Leyton News

East London Waterworks Park site deemed too ‘high risk’ by council

The council considered – but quickly discounted – the proposed site of volunteer-led swimming ponds for its own lido
By Victoria Munro

The former Thames Water Depot in Lea Bridge Road (credit: Jonathan Perugia)
The former Thames Water Depot in Lea Bridge Road (credit: Jonathan Perugia)

Waltham Forest Council considered building its new lido at the proposed site of the East London Waterworks Park but rejected it as too “high risk”, a new report reveals.

Yesterday, the council announced that Low Hall Sports Ground in Walthamstow had been chosen for the lido promised as part of the local Labour’s Party election manifesto this year.

Supporters of the East London Waterworks Park, a volunteer-led fundraiser to buy a disused depot in Leyton and create outdoor swimming ponds, have since questioned why the council is seemingly competing with the project. 

However, a report prepared for the council’s growth scrutiny committee next week, shows it considered building its lido at the same site but discounted it as too “high risk”.

Low Hall was chosen from a shortlist of 12 possible sites due to “its position at the centre of the borough, its excellent public transport and cycling links and its existing sports facilities”.

The former Thames Water Depot in Lea Bridge Road, which the East London Waterworks Park hopes to raise £3million to buy, was one of seven sites immediately discounted due to issues with “deliverability”.

The reasons given were the “timescales for acquiring the land and delivering”, the “significant” estimated cost of buying the site and challenges within the site, including “below ground constraints such as power tunnels and wayleaves” and “areas[…] designated as ‘No build’”.

Also discounted at this initial stage were: Chestnuts Field, Banbury Reservoir, Broadfields Sports Ground, Higham Hill Recreation Ground, St James Park and Walthamstow Leisure Centre.

The five sites given serious consideration by the council were Low Hall, Lloyd Park, Larkswood Playing Fields, Leyton Jubilee Park and Leytonstone Leisure Centre.

Responding to yesterday’s announcement, Conservative group leader Emma Best said her party were “disappointed but not surprised” that council leaders had discounted the only potential location in the north of the borough

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She said: “It is galling to see the Larkswood site, with its historic lido links, was discounted because there was insufficient public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure. 

“Yet, simultaneously this council is arguing it is acceptable to overdevelop the same site with towering blocks without parking because there are ‘good public transport links’.

“In terms of the Low Hall site selected, the proposal thus far poses more questions than it answers in terms of feasibility of delivery and impact. As a group we will be evaluating this further in order to provide helpful scrutiny as this proposal progresses.”

Other reasons given for discounting the Larkswood Site include the “very long lease” on the site, which would force the council to negotiate with a third party, and the “two leisure centres with pools next door, which would compete”. 

The report states the council felt building at Low Hall offered “a significant opportunity to regenerate an area of the borough[…] that has historically had underinvestment”, has “sufficient space” and “no nearby competing pools”. 

The report also notes that the surrounding neighbourhood is “also an area of significant housing growth, and this investment will improve the health and leisure infrastructure for new developments coming forwards”.

However, the ground is legally protected Metropolitan Open Land, meaning the council must demonstrate there are “special circumstances” to justify building on it. 

Speaking yesterday, council leader Grace Williams said: “Our ambition is to create a new health and leisure hub that will give a huge boost to the local economy as well as the potential new lido.

“We are determined to bring local people who use the current site with us if our vision for a new lido in the borough progresses. We hope to ensure everyone has the opportunity to enjoy outdoor swimming in the future.”

Responding to a request for comment, Abigail Woodman, chair of East London Waterworks Park, said: “East London Waterworks Park is working to buy and transform an industrial site into a brand new biodiverse park for Waltham Forest.

“The park will be owned by and run by the community, and access to the rain-fed natural swimming ponds and community spaces will be free.

“We are extremely proud of the widespread support the project has received so far, and that includes support from Waltham Forest Council.

“We will continue to raise money and develop the idea, and look forward to welcoming everyone to the park in the future.

The council’s proposed lido would form part of a “nature trail for Lea Bridge”, connecting the nature reserve on the ground to Walthamstow Marshes and the Wetlands.

A report seeking to “proceed with the vision and preferred location” for the lido will be put to council leaders for approval at a meeting on 1st December.

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