news from Leyton Marsh & call to action

marksimonbrown mark at
Mon Apr 9 21:45:38 BST 2012

Re: the occupation of common land at Leyton Marsh in NE London against the temporary basketball training ground with tarmac surface being laid on it for the Olympics, I forward the statement from the save Leyton Marsh Group from 5 days ago (copied below) in this email.
Recent report update here (with photos):
(Look for details of the 'mass dog disobedience class' this coming Saturday morning in this report).

Occupy protestors face eviction after court ruling
Written by Eastlondonlines
Apr 9, 2012

Occupy protesters who have halted  work on a multi-million pound Olympic site on the borders of Hackney and Walthamstow face forcible eviction after a judge ruled they were there illegally. Protestors who stand in front of vehicles to stop work can also now be arrested.

Two weeks ago, local residents from the Save Leyton Marsh campaign  were joined by around twenty Occupy protesters, who pitched tents to stop work on the development of the temporary 12m high basketball practice facility on Leyton Marshes.

But at the High Court last Thursday,  judge, Master Matthew Marsh granted a possession order to the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority, who own the land. Bailiffs could now be sent in at any time.

The move followed a ruling the previous day when another judge banned the campaigners from taking any further action after the Olympic Delivery Authority warned that construction might not be completed in time if the occupation continued.

Master Marsh said there was evidence that a number of park by-laws had been broken and possibly criminal acts committed. Lawyers for the ODA argued that the site would become a `honeypot' for other protesters.

The development has led to protests from local communities angry at the erosion of green open space. An online petition, `Don't be harsh, protect our marsh!' has attracted a number of signatures.

The protesters, who failed to lodge a defence in court, have argued that the temporary structure could lead to a more permanent development on the site, citing the example of a previous temporary structure from the 1986 Commonwealth Games which still stands.

Protesters at the site suggest that other sites could have easily been used, instead of a new construction. Kelmscott Centre in Walthamstow has its own basketball courts which will be empty during the Olympics.  Save Leyton Marsh campaigners question why a new building is required. Money, they argue, could have been spent on improving current structures, leaving a legacy for the area.

Although the plans published by the Olympic Authority specify shallow footings for the structure, allowing for an easy dismantling, protesters claim the foundations for the structure are set to be far deeper than first specified and as a result are in breach of the planning permission currently granted to them.

Writing on the protest web site, local resident Mike Wells points out that: "The ODA's application for planning permission stated there would be no foundations. The application specified a 15cm skim of topsoil. It has been clear to all monitoring works at the site that the excavations have been significantly deeper."

Last week, Dan Ashman, an Occupy protester who made the trip from the group's Finsbury Square base, told ELL they were there to help residents: "Our aim is to leave when the residents are satisfied that they have all the assurances that this site will be returned to the way they want it after the Olympics."

The petition agues that the decision to build on green space will "set a precedent", making it easier in future for developers to successfully seek permission to build again, damaging the natural beauty of the area.

A spokesman for the Olympic Delivery Authority said that the temporary structure was required due to a lack of venues suitable for Paralympic basketball athletes within the required distance of the Olympic Park.

The Authority said they plan to remove the building within a month after the completion of the Games and to restore the land to its original state.

Statement by the save Leyton Marsh Group 
Published: April 04, 2012

The ODA claim they have "no option" but to take legal action against this peaceful protest in order to fulfil their obligations "to provide practice facilities for the Olympic and Paralympic athletes". This is fundamentally untrue. Eleven questions were put to them in December by a number of local councillors and still remain unanswered, including why the ODA chose not to utilize one of several alternative sites that would not require destroying this much loved green space.

Kelmscott Leisure Centre is less than 10 mins from Leyton Marsh with recently refurbished basketball courts suitable for disabled athletes, it will be shut for the duration of the Games. Walthamstow dog track is a disused brownfield site within 30 min of the Olympic park - specified as a requirement for the training facility. These both appear to be reasonable alternatives, but whether these sites were even considered has not been forthcoming despite requests for the selection process to be made available to the public.

Since planning permission was granted for these two huge 11m high 3 storey structure on Metropolitan Open Land, the ODA have refused to engage with local people and their very serious concerns relating not just to loss of green space but alarming health and safety irregularities arising from the construction. From the very beginning, local campaigners pointed out to the authorities concerned that Leyton Marsh was used for landfill and was known to contain unexploded bombs from WWII. Unsurprisingly work had to be halted during the first week of excavations when a bomb was discovered, workers were evacuated but not the surrounding area.

The ODA's own injunction mentions the discovery of asbestos on site, which is highly hazardous to health. Three of the five samples taken from the site survey prior to work commencing had such
high concentrations of lead that they constituted 'hazardous waste', it is therefore extremely troubling that the planning application sought to avoid an Environmental Impact Assessment by claiming that only 15 cm of topsoil would be removed. Ian Ansell from Waltham Forest planning department has confirmed that the ODA have already excavated to at least 50cm in breach of their planning permission. Mounds of exposed soil several metres high containing significant concentrations of rubble are piled all around the site.

Whilst Lea Valley Park Authority claim that they are concerned with unlawful use of their land and are "keen to safeguard Leyton Marsh", they saw fit to let the majority of Leyton Marsh for a huge construction project requiring significant concrete foundations, in the process destroying a habitat that has taken years to establish itself and in no way can be restored to its previous condition in October as claimed.

Why have the ODA and WFC failed to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment when excavating several feet deep into the marsh? Why have the ODA and WFC not published the restoration plan that was part of planning conditions? Why are the ODA and WFC committed to destroying protected public land when viable alternatives which provide legacy and regeneration benefits exist? These are the questions to which local residents and councillors want satisfactory answers...

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