Lea Marshes End of Year Review: 2020

January: A quiet time for enjoying our marshes in peace, little did we know what was in store for 2020!

Scrub land and wildlife habitat adjacent to the current ice centre

February: In February, we first heard of plans to host a large scale commercial dance festival on the Waterworks Meadow. The licence was to be for three years; for the first year close 8,000 people were expected to squeeze into a small site next to the Waterworks Nature Reserve and 15,000 in subsequent years.

Waterworks Meadow

March: A community campaign against the Waterworks Festival began. The mobilisation quickly built momentum and film maker Sheridan Flynn produced a neat film capturing community sentiment against the festival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q18JkWxD79U&ab_channel=SaveLeaMarshes

Campaign image by artist Abigail Brown

April: We published the inspiring story of the Saving of Walthamstow Marshes by campaigner Mike Knowles: https://www.saveleamarshes.org.uk/2020/04/22/the-saving-of-the-walthamstow-marshes/

We prepared for the licensing hearing announced for the following month to decide the Waterworks Festival application.

The River Lea adjacent to the Waterworks

May: The licensing hearing for the Waterworks Festival took place and the Licensing Committee decided to refuse the festival, to the great relief of Save Lea Marshes and many local people who had worked very hard to oppose it. Particularly important in this refusal was the reference to the threat to the Schedule 1 wildlife at the neighboring Nature Reserve from loud amplified sound.

June: Plans for the development of the Gasworks site, adjacent to the Waterworks, were announced. The site is heavily contaminated with toxic materials so this planning application was of particular concern. We objected.

Despite the pandemic, large numbers of people were assembling on the Waterworks Meadow and swimming in the River Lea. Litter was a real problem and the rangers were overwhelmed.

July: Save Lea Marshes announced its crowdfunder to ‘Rewild the Waterworks Meadow‘.

The rationale was to commission a number of wildlife surveys of the area in order to collect vital ecological data, in order to safeguard the site from future inappropriate use and development, as well as design a rewilding program for the meadow.

Waterworks Meadow by Dee O’Connell

August: SLM did not have a quiet summer this year; we knew that the much delayed planning application for the new Olympic-size ice centre on Leyton Marsh was due to come to Waltham Forest Planning Committee anytime. We gathered together wide ranging and comprehensive objections to the plans and lobbied the Greater London Authority for a refusal of a over-development on protected Metropolitan Open Land (MOL).

Construction footprint of the new LVIC

September: We continued our campaign against the new ice centre, aware of the destruction the plan would bring, as well as further undermining of the land’s status as protected MOL. We continued to share our planning objections in a series of ‘Objections of the Week

October: We were delighted to reach our target for our ‘Rewild the Waterworks Meadow’ crowdfunder. Surveys had already begun in the summer and will be ongoing until June 2021, when our data will be collated and shared with the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and the public who funded the surveys.

Aware that the Planning Officer for Waltham Forest Council had recommended approval for the new double-size Lee Valley Ice Centre, we staged a socially distanced ‘Ghost Demo for Wildlife’ on site livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook Live. The demo was a protest for all the wildlife that would be displaced and lost by the construction of the facility and associated car park, for which part of the SINC, hedgerow and twenty mature trees would be destroyed.

November: The new ice centre received planning approval from Waltham Forest Council, much to our dismay and concern. Local wildlife enthusiast and one of our surveyors, the wonderful Ian Phillips produced this excellent short video detailing the likely impact on local species: https://www.saveleamarshes.org.uk/2020/11/08/my-thoughts-on-the-approval-of-the-new-lea-valley-ice-centre/

December: Just a few days after the Greater London Authority granted a unsatisfactory approval for the new ice centre, the LVRPA began destructive clearance works, putting wildlife that may have already gone into hibernation under threat and chopping down twenty mature trees on site.

It was a very sad sight to witness. On the day that no ecologist was on site as promised, there was a brave occupation of one of the iconic willows on Leyton Marsh.

Tree being felled behind ice centre
Tree occupation – for which three fire engines were called!

As soon as the clearance of the site was accomplished, a funfair moved on site, directly adjacent to the flattened area. It was dismantled before even opening due to the pandemic.

Not content with receiving approval for the new Olympic-sized ice centre on public land, the LVRPA published their intention to have the MOL boundaries altered so protected status is no longer conferred on this area.

The Authority are also lobbying for MOL status to be removed at the Waterworks car park and Waterworks Centre, for purposes of ‘development’ and ‘leisure’.

We will clearly have a busy 2021 too! Thank you for all your support, have a safe new year and keep posted here.

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My thoughts on the approval of the new Lea Valley Ice Centre

Ian Phillips has made this video about the impact of the new ice centre on wildlife.

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Ice centre decision

The decision to approve the new double-size ice centre on Leyton Marsh will be considered by the Mayor of London’s office. We thank Baroness Jenny Jones for writing this letter on behalf of our campaign.

To: john.finlayson@london.gov.uk

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb

House of Lords

Dear Mr Finlayson

Re: planning application 194162: Lee Valley Ice Centre, Lea Bridge Road, E10 7QL.

I am writing to object to this application being accepted and to ask that the GLA intervene on the basis that the proposed expanded ice centre represents inappropriate development on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) and that the applicant has failed to demonstrate that Very Special Circumstances exist sufficient to outweigh any harm to MOL.

The choice of site by the applicant fails to comply with the London Plan regarding transport – the Lea Bridge Road is a heavily congested single carriageway unsuitable for the increased usage that will result from this development. In addition,the applicant has not provided details of adequate mitigation measures in terms of biodiversity and urban greening.

This development represents an unacceptable loss of green space without good cause and contrary to good practice.

Best wishes,


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Halloween Ghost Demo for Wildlife

Saturday 31st October 2pm


Protest the decision to build a double-sized ice centre on Leyton Marsh!

Assemble: Lee Valley Ice Centre, E10 9QL

Obligatory: wear masks (ideally white or wildlife-themed). Strict social distancing of 2m at all times.
Optional: dress as a ghost to represent the wildlife that will lose their lives to development. Bring your own “ghost hedgehog”.
To watch the livestream via Facebook Live, Like and Follow our Save Lea Marshes Events Page here: https://www.facebook.com/Save-Lea-Marshes-Events-100825488499427/

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Council approves planning for ice centre development.

We are extremely disappointed by the decision to locate the new double-size ice centre on Leyton Marsh. The centre will have an unacceptable impact on the openness of our protected land. It will also destroy precious habitat, including for hedgehogs, a species at risk of extinction who are highly territorial and extremely difficult to re-locate.

Whilst the Authority and users of the ice centre may have made the case for a new ice facility, the case for Very Special Circumstances was not made. It was not proven that the facility needed to be on Leyton Marsh, which is adjacent to an SSSI and is accessed along a congested single-carriageway road. The new ice rink could have easily been accommodated on Eton Manor, at the Olympic Park, as part of a cluster of sporting venues where the transport connections are far better.

Local people will lose precious open space at a time when access to green spaces is more important than ever for health and well being. We will see mature trees chopped down and Leyton Marsh once again turned into a construction site. The construction will involve the excavation of contaminated land. Our thoughts are with the adjacent residents at Essex Wharf who will face increased pollution both during the construction phase and once the building is operational, particularly from traffic.

We were promised that the new building would not be extended any further onto Leyton Marsh by the LVRPA. This promise was broken. So whilst we will be working hard to make sure that the promised biodiversity measures are realised, we have valid reasons for distrusting the hyperbole with which the ‘enhancements’ and benefits to the local community are claimed.

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Objection of the week, no. 11

This objection is in response to one of the documents that the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority submitted to the Waltham Forest Planning Committee after the consultation period for the proposed new Ice Centre was supposed to have closed. It is written by Peter.

Further Objection to Planning Application 194162

Lee Valley Ice Centre, Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, London E10 7QL

23rd September 2020

Since my original objection to the planning application for a new ice centre on the Lea Bridge Road, some further documents have been submitted by the LVRPA (the applicant). I wish to object to one of these documents in particular, the Alternative Site Assessment Process Addendum.

This document sets out to explain why there is no possible alternative to the Lea Bridge Road site for the new Ice Centre. It does so by giving details of 59 alternative sites, all within the bounds of the Lea Valley Regional Park, together with the reasons why every one of these sites is deemed unacceptable.

False premise

It must be clearly understood that this whole exercise is based on a false premise. There is no requirement that the new ice centre needs to be located within the Regional Park. The 1966 Lee Valley Regional Park Act states, in section 15 clause 1:

The Authority may acquire by agreement, whether by way of purchase, lease or exchange, any land, whether within, or without the park, which they may require for the purpose of, or in connection with any of their functions. [my emphasis]

The “functions” mentioned here are those that enable to Authority to carry out its primary duty of

the development, improvement, preservation and management of the park as a place for the occupation of leisure, recreation, sport, games or amusements…

as explained in section 12 of the Act. In this conjunction, section 25 should also be noted:

Any land outside the park acquired by the Authority by virtue of this Act for the purposes of section 12 (General duty of park Authority) or section 13 (Ancillary powers of Authority) of this Act shall for the purposes of this Act be deemed to be part of the park.

So for this exercise to be useful, it should be based on a list of alternative sites covering a much wider area than the Regional Park.

Straw men

Most of the 59 alternative sites in the list are nothing more than straw men, whose sole purpose is to distract our attention from the shortcomings of the Lea Bridge site.

This is most obviously the case with the large number of sites that are too small. If a site’s total surface area is less than the total surface area that the new building will occupy then there is no point wasting our time in giving it any consideration.

Similarly, several of the sites contain listed buildings. One should like to hope that no one is seriously suggesting that it would be acceptable to demolish a listed building to make way for an ephemeral skating rink. On the one hand, it is reassuring that the Authority apparently agrees; on the other hand, it is depressing that the Authority should feel the need to say so explicitly.

A third category is of sites that consist entirely or almost entirely of major infrastructure, such as large road junctions, rivers, and even (in one case) half of the Olympic Stadium. Again, these sites are so obviously impractical that it is a waste of time even to consider them.

Inadequate information

As already mentioned, the overall area of a site must be greater than the total area that the new building would occupy for it to merit consideration. However, although this is a necessary condition, it is not a sufficient condition. The document states that the building’s area will be 7000m2. If a site is long and thin, it may still not be possible to fit the building into it even if its total area is sufficient. It will depend upon how the building is configured. The document states that each of the two rinks will measure 60m × 30m, so that in principle should determine how narrow the building could be made (say 40m). However, in none of the cases of a long and thin site (in other words, a site that is over 7000m2 in area, but is rejected because the building will not fit) does the document give any details of the site’s dimensions. So we cannot assess whether the rejection is justified: we must just take the Authority’s assessment on trust.

Other considerations

Once we have cleared away all of the statements of the bleeding obvious that are characteristic of the straw men, we are left with a number of other reasons for rejection that are very revealing of the LVRPA’s topsy-turvy reasoning, mainly concerned with local authorities’ land designations.

Several sites are rejected because they are on designated Open Space. The Lea Bridge Road site is on Metropolitan Open Land, which is a similar type of designation but much stronger. And yet it is the latter that the Authority wishes to put the new building on! Such double standards should not be countenanced.

More sites are rejected because they are in designated Industrial Areas. However, this is exactly the sort of area that would be most suitable for a large building like an Ice Centre. The design of the proposed new building was influenced by the design of the Ice Centre at Sheffield. If you use Google Earth to view the Sheffield Ice Centre (https://www.google.com/maps/@53.3998136,-1.4231941,666m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en-GB), you will see that, although there are some sporting facilities on one side of the building, the other side is characterized mainly by industrial premises (truck dealership, welding supplies, brewery services, to name just a few). This is a very different view from the view of the Lea Bridge Road site, surrounded as it is with green space on all sides.

However, the most common reason for rejecting sites is: “The site is a significant distance from the existing Lee Valley Ice Centre and therefore is likely to have poor accessibility to the existing user catchment.” This is tantamount to saying “This site is unacceptable because it is not the Lea Bridge Road site.” It just goes to show that the whole document is nothing more than an exercise in confirmation bias.

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Objection of the week no. 10

This series of objections to the LVRPA’s plans for the new Ice Centre was originally supposed to end a fortnight ago. However, although the LVRPA submitted its planning application last February, and the period for members of the public to submit comments ended last May, since then the LVRPA has added more and more documents to its submission. So, if the LVRPA is going to keep on adding documents, we shall keep on raising objections!

Further Submission in support of Objection to Planning Application 194162

Lee Valley Ice Centre Lea Bridge Road Leyton London E10 7QL

Dear Sirs,

Lee Valley Ice Centre

I am a member of Save Lea Marshes and I should like to make a further submission on the planning application for a new ice centre on Lea Bridge Road.

In the submission I made on 7th March, I disputed the accuracy of the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority’s description of its proposals for the Eton Manor site. The Park Authority submits in its Planning Statement that the Eton Manor site is not available for consideration for the replacement Ice Centre as it is reserved for facilities “associated” with the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre (LVHTC).

I am submitting the following further information to be considered in conjunction with the submission of 7th March:

  1. Through a Freedom of Information request I have obtained the invitation to developers issued by the Park Authority in July 2018 with respect to the Eton Manor site. See this document. In the light of the Park Authority’s submissions that the site is reserved for facilities “associated” with LVHTC I would ask the Council to note the statements in the invitation:

    Suitable for a number of alternative uses such as commercial / leisure (subject to planning)

    Conditional or unconditional offers invited for the freehold or leasehold interest

    The site is suitable for a range of different uses, subject to the receipt of the relevant permissions, the most complicit being identified as leisure, sports and hotel.

    It is clear that the Park Authority was willing to sell to the best offer, with uses not limited to facilities “associated” with LVHTC. We understand that that remains the case.

  2. At the meeting of the Park Authority’s Regeneration and Planning Committee held on 27th February it was resolved as follows:

    Area 1 ‘Development Platform’ Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre – the development platform should be removed from the brownfield habitat type and re-designated as white land or temporary landscape as with other areas for development. [See pages 3 to 5 of this document.]

    “Area 1” is the area on the eastern side of the Eton Manor site which the Park Authority has appraised, and rejected, as an alternative site for the Ice Centre.

I make the following submissions arising out of this further information.

The Park Authority’s assertion in its Planning Statement that Eton Manor is not available as an alternative site for the replacement Ice Centre is untrue

The further information in this submission underlines the fact that the Eton Manor Site, ruled out by the Park Authority in its Planning Statement as required for “associated” facilities for the LVHTC, is in fact being offered up for sale as a “Development Platform”.

We understand that the Park Authority has had discussions with one or more prospective developers about establishing a hotel + restaurant and gym at this site but a verbal report at the Park Authority’s AGM in June was made to the effect that no agreements had been made or were imminent.

The question whether the “Very Special Circumstances” exception relied upon by the Park Authority applies must be considered in the light of the availability of this alternative site, and possibly other alternative sites.

In their presentation to members of the Council’s planning committee, the Park Authority laid great stress upon the fact that there is no practical alternative to their building this facility on Green Belt or Metropolitan Open Land (MOL).

I feel confident that officers in their report to members will “look through” that submission and advise members that the question for them to decide is whether “very special circumstances” justify the building of the Ice Centre on this specific site.

The Eton Manor site is classified as MOL. It does not have the same ecological or strategic value as the Lea Bridge site and, as I pointed out in my earlier submission, in a recent assessment of MOL by the Council it was concluded:

[although] the whole parcel lies within the Lee Valley Regional Park… in isolation the parcel would not be considered MOL.

The Park Authority is clearly of the same opinion. It has identified the site as a “Development Platform” and is seeking to remove the site’s MOL designation.

It is clearly the case that in deciding whether to give consent to building the replacement Ice Centre at Lea Bridge regard should be had as to whether or not other sites within the Park are available.

The Park Authority should be required to disclose whether it is seeking to de-designate any other sites, currently classified as Green Belt or MOL.

I have noted the further Site Assessment document submitted by the Park Authority which commences as follows:

We have been asked by the Greater London Authority (GLA) to provide further detail on the alternative site assessment exercise that was undertaken to assess all areas of land within Lee Valley Regional Park that is not designated as Green Belt or Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) as part of the preparation of proposals for a replacement Lee Valley Ice Centre.

For completeness, this site assessment should include sites which are currently designated as Green Belt or MOL but which the Park Authority is seeking or planning to have de-designated.

I make this point with specific reference to the Eton Manor Site which I submit is a superior site for reasons outlined in my previous submission. I would also add, however, that the Park Authority have been taking steps to dispose of Green Belt Land at Rammey Marsh in Enfield. See pages 7 to 11 of this document.

We believe that there are other Green Belt/MOL sites which the Park Authority is planning to dispose of. A list of sites deemed “no longer required for Park Purposes” has been identified by the Authority’s Land and Property Working Group, but the Park Authority has resisted disclosure of these sites. Pages 43 to 52 of this document is a Park Authority paper presented to members setting out the Corporate Land and Property Strategy and the activities of the Land and Property Working Group. The Corporate Land and Property Strategy is now stated by the Park Authority to be one of the elements of its Park Plan for the purposes of Section 14 (2)(a) of the Lee Valley Regional park Act.

We are not sure whether the GLA has yet submitted its observations on the Park Authority’s application but the issues I have raised in this further submission are highly relevant to the alternative site assessment requested by the GLA and I ask that this further submission be shared with them. I would stress that this further submission should be considered in conjunction with my original submission.

With best regards

Laurie Elks


  1. Invitation to Developers re Eton Manor site issued by the Park Authority
  2. Minutes of the Park Authority’s Regeneration and Planning Committee 27th February 2020 (pages 3-5)
  3. Minutes of the Park Authority’s Executive Committee 21st June 2018 (pages 7-11)
  4. Park Authority Members Paper A/4237/17 dated 19th January 2017 setting out the Park Authority’s Corporate Land and Property Strategy (pages 43 to 52)
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Objection of the week, no. 9


By Celia Coram

Scale and Suitability

Why propose to put an industrial building on a site of Metropolitan Open Land?

Having carried out a Google search I could find no other ‘ice centre’ that is built on a similar open space.

Furthermore, the International Olympic Committee’s own guidelines for ice centres covering both ice skating and ice hockey states:

First consider the possibility of making use of derelict areas, brownfield sites, industrial wasteland, disused sites etc.

As Metropolitan Open Land (MOL), Leyton Marsh should not be chosen. The IOC guidance also recommends sites that promote sustainable transport, such as walking and cycling, over cars; and whilst the walking and cycling routes have improved along the Lea Bridge Road, it is still dominated by cars and not near main train or underground routes that do not require people from a distance to makie transfers. The Olympic site is far better connected to Essex and Hertfordshire where many non-local users of the current Ice Centre are said to hail from.

Looking at the updated list of photos on the Waltham Forest Planning Application portal that include impressions of the scale of the building, I am particularly concerned by the loss of view from the river towards Friends Bridge, which marks a big step change in the nature of the area. See “6DL Photographs & Photomontages 23 April” in https://planning.walthamforest.gov.uk/application-search#VIEW?RefType=APPPlanCase&KeyText=194162

For reference and comparison, here is an example of an “Olympic-sized twin pad” ice rink that is located on an industrial park in Sheffield:

The LVRPA claim that the proposed Leisure Centre will “open up” the area, when in fact it will do the opposite. During the lockdown, we have all seen a dramatic upsurge in usage of our green spaces for walking, cycling and outside relaxation, whilst leisure centres have remained uselessly shut. Green spaces have proved to be even more valuable for physical and mental health. We do not yet know how long this pandemic will persist or whether it will be replaced by a similar outbreak, in which case such leisure buildings will need to remain shut or have much reduced usage. (This will also have a significant impact on the income generation projections of the proposed building.)

The London Borough of Waltham Forest could be entranced by having an ‘Olympic standard’ facility in the borough. This however might be wish fulfilment rather than a planning issue. It comes at a time with a major pandemic which has been largely caused by environmental breaches and when we are all trying to reassess what we should do to best support the environment that sustains us, and I would ask that officers and members of the Planning Committee seriously consider these additional points when it comes to making recommendations and decisions about whether this industrial building should be placed on our vital Metropolitan Open Land.

Another concern is the use of gabions. These have been used extensively on the Olympic site and have not resulted in very much growth of vegetation. The current ice centre also had some of these blocks installed on the outside of the building during the 2012 “Olympic” spruce-up, and are similarly bare apart from ivy and brambles growing over the top of the blocks, not anything seeded in them. These add to the industrial look of any building rather than ameliorating it. Below are some examples of bare gabions on the Hackney Sports Centre and the Olympic site. These have been installed since at least 2012, and show no signs of vegetation or habitation apart from plants growing in the ground in front of them. The suggestion that their presence on the ice centre building will make it environmentally habitable and blend in with the surroundings is therefore extremely questionable.

Water Pollution

Whilst the LVRPA has gone to some lengths to present the Ice Centre as being as “state of the art” as possible in its design, including the use of reed filter beds to process the ice water from the proposed rink into the Oxbow, the suggestion that this will be beneficial is, in my view, questionable. Glycol (an anti-freeze) is used in ice rinks, and they are also marked up for hockey using toxic paint, so one wonders whether reed beds will be sufficient, particularly if there is a breakdown in equipment at any time. I can cite an example in Vancouver, where the University’s ice rink processing went wrong and ended up killing a lot of fish. See https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/ubc/loses-appeal-of-1-155million-fine-conviction-for-dumping-ammonia-into-fish-bearing-stream.

Even though ammonia and carbon dioxide are the main refrigerants of choice for the majority of today’s ice rinks, they have their attendant issues as well. For example, whereas ammonia may be a primary refrigerant, it is often utilized concurrently with brine to boost its cooling properties. In consequence the refrigerant has a high saline content, and so if leaked it can cause serious environmental damage. Furthermore, although ‘some rinks’ add salt to the water to keep them from freezing, most modern rinks now add ethylene glycol, a type of anti-freeze which is highly toxic. Again, its leakage would be harmful to the environment, poisoning living organisms, their habitats and ecosystems. See https://inhabitat.com/ice-rink-alternatives-and-their-environmental-impact/

Air pollution

Although there are health benefits from the exercise of ice skating, there are counter health arguments based on research regarding the health risks of the circulating air in ice and leisure centres resulting in serious respiratory diseases that have affected, for example, hockey players:

In enclosed ice areas, a primary source of indoor air concerns is the release of combustion pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM) into the indoor air from the exhausts of ice resurfacers. Combustion pollutants are produced whenever any fuel such as gasoline, propane or diesel is burned.

How does carbon monoxide exposure affect your health?

Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, mild headaches and may have longer term effects on your Health.

[The United States Protection Agency]

Numerous studies have established a link between long-term exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide and ultra-fine particulate matter generated at indoor rinks by gas, diesel and propane ice resurfacing machines and a high prevalence of respiratory problems, such as asthma, exercise induced bronchiospasm (EIB), peripheral airway inflammation and/or airway wall fibrosis among figure skaters, short-track speed skaters and ice hockey players. A 2004 study found levels of ultra-fine and fine particulate matter from hourly ice-resurfacing by so called ‘Zambonis’ and ice edgers at levels 20 times outside air levels.


Ice Centres, however well designed, are not carbon neutral and are not good examples of how to meet Climate Change initiatives. The London Borough of Waltham Forest’s own Climate Change guidelines should make it question whether it should have such a building, particularly sited on green space.

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Objection of the week no. 8

This is the final objection in our series of featured objections to the planning application for a new double-pad ice centre on Leyton Marsh. It is by Paul.

There is still time to object! You can use any of the points members of Save Lea Marshes have made in our individual objections – original submissions count for more so please write in your own words, if you have time. Simply email your objection to: dmconsultations@walthamforest.gov.uk

The current ice centre on Leyton Marsh, off Lea Bridge Road.

Application No. 194162: Lee Valley Ice Centre, Lea Bridge Road E10 7QL

I am objecting to this application.

  1. The application acknowledges that the proposed expanded ice centre is inappropriate development on Metropolitan Open Land. The applicants have failed to demonstrate that Very Special Circumstances exist sufficient to overcome the harm to MOL and the application should be refused.
  2. The application makes reference to the Harrow School sports hall appeal decision in support of its arguments. The special circumstances leading to the allowing of the Harrow School appeal cannot be applied to the application being determined here.
  3. Impact on MOL

  4. The location is in a sensitive extended stretch of the Lea Valley MOL extending along the north side of Lea Bridge Road between the Essex Wharf residential development to the west and the industrial area beyond the Flood Relief Channel 400m west. Though the existing ice centre is present as the sole inappropriate structure immediately visible from most viewpoints it is set well back from the road with a large open area in front.
  5. The Waltham Forest Focussed Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land Assessment (Nov 2019) confirms:
    The site does not adjoin the urban edge. Therefore, the redevelopment of the ice centre is likely to be incongruous within the wider open setting of the MOL and would have a significant impact on adjacent MOL, particularly to the north and south where MOL has the potential to become increasingly contained by the redevelopment of the site.
  6. Except for the apartment blocks of Essex Wharf, for whose planning consent the applicants sought Judicial Review on grounds of their impact on the open space of the Park, there are no other buildings the entire stretch of 1170m from the western boundary of North Millfields Park in Hackney to the Flood Relief Channel.
  7. The proposed structure’s footprint is 7029 sqm, twice that of the existing building at 3596sqm. The height is 11m, slightly less than the existing building. However due to the arched profile of the existing building the overall volume will increase by a factor of 2.4 .
  8. The substantially increased bulk of the building will by itself reduce openness from most viewpoints, but this is exacerbated by the positioning. Extending closer to the road and cycle and footpaths to the south and north will make its bulk visually more apparent. From any viewpoint on Lea Bridge Road the building will dominate the space to a much greater degree than the existing building, which sits 70m back from the road. In particular when coming over Lea Bridge and entering the borough from the west the new building will be prominent and highly visible, severely compromising the currently open aspect south of the ice centre. This is clearly apparent in the Massing Test outlines, P65 of Design and Access Statement.
  9. Policy

  10. The application claims incorrectly in the Planning Statement Executive Summary that an expanded ice centre is supported in current local planning policy:
    1.66 The proposals are also supported by the Park Authority’s planning documents, including the Regional Park’s ‘Park Development Framework’ and The Lea Bridge and Leyton Vision which was adopted by the Council in June 2017. These documents are relevant and significant material considerations in favour of the proposals in the ‘planning balance’.
  11. The contents of the Park Development Framework is not itself a material planning consideration in the determination of the Authority’s own applications. The LVR Park Act 1966 requires only that:
    14(2)(a) The local planning authorities shall from time to time include in their development plans or in any proposals for any alterations or additions to their development plans such part of the plan referred to in subsection (1) of this section or of any amendment to that plan as relates to their area.
  12. The current WF Local Plan does not include an expanded ice centre in the proposed location, and it is not included in the draft 2020 Plan.
  13. The Lea Bridge and Leyton Vision is not a planning document, and was not adopted into policy. The final consultation report of June 2017 makes clear:
    The Vision document is not a planning document and has little weight in planning terms. It is a high level vision of how the area could develop and change over the next 10 years. The Council has started work on reviewing the Local Plan and will be consulting on the Direction of Travel later in 2017. The Lea Bridge and Leyton Vision area will be taken forward as part of that review scheduled for adoption by 2020. Any planning applications which come forward earlier would have to be considered on their own merits against current adopted policies and the National Planning Policy Framework.
  14. The new WF Local Plan has not yet been adopted, furthermore the draft includes no specific reference or policy support for an expanded ice centre development at the proposed location.
  15. The applicant claims (PS 5.29) that a 2011 Court Order requires its Park Plan to be treated as if it were part of the Local Plan and given weight in determination of this application. However this Order was obtained in the context of the applicant’s opposition to a 3rd party planning application that would affect the Park. It is clear from S14 of the Park Act that the intention of this ‘very special arrangement’ (PS 5.30) is to protect the Park from negative impacts of development within or nearby, not to facilitate approval of its own planning applications regardless of conflict with MOL/Greenbelt policy.
  16. The Very Special Circumstances Considerations

    The Role of the Park Authority

  17. The application claims that the status and role of the applicant is a consideration contributing to Very Special Circumstances. It is asserted that it has a planning advantage simply by being the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority, implying that this application should be treated more favourably than an identical development in the same location submitted by a different applicant.
  18. The arguments on P33 of the Planning Statement are misleading and wrong in law.
  19. It is not correct that there is any planning precedent for the LVRPA receiving consent for inappropriate development on MOL, or that any planning decision has been influenced by this in determining VSCs. The Planning Statement says:
    9.2 The statutory remit of the Park Authority includes providing directly or indirectly, built facilities for leisure, recreation and sport. This has been previously recognised in the making of planning decisions, for example through the granting of planning permission for the current ice centre (LPA ref. 82/458) within MOL
  20. There is no evidence that the statutory remit of the Authority has explicitly influenced any planning decision in this way, indeed it has never previously sought permission for an inappropriate building on currently designated MOL. The permission for the existing ice centre was granted in 1982. However MOL did not receive the protection offered to Green Belt in planning policy until 1989, and Waltham Forest had not yet designated its areas of MOL at the time of the planning application.
  21. It continues:
    9.3 Building a replacement ice centre is fully consistent with the statutory remit of the Park Authority, its location within MOL does not change this. Indeed, since 95% of the Regional Park is designated as Green Belt and MOL, with the remaining 5% already developed or allocated for development, there is an implicit acknowledgement that some of the activities covered by the Park Act, which would otherwise be deemed ‘inappropriate’ in the Green Belt or MOL, are appropriate if being undertaken by the Park Authority.
  22. Firstly, building a replacement ice centre would be acceptable on MOL as the NPPF permits replacement of existing buildings which would otherwise be inappropriate provided they are no larger and with the same function. The application is not for a replacement, it is for a new building more than twice the size with additional functions (gymnasium). Most of the benefits ascribed to the proposed development would also apply to a more modest replacement ice center compliant with MOL policy.
  23. Secondly, the Lea Valley Regional Park Act 1966 explicitly prevents the Authority from exercising its remit in a way that contravenes planning policy. There is nothing to indicate that the Authority is entitled to special consideration. Sections 12 and 13 of the Act describe the duties and powers of the Authority. 13(9) reads:
    (9) Nothing in this or the last preceding section shall be con strued as excluding or limiting the application of any other enactment prohibiting, regulating or restricting the doing of any particular thing or as authorising the doing of that thing by or under agreements or arrangements made with the Authority except in accordance with the provisions of such other enactment.
  24. Thirdly, the Authority has an extremely broad remit and for over 50 years has exercised this in a way which did not conflict with planning policy. When the Park Act was drafted it was not envisaged that the Authority would choose to develop facilities that directly conflict with prevailing policy.
  25. The Need to Replace the Ice Centre

  26. The need for replacement of the existing facility, even if this were the most economical approach to maintaining it, should not be given any weight in evaluation of Very Special Circumstances since this could be achieved with no increase in the footprint of the building.
  27. A replacement building could be compliant with MOL policy were it not for the additional ice pad, and fitness centre which does not currently exist and is a further inappropriate use.
  28. The applicants have provided a considerable amount of information on evaluation of alternative locations and the Park Authority’s powers. This includes significant omissions and errors:
  29. The application asserts that a new ice centre could only be constructed within the existing Park boundaries. Planning Statement 2.7 says
    The list of activities and provisions that can be accommodated in the Regional Park relate to land within the Regional Park boundary.
    The alternative town centre locations evaluated in PS Appendix 1.9 states for each site
    Furthermore, it is outside of the Lea Valley Regional Park and could not be developed by the Park Authority.
  30. In fact the Park Act provides for the development of facilities on land outside the Park boundaries, so there should be no obstacle either acquiring land or entering into a partnership to develop a new ice center in an alternative appropriate location as part of a major town centre development:
    13(2) The Authority may enter into and carry into effect agree ments or arrangements with any company, body or person for the provision and maintenance by such company, body or person, whether within or outside the park, of any works, facilities, supplies or services which may be desirable for or in connection with the carrying into effect of any of the purposes of this Act and by any such agreement or arrangement may agree to defray or to make contributions towards expenses incurred by the company, body or person thereunder.
    Any land outside the park acquired by the Authority by virtue of this Act for the purposes of section 12 (General duty of Authority) or section 13 (Ancillary powers of Authority) of this Act shall for the purposes of this Act be deemed to be part of the park.
  31. The Qualitative Site Assessment of alternative sites owned by the applicant is inadequate and appears to have been deliberately weighted in favour of the existing ice centre location and against the more suitable location at Eton Manor (Appendix A of the Feasibility Report Phase 3 included in the Planning Statement).
  32. The applicant fails to disclose that it intends to develop a hotel with a gym and cafe on the Eton Manor site, has selected a developer and been involved in pre application discussions with the LPA.
  33. Delivering Community Benefits

  34. Preservation of MOL, particularly when it is accessible public green space and in such a significant location as the application site, has a great community benefit both as a general principle and in terms of the local function of the land and its contribution to well being.
  35. Any benefits claimed for doubling the size of the existing building at the expense of MOL, they will accrue to a very small percentage of the population while the benefits of openness are universally available and accessible and beneficial to the entire community.
  36. This should not be considered a special circumstance and given no weighting since community benefits would exist anyway regardless of whether the ice centre was located elsewhere or was redeveloped as a single pad, or if the site was returned to open green space. The Park itself was created to provide community benefits and any facility developed by the Authority would have benefits for some section of the community, as does open parkland.
  37. The applicant claims economic benefits (PS 11.61) with no supporting explanation or evidence of methodology. The assertion that there will be “An increase in visitor expenditure of £1.5m is expected in the local area each year” is questionable. If the number of visits doubled from the claimed present 279,000, every visit would need to mean a spend of £5.37 somewhere outside the venue; clearly wrong as the majority of visitors come straight to the venue and leave the area immediately afterward.
  38. Delivering Health Benefits

  39. As with community benefits, the application is misleading in focussing on particular health benefits of the proposal, since equal or greater benefits could be derived from development of alternative facilities on the application site which would be appropriate on MOL.
  40. Improving the quality of MOL

  41. Where there is an actual loss of MOL as a result of inappropriate development, this cannot be mitigated by ‘improvements to quality’ or wider landscaping works as described in the Planning Statement.
  42. Claimed biodiversity enhancements in particular should not be accorded any weight since an expectation of such enhancements is embedded in planning policy and applies to any development inter alia the London Plan
    development proposals should: wherever possible, make a positive contribution to the protection, enhancement, creation and management of biodiversity
  43. The landscaping and biodiversity works are clearly incidental to the building itself, could be undertaken without the replacement ice centre, and would presumably be provided as part of any alternative development on the site. It is not a ‘special circumstance’ but a generic mitigation unrelated to the substance of the development.
  44. Harrow School Appeal Decision

  45. The Secretary of State allowed an appeal against the directed refusal of permission for a new sports hall and science building at Harrow School, and in PS Section 8 the application claims that there are “many similarities between the Harrow School case and the proposals for the replacement ice centre.”
  46. There are also very significant differences. In weighing up the Very Special Circumstances case, the factors given greatest weight were educational need, community use and accordance with the Harrow School SPD. None of these apply to the present proposal:
  47. Educational need – this was relevant to the specific remit of the school, which is obliged to provide physical and science education. It also has geographical constraints for reasons of practicality and security. The Park Authority is not required to provide any specific type of sports facility. As a Regional body providing for the whole of London it can construct an ice centre anywhere it chooses and there is no necessity or public benefit in building it in the proposed location. This consideration therefore should have no weight in the case under consideration.
  48. Community use – the improved and enlarged school sports building was to be made available for extended periods for community use in a way that was not formerly possible and which the school is not obliged to do. The Park Authority is a public authority whose purpose is to provide publicly accessible community facilities. If this application were refused, community benefits would continue to be provided by a replacement compliant with MOL policy.
  49. School SPD (accorded substantial weight) – Supplementary Planning Documents augment Local Plans and can be a material consideration in planning decisions. The proposed ice centre is not supported by any adopted planning policy document. The Park Authority’s own Park Plan is not itself capable of being a material planning consideration in support of its own applications.

Paul Charman

Posted in Ice Centre | Tagged , | Comments Off on Objection of the week no. 8

Objection no. 7

This objection was written by Abi on 1st March, before the licence application for the Waterworks Festival was refused by Waltham Forest Council. It covers the issues of land contamination, biodiversity, Metropolitan Open Land and community involvement:

Development Management
London Borough of Waltham Forest
The Magistrates
1 Farnan Avenue
London, E17 4NX
By email: dmconsultations@walthamforest.gov.uk

To whom it may concern,

Lea Valley Ice Centre, Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, London, E10 7QL. Application ID: 194162

I wish to object to the planning application 194162 to build an ice centre on Lea Bridge Road. My objection centres on the fact that the proposal constitutes inappropriate development on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) and the applicant has not made out the case for ‘very special circumstances’ to outweigh the harm to MOL. I have also made comments about biodiversity, contaminated land and community involvement.

Metropolitan Open Land

The site of the proposed ice centre is MOL and it is settled law that MOL has the same protections in law as Green Belt. Section 143 of The National Planning Policy Framework (2019) states that, ‘Inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances.’

Local authorities are directed, at Section 145 of the NPPF, to regard the construction of new buildings as inappropriate in Green Belt except in a number of exceptional circumstances. The proposed development does not meet the requirements of any one of the exceptions and is, therefore, inappropriate development on Green Belt. In order to persuade the planning authority to grant planning permission, the applicant must, therefore, prove that ‘very special circumstances’ exist. It does not and the proposed development is consequently contrary to the NPPF, as well as Policy 7.17 of the London Plan, Policies G2, G3 and G4 of the Draft London Plan, Policy CS5 of the Waltham Forest Local Plan and Policy 84 of the Draft Waltham Forest Local Plan. The application must, as a result, be denied.

The applicant, the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVPRA), advances numerous reasons why ‘very special circumstances’ exist. It argues that a number of ordinary factors can combine to create ‘very special circumstances’ and suggests that the circumstances it has cobbled together can indeed to be considered ‘very special’. While it is true that Sullivan J did say, in R (Basildon District Council) v First Secretary of State and Temple [2004] EWHC (Admin) 2759 at paragraph 17, that ‘… in planning, as in ordinary life, a number of ordinary factors may when combined together result in something very special’, he went on to say that whether ‘any particular combination amounts to a very special circumstances […] will be a matter for the planning judgement of the decision-taker.’ A number of circumstances cannot automatically combine to create ‘very special circumstances’. It is therefore relevant to look at each circumstance in turn to evaluate its significance and in order to see if, collectively, the circumstances can be considered special enough to outweigh the harm to MOL.

The LVRPA argues that Waltham Forest Council should use the Harrow School decision (PINS ref: APP/M5450/W/18/3208434) as a blueprint for deciding this planning application. It suggests that the relevance of the circumstances put forward in the Harrow School case are on all fours with the circumstances it puts forward, and it suggests that the same weight given to a circumstance by the Planning Inspector in the Harrow School decision should be given to a corresponding circumstance in this decision. This approach is, however, at odds with the unique nature of a decision as to whether there are very special circumstances to outweigh the harm to Metropolitan Open Land: ‘very special circumstance’ is not, by its very nature, something that can be replicated in other places. It also completely ignores the fundamental difference between the MOL at Harrow School and the MOL around the Lee Valley Ice Centre: the former is part of a private institution from which the public are largely barred and the latter is situated within publicly accessible open green space. The relevance of a circumstance and whether it can be joined with other circumstances to create ‘very special circumstances’ is a matter for the planning judgement of the decision-taker in the local context. Furthermore, if the Harrow School decision is used as a blueprint for this decision, as the applicant desires, this application would be creating criteria against which all future applications to build on MOL would be judged, something legislators and have been circumspect about avoiding in order to allow decisions to be made on their own merit in order to protect MOL from development.

The circumstances are as follows:

  1. The LVRPA argues that that the Lee Valley Regional Park Act (1966) gives it powers to build within the Park and, given that 95% of the Park is Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land, it has automatically been given the power to build on Metropolitan Open Land. This is deeply problematic. It suggests that the LVRPA believes it is immune from subsequent legislation designed to curtail precisely what it wants to do, namely disappear valuable open green space. It also flies in the face of Abercrombie’s vision of the green and blue open spaces of the Lea Valley joined together to form a ‘great regional reservation’, which the LVRPA often uses to justify its existence.
  1. The LVRPA adopts a similar approach when it argues that the fact that Waltham Forest Council is obligated to treat the Park Development Framework as if it were included within its development plan in any planning determinations effectively means it can make planning decisions about its own land. The Park Development Framework makes scant reference to the ice centre, saying just, ‘options for an additional ice pad and the expansion of sporting and leisure use of the Ice Centre to be explored’. There is absolutely no analysis about the ‘very special circumstances’ that must be satisfied before a new ice centre could be built and no discussion of how big a new ice centre would be. The plans now put forward to Waltham Forest Council must be addressed on their own merit and the only body with the powers to decide whether or not the ‘very special circumstances’ exist is Waltham Forest Council.
  1. The LVRPA argues that the need to replace the existing ice centre which was built on MOL is justification for building on more MOL. Yet, the ice centre and surrounding land was only designated as MOL in 1989, seven years after the ice centre was built. Both Waltham Forest Council’s ‘Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land Review’ and the ‘Waltham Forest Focussed Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land Assessment’ acknowledge that the current ice centre is inappropriate development and it is unlikely that the current ice centre would have been built if a planning application was being brought forward now. The applicant might be able to argue for a new building of the same size, but a building twice the size is wholly inappropriate and would erode the openness of MOL. Although the applicant argues vociferously that this is the only site where a new ice centre can be built, local people do not agree. In fact, Waltham Forest Council’s ‘Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land Review’ goes so far as to say, at paragraph 5.16, that ‘it supports such relocation as this would provide an opportunity to rationalise the land uses in MOL3 and enhance the sense of openness, particularly views north-south along the Lea Valley’.
  1. The LVRPA argues that the need to develop MOL to provide ice skating for paying customers outweighs the need to protect MOL to provide green open space for people to enjoy informally and for free. I can see why it would, as an organisation, place a higher value on revenue-generating activities, but the need to make money is in no way special and cannot be, or contribute towards, a ‘very special circumstance’.
  1. The LVRPA argues that the community benefits provided by the current ice centre will be lost if it cannot be replaced. Notwithstanding the point that there are more appropriate sites for the ice centre in the vicinity, the LVRPA is essentially arguing that the need to develop MOL to provide ice skating for a proportionally small number of paying customers outweighs the need to protect MOL to provide green open space for many more people to enjoy informally and for free. It argues that a new ice centre will promote community cohesion, ignoring the impact of the development on those living nearby and disenfranchising the increasing number of people who value nature above all things. While there is community value in sporting facilities, community benefits are a reason for building a new ice centre and not a justification for building a new ice centre at this location.

If the LVRPA really believed in the social mission they are describing for the ice centre, there would already be programmes in place to, for example, bring underachieving young people at risk of involvement in anti-social behaviour into the centre or enable young people with disabilities to skate. Yet all the programmes the LVRPA describes are happening elsewhere. A case for ‘very special circumstances’ cannot be made by failing for a long time to do something and then arguing that a new building will miraculously enable you to fulfil your social obligations.

Furthermore, the LVRPA argues that ‘the report finds that due to the provision of greater links to the surrounding open spaces, the community are more likely to use these and enjoy the wellbeing benefits of using open space’. This suggests that the LVRPA will actually improve people’s ability to access open green space when the ice centre is built, which is patently untrue. For example, the LVRPA claims that ‘public access through the site from Lea Bridge Road to Walthamstow Marshes is relatively restricted’ (‘Landscaping details’, documents 6DF). Yet it is extremely easy to walk from Lea Bridge Road to Walthamstow Marshes along a path to the west of the current ice centre, a route that will not be significantly changed if the development proceeds. It is also extremely easy to walk from Lea Bridge Road to Walthamstow Marshes across open grassland to the east of the current ice centre, a route that will disappear under the curtilage of the new building if the development goes ahead. Building on MOL to double the size of the ice centre will not improve access to open green space.

  1. The LVRPA talks a lot about the health benefits of ice skating, but it fails to mention the mental health and physical health benefits of being out in nature, exploring open green space on foot and by bicycle. According to Sport England’s Active Lives Adult Survey May 18/19, walking for leisure is the most popular physical activity amongst adults, with 19.7 million adults walking at least twice a month. It is also growing in popularity, with 514,000 more people walking at least twice a month in May 18/19 than in May 17/18. If the new ice centre – which at 7029 square metres is almost double the size of the existing building – was built, open green space will be lost and the people who do not want to ice skate will be disenfranchised. A bigger ice centre might improve the physical and mental health of the few that use it, but it will bring immeasurable harm to everyone else.
  1. It is difficult to know how to describe the LVRPA’s argument that building on MOL will improve MOL. It is both bizarre and ludicrous and must be rejected out of hand.

The new building will probably look nicer than the current building, but it will be much, much bigger. It will eat into Porter’s Field, Leyton Marsh (something, incidentally, the LVRPA formally promised local people it would never do when it first started talking about the development) and it will continue the urbanisation of this stretch of Lea Bridge Road. The LVRPA even goes so far as to say that ‘the scheme will increase the townscape of this part of Lea Bridge Road’ (‘Planning statement’ (documents 6DN)). It is simply impossible to argue that increasing the townscape justifies the development when it runs entirely contrary to the concept of appropriate development on MOL (paragraph 7.56 of the London Plan states that, ‘Appropriate development should be limited to small scale structures to support outdoor open space uses and minimise any adverse impact on the openness of MOL.’).

The LVRPA has, as it tells us many times, been running the ice centre for 38 years. In all that time, it has resisted the considerable efforts of many local people who have lobbied for landscape and biodiversity improvements. It has neglected the area and is now using that neglect to justify developing MOL. I would go so far as to argue that this is not just not ‘a very special circumstance’, it is also a reason why the LVRPA’s promises to improve the landscape and biodiversity after they have their new ice centre cannot be trusted.

I will use just one example to illustrate how wary local people are of the LVRPA’s promises. The applicant provides a table in its ‘Planning statement’ (documents 6DN) that contains a breakdown of the ecological interventions it will be carrying out outside the red line boundary of the current application. This has been provided in response to Waltham Forest Council’s request for information on landscape enhancements that could be delivered to ‘mitigate’ the impact of the development. In that table, the LVRPA says that it will provide an outdoor education area, an additional grazing program, additional tree planting and a new Kingfisher nest bank in the Waterworks Nature Reserve. Kingfishers are a Schedule 1 species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1982 and any efforts to encourage them should be welcomed. Yet, the LVRPA has rented the land that abuts the Waterworks Nature Reserve to the Waterworks Festival, a company that wants to hold a festival on the site each year; a festival that promises ticketholders that it will ‘deliver the volume and sound pressure proper dance music deserves’ and tells them that ‘we are confident of levels that are unparalleled in east London’. On the one hand the LVRPA is using efforts to encourage Kingfishers to bolster its environmental credentials, and on the other it is intending to commit an offence under Section 1 (5) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1982 by intentionally disturbing a wild bird included in Schedule 1 of the Act.

  1. The LVRPA argues that the proposed site is the only site the ice centre can be built. However, the Eton Manor site is far more suitable and this is echoed by Waltham Forest Council’s ‘Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land Review’ which says, at paragraph 5.16, that ‘it supports such relocation as this would provide an opportunity to rationalise the land uses in MOL3 and enhance the sense of openness, particularly views north-south along the Lea Valley’.

The LVRPA compared a number of sites in 2015 and used the resulting scoring matrix to justify choosing the proposed site for the new ice centre (the scoring matrix has since been updated, in 2019, but since the decision to select the current site was made in 2016 this additional effort seems moot). Save Lea Marshes analysed the methodology behind the scoring matrix and found it seriously wanting (see https://saveleytonmarsh.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/leyton-marsh-is-their-no-1-choice-but-do-the-numbers-add-up/), which calls into question the validity of the decision made using it. Additionally, it fails to evaluate the relative impact of a development on the openness of Green Belt/MOL at each site when this is the fundamental question on which any application rests.

Furthermore, we know that the LVRPA has been in discussions with the London Legacy Development Corporation for some considerable time about building a hotel on the Eton Manor site (precisely how long is difficult to determine, as the discussions seem unnecessarily shrouded in secrecy). With this in mind, it does not seem unreasonable to conclude that the primary reason the LVRPA does not want to build a new ice centre at Eton Manor is because it wants to build both a hotel and an ice centre on MOL within Waltham Forest.

I will use just one example to illustrate how the evidence collected during the exercise to compare the sites appears to have been used to deliver an unfavourable outcome for the Eton Manor site and a favourable outcome for the current site. In the ‘Planning statement’ (documents 6DN), one of the reasons for downplaying the suitability of the Eton Manor site is that the ice centre would be within the blast zone of the hydrogen fuel cell at the nearby TFL bus depot. Consequently, the current site – which is not affected by a blast zone – is judged more favourably. Yet, its questionable how seriously the LVRPA ever took the risks presented by this blast zone given it is now proposing people spend the night at a hotel within the self-same blast zone.

The LVRPA states that, ‘the VSC case and the benefits that will accrue as a result of the development of the replacement ice centre will clearly outweigh the harm to MOL’ (my emphasis). Yet there is nothing ‘clear’ about their case. Most of the circumstances the LVRPA has advanced are not reasons why the ice centre should be built on MOL that can contribute towards ‘very special circumstances’. Many of them, in the LVRPA’s own words, are benefits that will accrue if the development goes ahead. The only circumstance that should be considered is the fact that the current ice centre will need to close if the development does not go ahead. The LVRPA argues that this means that the community will lose a sporting venue and all the benefits that go alongside it, but this is only the case if the LVRPA decides not to pursue another site for a larger ice centre. At this point, the LVRPA is claiming that there is no other site but this is not true; the Eton Manor site is a viable alternative. Consequently, the fact that the current ice centre will close is not sufficient to outweigh the harm to MOL. The LVRPA has not made a case for ‘very special circumstances’ and the application should be denied.


The ‘Biodiversity survey and report’ (document 6D3) states that the development will provide more than the required 10% net gain in biodiversity. If the development goes ahead this should, of course, be welcomed. However, the ecological enhancements the applicant is proposing in the ‘Design and access statement’ (documents 6D7) are not dependent on the development. They could – indeed should – have been done anyway and the LVRPA should be challenged on its fitness to manage the site in the future given its poor record to date. That the site currently supports ‘largely common habitats of generally low ecological value’ (‘Design and access statement’ (documents 6D7)) is the fault of the LVRPA, no one else. Furthermore, the development will displace one of our country’s most iconic species.

Hedgehogs are a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and a series of species of principal importance under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. Data gathered during a survey carried out with the LVRPA in October 2016 proves that hedgehogs have made the strip of land behind the ice centre, where the mown grass meets dense scrub and trees, their home. Subsequent anecdotal evidence from dog walkers supports this evidence. This is land that will disappear inside the curtilage of the proposed development. The hedgehog population in the UK is under increasing pressure, with surveys by citizen scientists in 2018 showing that hedgehog numbers have fallen by about 50% since the turn of the century (www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/pdf/sobh-2018.pdf). Attempts to relocate hedgehogs away from the proposed site of a car park for HS2 and further into Regent’s Park have failed, demonstrating how territorial hedgehogs are (www.royalparks.org.uk/managing-the-parks/conservation-and-improvement-projects/hedgehogs/hedgehog-research-reports). These two facts combine to demonstrate that the proposed development will result in the eradication of hedgehogs from this part of Leyton Marsh.

The applicant states that 20 trees and 184 square metres of scrub vegetation will be destroyed to make way for the development. While the applicant undertakes, in their plans, to plant 140 additional trees it is important to recognise that mature trees cannot be replaced by smaller trees that will struggle to establish and reach maturity because of the engineered surfaces around them.

Significantly, the architect and landscape architect employed by the applicant admit that it is nigh on impossible to find a way to ensure the plans they develop – whether they be biodiversity plans, low carbon plans, plans to use responsibly-sourced recycled materials during the build or plans to limit noise and light – are implemented in full. Any benefits described by the applicants are possible future benefits, possible future benefits that might not materialise, and they come at a cost to existing wildlife and to the local community. If the development were to be granted permission, it would be critical that robust long-term planning conditions were put in place to ensure the LVRPA keeps to its biodiversity promises given the way they have let the site deteriorate up till now. Similarly, it would be important that strong planning conditions were put in place to ensure the low-carbon, environmentally-sensitive design and build criteria that minimise light and noise pollution are not watered down by the contractor during the build.

Contaminated land

Many people enjoy spending time in open green space throughout the year and Porter’s Field, Leyton Marsh, adjacent to the site, is particularly well used by people of all ages. Given this, it is concerning that the ‘Land contamination assessment’ (documents 6DD) does not contain a category that encompasses these people. It states that there is a high risk of illness caused by ingestion, dermal contact and inhalation of asbestos fibres and dust during construction, and a high risk of onsite sources of contamination leaching through surface permeable soils and harming construction workers. Surely people walking close to the site during construction will be exposed to as much risk as construction workers? But, while risk to construction works can be mitigated from high to moderate with the appropriate use of PPE and implementation of CDM regulations, what happens to those using the area informally to walk their dogs and play football? How are they going to be protected?

This issue is of particularly concern to local people given the cavalier way the Olympic Delivery Authority, working on the applicant’s land and with the applicant’s oversight, managed the very same situation when the temporary basketball training centre was built on Porter’s Field in 2012. Huge piles of contaminated soil were left uncovered for weeks, and the risks to health were constantly underplayed. This must not happen again. If the development were to be granted permission, it would be critical that robust planning conditions were put in place to protect everyone in the vicinity of the building site from harm.

If the development were to be granted permission, planning conditions should also be put in place that ensure the applicant not only monitors groundwater and gas throughout the build phase, but has a plan in place to fully mitigate any adverse effects of contamination quickly. The LVRPA, in part, justifies this development with reference to the increase in biodiversity they claim will result. This will mean little if the development has caused significant damage to the environment as it is being built.

Community involvement

It is not clear how far the wishes of local people factor into planning decisions. However, the applicant has gone to great lengths to explain how it has consulted with the community about its plans and it claims that the feedback it has received has been positive. Yet, this is questionable for several reasons:

  1. The engagement was skewed towards ice centre users: It is much easier for the applicant to reach individuals who use its facilities and they are more likely to be positive about new facilities. In contrast, those who oppose the plans are more diffuse, harder to reach and are usually represented by local organisations. Detailed criticisms produced by one local organisation representing hundreds of people is counted as one voice opposing the plan, while a tick box questionnaire completed in minutes by hundreds of ice centre users as they pass through the door is counted as hundreds of voices.
  2. The questionnaires were designed to collect data that would result in a positive response to the plans: Despite the impression given by the few questions included in the report, the questionnaires focused on asking people if they would like particular aspects of the development. It did not ask them their opinion on negative aspects of the development, such as loss of open green space, and it did not give people space to articulate their concerns.

It should also be noted that the ‘Statement of community involvement’ (documents 6DQ) misrepresents the view of Save Lea Marshes. It states:

Local community group, Save Lea Marshes (SLM) […] raised concerns about several areas, including: […] the impact of increasing car parking on site and how this would affect congestion, traffic and pollution. They added that it made more sense to spread sporting venues across an area to encourage users to travel to different places and avoid the concentration of traffic in one location.

In fact, what we said was almost the opposite. When examining the LVRPA’s objections to building the ice centre at the Eton Manor site we referred to the following argument made by the LVRPA:

the Eton Manor site currently has 140 parking spaces which are all needed at evenings and weekends; they will become a premium as the centre develops its programme. A new twin pad ice centre will need circa 220 parking spaces but there is insufficient space to accommodate this amount of ‘onsite parking’. Even if additional space could be found it is unlikely that the London Legacy Development Corporation would agree to this land being used because of their policy of traffic restraint.

And responded as follows:

Waltham Forest Council also have a policy of traffic restraint and the current proposal for the new ice centre appears to suggest that the existing 140 car parking places at the LVIC will be retained or reduced, so the LVRPA’s previous requirements for car parking spaces have been downgraded and there is parity between the number of spaces available at Eton Manor and the number of spaces available at Lea Bridge Road. The LVRPA should not be undertaking activities that increase car usage anywhere and, consequently, it makes sense to cluster sporting venues at a sporting campus rather than spread them out and encourage more people to travel down the already crowded and polluted Lea Bridge Road. Major events at more than one of the venues at the same time are also likely to be very rare, so the perceived pressure on the existing spaces at Eton Manor is unlikely to materialise.

These issues are raised in part to put the record straight, but also to illustrate how the company carrying out the market research on behalf of the LVRPA has interpreted the information it received in such a way as to project an image of local support for the project. If the market research had been carried out by a neutral organisation that was not being paid by the applicant, the findings may have been very different.

With best wishes
Abigail Woodman
Save Lea Marshes

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