Thousands oppose marshland ‘housing zone’

Huge support for campaign against building on Metropolitan Open Land

Leyton Marsh

Part of Leyton Marshes, adjacent to Waterworks Nature Reserve, where the council wants new homes built.

Thousands of people are opposing plans to build homes on Leyton Marshes.

A petition with 4,651 signatures was submitted to Waltham Forest Council on Tuesday 31st January by campaigners from the group Save Lea Marshes.

It follows revelations that Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA) intends to sell the marshland for housing development in order to fund its new ice rink which the authority wants to be the “best in the UK”.

The marshland in question is five acres, about the size of three football pitches. A visitor centre for the adjacent Waterworks Nature Reserve is the only building currently occupying the site.

Constructing homes on a site designated as Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) would contradict a pledge made in Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s election manifesto, in which he stated his intention to “strengthen protections for open spaces, including Metropolitan Open Land and nature reserves”.

The council has already won planning permission for one MOL site in the Lea Valley its plans for a new sports complex at Ive Farm were approved last month. Both that and the Leyton Marshes site form part of a new ‘vision’ called Lea Valley Eastside, which proposes building 4,500 new homes on a range of brown and greenfield sites between Leyton and Lea Bridge Road over the next decade.

Save Lea Marshes campaigners

Campaigners from Save Lea Marshes on the steps of Waltham Forest Town Hall after handing in their petition to the council

But the petition launched by campaign group Save Lea Marshes demands the marshes are protected “so they there for future generations to enjoy”.

Abigail Woodman, who launched the petition, said: “I am absolutely ecstatic that more than 4,000 people have signed the petition calling on Waltham Forest [Council] to scrap its plans to rezone parts of Leyton Marshes for housing.

“I have always believed that the marshes are well loved and that people will act to defend them so I’m not surprised, but I am overjoyed. Someone emailed me through the petition to remind me that local people saved the marshes back in the 1970s. He said we can do it again. And he’s absolutely right.”

Save Lea Marshes has demanded the petition be debated by a meeting of the full council. A council spokesperson said: “The Lea Valley Eastside vision is aspirational and we are actively seeking feedback to help shape our plans going forward. We will capture and review any comments made during the consultation process and use these to decide how the work is progressed, including whether any changes need to be made. If any planning applications are submitted this will offer further opportunities for residents to comment.

“The limited release of some Metropolitan Open Land is proposed and the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority has an aspiration to develop a major ice centre. It is also recognised that the park itself could be improved in terms of its accessibility, landscape and ecological value. In order to make these things happen some limited residential redevelopment is proposed on part of the Waterworks site.”

Although the Save Lea Marshes petition has now been handed into the council, signatures can still be submitted on the 38 Degrees website. It will be used to demonstrate the strength of opposition against both the council’s housing zone plan and LVRPA’s proposal to sell the land to fund its new ice centre.

An LVRPA spokesperson said: “We believe that releasing five acres of land for housing from the Waterworks Centre car park, building, frontage and part of its disused golf course could provide the majority of funds needed to build a new ice centre, as well as improve green space in the area through schemes which will have ecology and nature at their heart.

“Without this zoning and our ability to use the income from selling this land, we believe it would be very difficult – perhaps impossible – to redevelop Lee Valley Ice Centre to the level we feel is required.

“Like all public bodies we have to balance competing priorities and our board will need to weigh up the need to maintain and protect open land with, in the current public sector funding climate, how to raise money for new leisure facilities such as a new ice centre.”

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