest – the first time, to our knowledge, that a protest torch has been handed from one host city to another. We hope this will be a feature of protest in future host cities.’
On Saturday 21st July, the Torch will go from ‘Lympic Stratford and end at bulldozed Wanstead Flats, where there will be an open day arranged by the Met to look at the police facility from 11am to 3pm. Our runners will be received by members of the Save Wanstead Flats campaign at the end of the open day event.
On Friday 27th July, the Torch will go from scenic Clissold Park to the unsightly basketball training facility at Leyton Marsh. The Save Leyton Marsh campaign will hold a welcome party for the torch.
The relays will start at 2pm. Allowing roughly an hour to complete the routes means the runners should arrive at both end points at about 3pm.
(Contact Julian Cheyne after 1pm on 020-3560 4064, 07988 401216)
1. Compulsory Purchase for London 2012: ‘A prime opportunity for the property industry.’
‘We don’t think it will be difficult to get partners,’ says LDA head of property and development Gareth Blacker. ‘If we do the site assembly we’re proposing to do, we’re creating a prime opportunity for the property industry.’
2. Wanstead Flats – A Terrible Precedent Is Born
The campaign against the use of Wanstead Flats during next year’s Olympics by the police for a Muster Briefing and Deployment Centre has never just been about what happens in 2012. From the beginning, it has always been about the precedent set by choosing to enclose part of Epping Forest , an area supposedly protected by a 135-year-old Act of Parliament.
3. History of Our Campaign: The story of Save Leyton Marsh
The landgrab is not just about abusing a large area of greenbelt land in opposition to the local residents. It’s not just about creating a precedent for this land to effectively become brownfield and so ready for other development. We have uncovered that it’s also a Trojan horse whereby the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA) will be able to more easily implement its pre-existing (but publicly unknown) proposals to knock down the adjacent Ice Centre in Lea Bridge Road and build something double its size.
Principally we have learned that the weight of state oppression is on us. Save Leyton Marsh originally set out to be a local environmental campaign, and the group would have opposed whoever, whichever public body decided to start digging up Leyton Marsh for whatever reason, for whatever period of time. We have learned that because the purpose of this shameful destruction of our green fields is the London 2012 Olympic Games, we are not free to object, protest or campaign as we should be.
4. Planning Displacement: The Real Legacy of Major Sporting Events
Three Games, three eviction stories. In September 2009 Planning Theory and Practice Magazine published, in its Interface section, three articles on displacement caused by three different mega-events, the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow , the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver .
5. ‘What Olympic Legacy?’
In 2002, long before the credit crunch, Game Plan, a Government report signed by Tony Blair, said ‘We conclude that the quantifiable evidence to support each of the perceived benefits for mega events is weak, The explicit costs of hosting a mega event should be weighed very carefully against the perceived benefits…(which) appear to be more about celebration than economic returns’. The party legacy!
6. MEGA-EVENTS, OLYMPIC GAMES AND HOUSING RIGHTS – Report by Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE)
This report is dedicated to the millions of victims of housing rights abuses in the context of mega-events. It is dedicated to those who have lost their homes and suffered displacement or eviction because of the Olympic Games or other megaevents; those who have been arrested, beaten, traumatised, incarcerated, even killed; those who have been dispossessed and impoverished; and those who have otherwise found themselves unable to ‘share the spirit’ when the Olympics or other events came to town.
7. Rio Evictions: Brazil off-course for World Cup and Olympics – UN housing expert
GENEVA (26 April 2011) – As Brazil prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, the Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council on the right to adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, said Tuesday she has received many allegations concerning displacement and evictions potentially leading to violations of human rights.
8. Sochi ‘s Soviet style Olympics
The dismal record of mega event evictions, media manipulation, lying and overspends continues. Sochi is striving hard to compete with Delhi and Beijing as the most brutal event in recent years.
9. COHRE paper on ATLANTA ’S OLYMPIC LEGACY
The goal of this chapter is to address the housing displacement and criminalization of Atlanta ’s poor and homeless people – both motivated and generated by the Olympic Games.
Jenny Jones Supports Leyton Marsh Campaign
Jenny Jones, London Assembly Member, Green Party, this afternoon visited the Olympic basketball training venue construction site on Porters Field Meadow at Leyton Marsh. She was horrified to see huge lorries moving along Sandy Lane, and aghast at the three-storey-high building now on what was once an open access green space. She said it was another example of the Olympics restricting people’s access to physical exercise. She signed the Save Leyton Marsh petition and will write to the ODA, the LVRPA and Waltham Forest Council about our demands for a viable, sustainable Reinstatement Plan agreed with us and local people. She will write to Hackney Police about the obstacles placed in the way of our plans to march on 16th June. She will be watching out for any future attempts to further encroach on marshland.
Index On Censorship: Struggle for Leyton Marsh Feature
At an evening launch this week in Clerkenwell of the Index on Censorship journal issue on “Sport on Trial”, Claire and Caroline – whose interviews with Leah Borromeo in April are summarised in the journal – linked the theme of the evening “Is sport above human rights?” to what has happened at Leyton Marsh. They put it to the panel – which included footballer Clarke Carlisle, journalist Mihir Bose, historian Martin Polley and chair Jo Glanville, editor of the journal, that the twin issues of the landgrab against the wishes of local people and the subsequent punitive measures imposed on those who protested, are serious and menacing impacts of the Olympic Games in its big business approach. There was support from the panel members and audience, and our cause was known about. The widespread effective ‘gagging’ of sportspeople involved in the Olympics and other world sports events was highlighted by Clarke Carlisle, in response to Caroline’s point about the ending of Palestinian Mahmoud Sarsak’s hunger strike in an Israeli jail, and Claire’s call for a John Carlos-type gesture to “Seize the Time” – a reference to the 1968 Olympic USA gold medallist’s black power hand salute. Members of the panel and others from the 200-strong audience signed the Save Leyton Marsh petition and there was much interest in our public meeting next Tuesday.
Other articles in this issue of the journal (Vol 41, no. 2, 2012) include ‘Sporting Trials’ by Mihir Bose, who challenges that ‘few in sport seem willing or able to deal with’ the ‘high moral purpose of sport (being) sacrificed if not ignored.’ Stephen Escritt and Martin Polley investigate ‘who owns the Olympics?’ concluding that LOCOG have now effectively privatised them; Corinna Ferguson exposes the laws on curbing protest during the Olympics (we ain’t seen nothin yet) and Katitza Rodriguez and Rebecca Bowe explore surveillance and the Olympics – ‘people who care abut anonymity may have a very difficult time protecting their identity in the imminent future’. Claire and Caroline’s interviews appear together with those of Joe Alexander (Carpenters Road Estate) and Julian Cheyne (Clays Lane Estate) in a chapter headed ‘Local Heroes’. Julian summarises regeneration that closed down his community “Here’s a product that’s sold as something that will benefit a poorer end of London but instead what you have is a transfer of assets, a transfer of land and a transfer of wealth. Regeneration doesn’t mean the community stays while you improve its amenities. It means removing that community in favour of a more affluent group. After the Games I think people will come away with the feeling they’ve been tricked. There is no legacy.”
In the discussion after the panel session much was made of the need to get these messages to Brazil – hosts for the 2016 Games – and to learn from other countries, one being Canada, where oppression and loss of human rights has seen less of a nose-dive after a major sports convention than elsewhere. All in all a useful and timely event and publication.
An Open Letter to the Financial Times
After attempts by a local councillor to obtain a retraction from the FT regarding an article containing inaccurate information about our group were ignored, we would like the following to be heeded by the FT:
Dear Financial Times,
Your newspaper recently published an article which contained the claim:
”Local east London groups are also involved in planning civil disobedience [for the Olympics]. They include the Save Leyton Marsh organisation, which occupied a site earlier in the spring to try to prevent it being turned into a basketball court for the games.”
We would like to make the following clarifications:
1) We are a campaign group rather than an organization. Our campaign was formed in opposition to the construction of a 11m high 3 storey temporary basketball training facility on Metropolitan Open Land (protected land that is the same status as green belt). We have submitted a judicial review of the decision to grant planning permission on the land.
2) On what basis do you claim that we are planning ‘civil disobedience’ at the Olympics? We have been campaigning against a training facility (not an Olympics venue) that is now nearly completed so there would be no reason for our particular group to engage in civil disobedience during the Games. Nowhere have we announced that we are planning such action.
3) Our focus is now on lobbying and campaigning to restore the marsh to full public open access.
We call on you once again, this time publicly, to please retract this inaccurate and misleading information.
Save Leyton Marsh Group.
Report from Save Leyton Marsh Protest yesterday:
Save Leyton Marsh campaign supporters staged a protest on Saturday 26 May next to thousands of tons of contaminated rubble that have been excavated during the construction of the Olympic basketball training courts on Porters Field Meadow in Leyton. The Environment Agency has confirmed that the rubble, currently stored right next to the courts that are expected to be available for Olympic athletes to start training in June, are contaminated with chrysotile asbestos.
Save Leyton Marsh group were kitted out in the ‘protective clothing’ advised for workers (in the RSA Groundworks report done on behalf of the contractors in January) including dust masks, gloves and protective suits and held signs representing the damage to the marsh since March. They were joined (at a distance) by almost as many police who sensibly opted to stay away from the rubble under the shade of a tree a few hundred metres away!
The group is demanding that the waste is safely disposed of immediately, and point to the ongoing hazard it presents to local people and users of Leyton Marsh, since the covers placed by contractors on the extensive piles of rubble are frequently blown aside in the wind and rain. Save Leyton Marsh fears that the extensive and unplanned excavation on the Marsh renders the original reinstatement plans unworkable.
The campaigners demand that the ODA confers immediately with the Lee Valley Regional Park, the owners of the land, regarding the Waltham Forest planning requirement that the land should be returned to its original state by 15th October after the Olympic building has been taken down. Save Leyton Marsh campaigners condemn the unwarranted damage that has been done to the Marsh land, and state that this could have been avoided if Waltham Forest Council had set in place an Environmental Impact Assessment last autumn.
More importantly Save Leyton Marsh alleges that these events are a massive error of planning, and will now cost far more than would have been spent on upgrading a local leisure centre to provide the training courts, which was an option that the ODA discarded last year outside of any public planning processes.
The Environment Agency, in a letter dated 25th May to Stella Creasey MP stated: “the waste soil pile will need to be treated as hazardous waste due to the trace contamination of asbestos. We are satisfied that the contractors understand this and have identified a suitable site, that can accept hazardous waste, for it to be removed to. We are currently awaiting a time schedule for when this will happen. In the mean time the site has covered the waste soil pile to minimize the dust escaping from the site to the surrounding area.”
Stella Creasy has told the Save Leyton Marsh campaign that she is waiting for comments from the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) about the Environment Agency’s statement concerning the contractors, who are Nussli of Switzerland. Nussli have known about the asbestos contamination since 18th April.
Report from LVRPA Users Forum
The LVRPA’s half-baked plan known as Park Development Framework, originating 2010, has been skewed by the carrot of ODA cash for the construction of the basketball courts and the follow-on guilt money supposedly mitigating the harm done to the land.The terms of the ODA/LVRPA licence for the basketball courts do little to foster proper collaboraton between the organisations, and are disadvantageous to the shaping of the post-October 15th future of Leyton Marsh.The promise to Waltham Forest Council that the land could be returned in pristine condition by 15th October has been exposed, again, as unachievable.Leyton Marsh is teetering on the brink of long-term damage that will take many seasons to repair.Avoiding this long-term damage requires major changes of attitude at the highest levels of both organisations and within LB Waltham Forest.
DETAILED REPORT FROM MEETING
About fifteen people from Save Leyton Marsh attended the LVRPA Filter Beds and Walthamstow Marshes User Forum on 23rd May, held in an upstairs room overlooking the rink at the Ice Centre. The meeting was packed. There was a capacity of 35 and many were turned away at the door, including Caroline Allen, Green Party candidate and supporter of our campaign. We joined about seven or eight other Marsh users including three or four who are also supporters of Save Leyton Marsh. A manager from LVRPA chaired the meeting and four members of staff introduced various agenda items. After the meeting I was asked by SLM to note down some of the main points from the meeting, which are below.
The old bye-laws are still in force, as the new ones are waiting for the SoS seal to be imprinted. The bye-laws as they appear in the noticeboards around the site are the full statement and not a summary. New bye-laws were needed to enable the LVRPA to operationalise its authority over lands acquired since the approval of the old bye-laws. A sort of post-hoc rationalisation.
The conversion to a campsite, for the Olympics, of the Waterworks golf course has been effected by simple contract with the Camping & Caravanning Club. There will be no late nights and no loud music. Campers will be in their pyjamas by 10-30pm, if we can believe it. More to the point, it will be February before the golfers can get back on the course again, due to the need to restore the land following the removal of the tents and caravans. At this point, Save Leyton Marsh supporters could hardly contain their indignance, and pointed how we had been banging on for some time that the promised return to original state of Leyton Marsh by 15th October, after the construction on it of a three-storey-high building with foundations, could never have seriously been on the cards.
The spending of the £65k, referred to above: we were told that the £65k is not the actual Reinstatement Plan, it’s for extras. The list of grass seeds etc accounts for £45k of the total, and we were now being asked about how to spend the remaining £20k. After several enthusiastic suggestions from the Users, all of which (with the exception of one proposing that the money be spent on increasing the ranger staff complement) were themed on wildness, retention of natural habitats and opposition to turning Leyton Marsh into a manicured urban park, it was decided that a special Users Forum meeting would be called in August, to be convened on the marshland, and at which this will be the only item on the agenda. Users are invited to put proposals.
The Reinstatement Plan is quite simply the identified covering to be placed on the excavated and filled-in land once the buildings are removed. We tried to convince the LRVPA staff that the options should be discussed with us before any recommended proposal goes to LBWF Planning, and there was some reluctant acceptance that this could happen. The balance to be struck is whether to use the ODA’s preferred option of quick-fix grow-quick Big Turf and slap it down over the hole on 15th October thus enabling public access as promised by the ODA to Waltham Forest Council, or whether to go for the more ecologically sound idea of growing from seed, an option that would restrict access for some time. We pointed out how this dilemma also demonstrates that the plans approved by Waltham Forest were never feasible.
With some relief, there was a positive meeting of minds on an idea coming from the floor that young people could be involved in creative activities around artistic graffitti painting on walls/ bridges in the Park. However the wide-ranging discussion did evoke some exasperation at the readiness of the LVRPA to point the finger at illicit parties held in certain parts of the Marsh, whereas it had plainly allowed a huge tract of its own land to be taken over and ruined by the ODA.
> when it looked as if the meeting was going to end without a mention of our two major concerns, SLM supporters insisted on having minuted our report about the continued existence, for more than two months, of thousands of cubic metres of unlawfully-stored contaminated rubble on the south side of the ODA’s building site. We described the environmental hazard that this now meant for the Marsh, the adjacent waterways and the users. We were flabbergasted to find out that the senior person present from LVRPA did not appreciate the differences between the two stretches of rubble heaps, that one was not in the approved plans and is contaminated in particular with asbestos, and that they were still being added to. The 4-Rail Services report to NUSSLI identifying the asbestos in the LVRPA-owned land was apparently unknown to them. The short-term interests of the ODA, compared to the long-term duties of the Authority to protect and steward the Marsh became horribly clear at this point.
In a final revelation, after we had insisted also on reporting the illness of three dogs on the Marsh, one of which had been diagnosed as suffering from chemical poisoning, the LVRPA manager was keen to assure us that investigations were going on about this – he knew, he said, because he had been working on this for three days! Gasps of surprise form the floor – we tried to explain how his having kept this news from us, wanting to keep anything to do with the situation on Leyton Marsh off the agenda, coupled with his lack of knowledge or concern about the existence of massive piles of contaminated rubble on the Marsh, has exacerbated the lack of trust that we have in the ability/inclination of the various authorities to protect Leyton Marsh as a green open space. We felt these matters are the key urgent issues in this part of the Lee Valley Park and yet they were not intended to be discussed at that meeting. He was told in no uncertain terms that if he did not want people to make assumptions about any link between the two issues of contamination he should see to it that the rubble heaps are removed without delay.
All this led to a discussion as to the lack of accountability by the Directors of the LVRPA, and further exhortations from us that the LVRPA should be acting in partnership with the ODA, LBWF and us prior to the next formal planning round, if there is any hope of a reinstatement plan actually succeeding. The laughable terms in the LVRPA/ODA licence according to which the LVRPA has no clout in terms of penalising ODA for non-compliance, were revealed as a significant obstacle. We felt that everything we had heard demonstrated that there was a woeful lack of co-operation, particularly between the LVRPA and the ODA. The possibility of long-term damage to the Marsh as a result of botched reinstatement methods is looming large.
After the meeting overran its time by ten minutes, the remainder of the agenda was jettisoned. Further small group discussions ensued.
They will let us know the date of the next meeting in August, by which time the Reinstatement Plan will have been considered and decided by Waltham Forest Planning Committee and the Marsh’s fate will have been sealed.
Waltham Forest Unity Statement
We strongly oppose plans by the English Defence League (EDL), a group linked to the fascist British National Party (BNP) to demonstrate in Walthamstow on 18th August.
The EDL is a racist and fascist organisation dedicated to attacking Asian people and Muslims. Islamophobia or bigotry against Muslims is as unacceptable as any other form of racism. Its aim is to divide us by making scapegoats of one community, just as the Nazis did with the Jews in the 1930s. Today they threaten Muslims. Tomorrow it could be Jewish people, Hindus, Sikhs, black people, lesbians and gay men, travellers or Eastern Europeans.
The EDL have held countless demonstrations across the country, where they have rampaged through towns, attacking mosques, businesses and individuals. More recently, they have begun to attack peaceful demonstrations and multicultural and trade union meetings. Their leader, Tommy Robinson, who has a string of convictions for violence, appeared on a recent Channel 4 programme praising Anders Breivik, the fascist terrorist responsible for killing 76 people in Norway. Each time the EDL assemble, minorities and trades unionists are subjected to threats and racial/religious abuse.
Recently, the EDL stole the profiles of Asian school children and used these fake identities on our Facebook page to make racist comments and threaten violence towards members of our campaign and the Community Support Camp.
Last year, the EDL were prevented from marching through Tower Hamlets due to a fantastic show of unity from the local community. Now they have turned their attention to Waltham Forest and plan to march in Walthamstow. It is essential that we show the same level of unity here.
There is no place for Nazis, racists or their allies in Waltham Forest’s multiracial, multicultural and multi-faith community. We also urge people to attend the peaceful ‘We are Waltham Forest’ multicultural march/event to be held in the centre of Walthamstow on Saturday 18th August.
Imprisoned for telling the truth about the Olympics?
On Thursday 26th April Mike Wells, a citizen journalist who writes for the Games Monitor website, was filming unsafe working practices on Leyton Marsh at the chaotically managed Olympic construction site.
As a result of his attempt to film and draw attention to the unsafe practices of an excavator working close to pedestrians on Sandy Lane (the pathway running adjacent to Leyton Marsh), Mike was assaulted first by the driver who did not want the activities filmed and was then brutally restrained by a number of bailiffs resulting in injuries to his ribs and forehead.
Several Shergroup employees dragged him 200m to Lea Valley Ice Centre car park under duress. Several shocked members of the public tried unsuccessfully to intervene and prevent further injury to Mike who had a gash on his forehead and was clearly in pain.
His assailants refused to show ID or explain their actions but appeared very agitated and were ordering people to keep away. One of them was recording the scene and bystanders on video.
Police arrived and immediately arrested Mike, who was driven away in handcuffs after being treated for some time in an ambulance.
It was very difficult to get information about where Mike was being held. Eventually we discovered that he was at Stoke Newington Police station, from where he was transferred to Leyton Custody Centre (a facility specially built for the Olympics).
There was an emergency court hearing at Bow Magistrate Court last Saturday, and this is where Mike’s case becomes even more troubling. Despite being assaulted and injured, the CPS requested that Mike be denied bail. They claimed that the members of the public that witnessed the incident were protestors, taking part in a ‘highly organised event’ in which protestors were menacing security staff by taking images of them. They claimed that members of the public were ‘professional’ and had set out to intimidate staff and security. Mike, like all of us, should have the right to document the destruction, contamination and unsafe working practices on our marsh without being accused of criminal activity.
It was claimed that Mike ‘jumped into the excavator’ (a completely unfounded accusation) and in the next breath that he ‘published events about the Olympics’ as if Mike were involved in propagating incitement to violent protest. Mike is completely dedicated to covering the truth about the Olympics and its effect on communities; he has never incited or carried out any violent protest on Leyton Marsh and in fact has been the victim of violence from the bailiffs there. Despite what Mike has suffered in pursuit of covering the truth, he was denied bail on the basis he was of ‘no fixed abode’. Mike lives on the Lea in a narrowboat. This is exploiting the strict use of the term in a disingenuous way to justify denying bail.
What is even more shocking is that the Magistrate mistakenly claimed that Mike should not have been on Sandy Lane as this is an area ‘covered by the injunction’. The injunction prohibits blocking construction vehicles and staff; it does not prohibit walking or filming on Sandy Lane, until recently a tranquil public footpath that the ODA claims is open to full public access. On the completely erroneous basis that Mike had broken the injunction, Mike was remanded in custody in Thameside prison for seven days.
He was allowed very little access to the outside world and visits from his friends were denied.
What further punishment will Mike face for speaking the truth?
What threats may we face for speaking the truth about Mike? That remains to be seen. However, for entirely peaceful actions people trying to save our marsh have faced litigation threats, two High Court Injunctions, prison sentences, an eviction, threat of a further possession order and one individual has been slapped with an ASBO which could result in a 5 year prison sentence. The signs are not good.
UPDATE: Mike Wells was given conditional bail today at Bow Magistrates Court. Like Connor Murray’s bail and Simon’s ASBO, this prohibits Mike from going within 100m of the Olympic Park/ athletes village/ any Olympic or Paralympic training venue which effectively makes his job reporting on the Olympics for Games Monitor impossible.
Deputation from SLMG to Trades Council
Following an invitation from Darren O’Grady, the Secretary of Waltham Forest Trades Council, the Save Leyton Marsh cause was received with keen interest at a meeting of the Waltham Forest Trades Council on Tuesday 1st May. Representatives from UNITE, UNISON, NUT, NUJ and other unions asked questions about the campaign’s aim to ensure that Leyton Marsh is returned to its former character as an open access green space following the unplanned and damaging excavation from it of thousand of cubic metres of World War 2 contaminated landfill spoil during the construction of a three-storey high Olympic practice basketball venue.
After an introduction by Claire Weiss, a retired member of the Waltham Forest UNISON branch and active in Save Leyton Marsh, members of the Trades Council discussed wider issues including the growing constraints on freedom to protest about, or object to, the local impacts of the London 2012 Olympic Games; the lack of justice and harshness of punishments now emerging; and the likely benefits of co-operation between groups who are affected by various Olympic -related developments.
The discussion raised the question of possibly linking with residents affected by the announcement that missiles will be placed on top of Fred Wigg Tower, a residential block of flats in Waltham Forest. WFTC has placed the latest SLM leaflet on their website. They want to be informed about our activities, meetings etc which they will publicise
Statement from Caroline Allen, Green Party Candidate for London on visiting Leyton Marsh
On Friday myself and Waltham Forest and Hackney Greens joined members of Save Leyton Marshes at the site of a temporary basketball training ground which is currently being built on this precious green space.
To say that there are concerns about this site would be a massive understatement. There are so many things wrong with this and residents are worried about what comes next.
As the Olympics approach I am really concerned that this is setting a dangerous precedent, that resident’s concerns don’t matter, that enforcing planning rules seems to fall between departments, that civil liberties are infringed and the ODA can just do what it likes. Scary stuff.
I don’t think this structure should even be here in the first place. This is special protection area, in close proximity to a Site of Special Scientific Interest and numerous planning rules mean it shouldn’t have been built. The energy and money-millions- spent putting this up, then taking it down, could surely have been better used to expand and improve an existing facility. I understand that Paralympic basketball players need more space, but this could have a been great investment in sports facilities that would provide a real legacy.
The councils own papers state this does not consitute sustainable development, hardly a surprise.
Now the structure is being built there are significant environmental concerns over the site. Planning permission was granted by Waltham Forest on the basis of the structure removing less than 15cm of soil, for this reason no environmental impact was required. However the developers knew, prior to the date of the planning meeting, that foundations of 0.5m would be required. Now this earth work has been done we have a pile of contaminated rubble and soil, until recently completely exposed to the elements and now partially covered with a loose tarpaulin, that could be leeching arsenic, asbestos and lead. The site contains the rubble from blitz sites in the East End.
No one will agree to investigate or study soil samples and there appears to be no come back on the broken planning rules.
However, there is plenty that can be done against local people who dare to get involved and are concerned about their land. A group of ‘heavys’ stood intimidating us and filming our every move as we walked around the boundary of the site. We were clearly no threat, but after some residents blocked lorries from driving along a road, again with foundations much deeper than promised, an injunction was put in place against 6 people, including local residents and ‘persons unknown’, so anyone who might want to protest is being threatened with thousands of pounds of damages. In fact recent events suggest that even someone walking by and complaining about the inconvenience could be affected by this injunction. So much for the right to peaceful protest.
Another major concern is that there appears to be no single agency responsible for ensuring the land is fully restored. I strongly support the residents demand that there is a clear, legally binding agreement and lines of responsibility for returning the land completely to its prior state, as has been promised. That is fully public, open green space as it was before.
I want to see the mounds of soil that have been acknowledged as containing contamination removed safely from site as soon as possible. The inadequate plastic covering and assertion that the risks are negligible are simply not good enough.
I also call for a full investigation into how the Council was misled over this development. This wont be the first time that a large organisation has broken the rules and then retrospective amendments were made, this is not how things can happen.
I’ve already written about Olympic failings, from unethical sponsors, to tickets and chickens flown across the globe. From the high handed behaviour I’ve seen on Leyton Marsh I don’t think this will be the last time either.
Visit Caroline’s blog at: http://carolineallengreenlondon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/save-leyton-marsh-from-olympic-bullying.html
Statement from Simon Moore – slapped with an ASBO for opposing destruction on Leyton Marsh
My name is Simon Moore. I was recently served with an Interim Anti Social Behaviour Order (IASBO) on leaving HMP Thamesmead following four days of incarceration. I was imprisoned along with two friends: Dan & Anita. We had engaged in peaceful civil disobedience at Leyton Marshes, where the Olympic Delivery Authority have organised the construction of a basketball training facility on open, communal land without the consent of the local people. The action which began the chain of events (resulting in imprisonment) involved sitting in front of a lorry carrying cement at the entrance to the construction site on Leyton Marshes and refusing to move when asked to do so by a police officer. I have no remorse about my actions. I was doing what I know to be right.
The IASBO which is in effect until a court hearing on May 3rd at Westminster Magistrates Court (when a hearing for a longer term ASBO will take place) prohibits engaging in certain activities. It warns that should I do any of the prohibited activities I may be liable ‘on conviction or indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or a fine, or to both’. It is signed by a Justice of the Peace from Westminster Magistrates Court and has been sought by CO11: the Metropolitan Police’s Public Order Unit.
The prohibitions contained with the IASBO relate primarily to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, although they also include the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations, the State Opening of Parliament on 9th May 2012, the Royal River Pageant and the Trooping of the Colour on 16th June 2012. For the exact wording of the prohibitions, please see below.
The prohibitions are worded in such a way which suggests the possibility that its authors believe that the recipient may be intending to disrupt the events mentioned above. This suspicion is most clearly evident in prohibition 4 which reads: ”Taking part in any activity that disrupts the intended or anticipated official activities of the Olympic games or Diamond Jubilee Celebrations”.
I am taking this opportunity to respond publicly to this IASBO.
I have never intended to disrupt any of the ceremonies mentioned above nor would I. This IASBO was given to me following peaceful demonstration and civil disobedience at the Leyton Marshes construction site which happens to be a proposed Olympic training venue. The fact that the destruction of a communal green open space in the heart of a densely populated, deprived urban environment happened to be in the name of the Olympics was not what led me to engage in peaceful civil disobedience there. My activities at Leyton Marshes are not intended to be ‘anti-Olympics’. They are intended to highlight what I see is a gross failure on the part of public bodies to represent the needs of the local people in the areas that are being used to host the games. The decision to build on Leyton Marshes is showing that the current nature of the organisation and delivery of the Olympics in London 2012 is undemocratic and unaccountable on many levels. The needs of the local people in Hackney and Waltham Forest have gone completely overlooked and their rights have been infringed on. They have not been consulted on a matter which is important to many of them nor have they had any say. They currently have little access to open space, which is vital to people’s health and well being, and the development has pushed more people to use the neighbouring SSSI with uncalculated effects on the wildlife there.
Rightly many are concerned that they may lose the right to roam and enjoy Leyton Marsh freely for good. I came to Leyton with other like minded people with a common aim to support local people who had decided to do anything peacefully in their power to protect a treasured space. Our activities were soon criminalised by the application of laws which placed the needs of anonymous public bodies and corporations above those of the local people.
The Olympics need not be carried out in this way. There is an alternative which would leave a positive legacy for Londoners. Currently this is not being fulfilled. The situation at Leyton Marshes is proof of this.
With respect to the IASBO, it established prohibitions that I regard as unjust and unnecessary. It also infers that I am going to engage in activities which I have no intention of engaging in. Regardless of this fact, in order to prevent these anticipated activities It criminalises activities which are ordinary and usually considered lawful. For example the 1st prohibition: ”Entering or remaining within 100 yards of any existing or proposed Olympic competition or practice venue or route or participant’s residence within England and Wales”.
I am currently participating in a 24 hr/day ongoing demonstration outside Lea Valley Ice Centre on Lea Bridge Rd (in front of Leyton Marsh) with tents and banners etc. Lea Bridge Rd is one of the major Olympic routes (one which the Olympic torch is intended to travel down). I protest there with friends to raise the attention of the local population to the situation at Leyton Marshes (not to disrupt the Olympic Games). Sometimes I may walk around the construction site on the Marshes to see what is happening to it. Under the terms of the IASBO, both of these activities are illegal. Prohibition no.3 declares: ”Not to trespass on, or without the permission of the owner to interfere with, any building or land”. I have camped (and will likely do so again soon) on the grass verge next to Lea Bridge Rd next to signs that explain that the Waltham Forest Council (the landowner) do not grant permission for anyone to camp there and demand that we (occupiers) leave. Normarily this is a civil matter which would have to go to the High Court for an eviction order/injunction to be granted before we could be removed. Because of the IASBO, I can be arrested simply for standing on the verge. Even if I or anyone else was intending to disrupt the Olympic ceremonies or events (which I am not), I would still regard these prohibitions as unjust. Can it be called just to criminalise lawful activities on the grounds that someone may commit a crime later?
By continuing my participation with the campaign at Leyton Marshes I have been placed with a choice between doing what I know to be right or obeying a law that deems my activities criminal and thereby ending my participation. I choose to do what I know to be right. If this means breaking the law then that is what I will do openly and transparently. If I am arrested and or imprisoned as a result, I know that I have not broken my own sense of what I see as just which is truer to me than any law no matter who has created it.
Being in prison doesn’t change that.
I echo the sentiments of many past and present in saying that if the law says that something you are doing is wrong which you regard as right, then break the law. Likewise if the law requires you to do something you regard as wrong, then break the law.
The prohibitions are as follows:
“1. Entering or remaining within 100 yards of any existing or proposed Olympic competition or practice venue or route or participant’s residence within England and Wales.
2. Entering or remaining within 100 yards of any road being used on that day for the passage of the Olympic torch, or on which any Olympic competition or practice venue is taking place – e.g the marathon – within England and Wales;
3. Not to trespass on, or without the permission of the owner to interfere with, any building or land;
4. Taking part in any activity that disrupts the intended or anticipated official activities of the Olympic games or Diamond Jubilee celebrations;
5. Obstructing the movement or passage of any Olympic participant between their residence, practice venue or place of work and venues being used for Olympic competition or cultural purposes and vice versa.
For the purposes of this Order:
‘Olympic’ or ‘Olympics’ shall be construed as referring to both the Olympic and Paralympic Games being held in England and Wales in 2012;
‘Diamond Jubilee celebrations’ shall be construed as referring to the following dates only
– State Opening of Parliament on 9th May 2012,
– The Royal River Pageant and other Jubilee associated events on 2nd – 5th June 2012 inclusive and
– Trooping of the Colour on 16th June 2012.
‘Participant’ shall be construed as including competitors, accredited officials, spectators at or in the vicinity of venues at which Olympic events are taking place or are anticipated to take place and the workforce engaged in work associated with the Olympics, paid or unpaid.”
Waltham Forest Council admits ODA have breached planning permission
on Leyton Marsh development
Ian Ansell, Area Manager for Development Management at Waltham Forest has
indicated that the Olympic Delivery Authority have breached their planning
permission by excavating at least 35cm deeper on Leyton Marsh than the
planning conditions allow. His admission came after Hackney councillors had
demanded more information about the controversial development.
In a letter to Graham Loveland, Interim Assistant Director of Planning at Hackney
council Mr Ansell stated that: “the planning permission was originally granted on
the basis that around 15cm of top soil was being removed”. However, he admitted
that “subsequent work has led to the current controversy as a maximum of 50cm
(according to the ODA) has been removed”.
An Environmental Impact Assessment was not carried out for the development
due to the claimed shallow depth of the excavations. But after an unexploded
WWII bomb was discovered in the first week of excavations and mounds of soil
containing significant rubble were being dumped exposed all over the site, local
residents became increasingly alarmed. A site investigation for contamination was
not conducted despite the site being used for landfill between 1940-1960 because the
planning application claimed: “With the exception of the placement of the temporary
development platform as detailed above, there will be no groundworks/construction
works within the existing sub-soils associated with the temporary facilities”.
A number of Waltham Forest residents contacted their MP Stella Creasy who has
requested that the Chief Executive of the council intervene to ensure their serious
concerns are addressed and explain how the Council is monitoring the development.
In February Waltham Forest Council granted the planning application to build a
3 storey 11m basketball training facility with a car park and perimeter fencing on
Metropolitan Open Land despite huge local opposition. The vote was narrowly passed
by 4-3 with cries of ‘shame’ from the packed public gallery. Residents have since
mounted a determined local campaign to halt development, holding weekly protests
and preventing lorries containing heavy-duty construction materials from entering the
site along the pedestrian pathway.
On Saturday 24th March local residents were joined for their weekly protest by some
members of Occupy who set up a Community Support Camp in order to assist the
campaign to defend this much loved green space from development.
Campaigners were informed that the ODA, who have refused to engage in discussion
with the community since the planning application was granted, would visit the
site on Friday. However, they did not arrive as planned and instead the Assistant
Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police conducted a hasty tour of the site unwilling
to talk to locals about the reason for his visit.
No work has taken place on site for over a week and campaigners show no signs of
giving up the fight to prevent construction. In continued action protesters turned away
two 10-ton lorries of asphalt from the site this morning (Monday 2nd April).