Music festival threatens nature reserve

Leyton Marsh
Part of Leyton Marsh where organisers want Waterwoks Festival to take place

The bid to stage a music festival on Leyton Marsh is just the latest threat faced by this part of the Lea Valley, writes Henry Anderson

Is a meadow next to a unique nature reserve the best place to host a festival boasting of “unparalleled volume and sound pressure”?

Bosses in charge of the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA) seem to think so, having supported an application for a 15,000-person festival submitted by a newly-formed company, Waterworks Events Ltd. The adjacent Waterworks Nature Reserve is home to at least four species of bird that are protected in law, as well as dragonflies, owls and weasels.

Despite event organisers promising that “unparalleled volume” doesn’t mean playing “as loudly as possible”, angry locals believe loud music and crowds of punters will inevitably disturb one of the few safe spaces for wildlife in East London. They are encouraging residents to submit objections to Waltham Forest Council before the deadline on Tuesday 10th March, ahead of a final decision over whether or not to grant a licence for the proposed one-day festival.

This is just the latest example of private events companies and developers wanting to encroach on public green spaces across the UK, taking advantage of cash-strapped councils hunting for new sources of income after years of cuts. Haringey Council has come under fire for allowing repeated festivals on Finsbury Park, while research by The Guardian found Hackney Council was one of the worst offenders for closing off parts of public parks for private events.

Waltham Forest Council itself proposed designating this part of Leyton Marshes for housing in 2017 – but backed down after significant local protest. LVRPA was also previously been accused of wanting to slice off sections of East London’s ‘green lung’, with locals setting up campaign group Save Lea Marshes to oppose the construction of a basketball court on Leyton Marsh ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games. They continue to oppose the park authority’s plans for a new, much larger ice centre in Lea Bridge Road.

Now, LVRPA is backing a festival that could threaten one of the last wild spaces just a few miles from central London. Caroline Day, from Save Lea Marshes, wants the organisers to think again. She says: “We’re not opposing music festivals per se, but we are opposing this particular festival because of its location.

“It’s an extremely sensitive location, directly adjacent to a nature reserve with many red-listed species. There are even some red-listed endangered species on the site where the festival will be.

“We ask them to think again – just relocate.”

Caroline believes if councillors let the festival go ahead it would fly in the face of the council’s ‘climate emergency’ declaration last year.

“Many once common species are now endangered, and that’s a real wake-up call,” she adds. “If we can’t protect the ones that are in a nature reserve, where can we protect species?”

Stephen Ayers, a local nature enthusiast and tour guide, claims the event organisers are ignoring the impact it will have. He said: “Waterworks Events Ltd and LVRPA are aware of the wildlife issues and they just don’t care, they just want to make money out of the land.”

To comment on the licence application (reference WAT1613773) submitted by Waterworks Events Ltd:
Email licensing@walthamforest.gov.uk

A public meeting to discuss Waterworks Festival is taking place at Lea Valley Ice Centre on Wednesday 4th March at 6.30pm. To register your attendance:
Email
 info@waterworksfestival.co.uk