In the pocket of developers

Residents protest against the felling of trees at Orient Way Pocket Park (credit Karl Weiss)
Residents protest against the felling of trees at Orient Way Pocket Park (credit Karl Weiss)

Claire Weiss from Love Lea Bridge is campaigning to save a pocket park

Orient Way Pocket Park is a classic example of good use being put to a piece of former brownfield land.

Thirteen years after its creation, however, Waltham Forest Council has invited developers to come up with proposals to clear this green space, together with around a hundred trees, and erect a ten-storey building in its place.

In the meantime developers Hill and Peabody have almost completed the ‘Motion’ housing estate directly opposite the pocket park. You would think that the new residents who start to move into their small flats this year might benefit from the breathing space of a nearby park?

Sadly the council doesn’t see it that way. Even worse, ignoring the impact of Motion’s tower blocks on the traffic-saturated and polluted crossroads of Argall Way, Lea Bridge Road and Orient Way, the council has set out proposals for another massive 22-storey development at the entrance to Lea Bridge Station.

The land opposite Motion was originally used as a gasworks. After gas was no longer manufactured there, the ground was left to waste for several decades. Orient Way was built in the early 2000s and part of the settlement agreed with residents in the Elm Park and Perth Road area back then was for an open space to create a buffer against the noise and pollution of this newly designated freight road.

The resulting pocket park was pleasingly designed with grassy mounds, trees, walkways and benches. Horrifyingly, it is now proposed to be flattened and concreted. Even more alarmingly, the council has purchased an adjacent strip of land from a private landowner to enlarge the area available for development, thus compounding the violation of our environment.

Many people are now thinking more deeply about the wisdom of obliterating open space and asking whether such solutions to the housing crisis will only create further problems. The council itself has recently declared a ‘climate emergency’ and has also won government funding for four new pocket parks in the borough. But it has failed to explain how demolishing an existing pocket park can be a credible strategy, particularly since this area is in a high-risk flood plain.

The council’s clumsy handling of preparation works for this seriously-mistaken project – when they almost sent contractors to fell trees during the nesting season – has galvanised residents and local people into defending the Orient Way Pocket Park not just by protesting and lobbying the council but by taking steps to reclaim our park and improve it. Three symbolic plantings of bushes and a tree have taken place and other informal activities are planned for this summer.

To get involved with the Love Lea Bridge action group:
Email [email protected]