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.
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.
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 join livestream: email email@example.com with your name, and tell us what Leyton Marsh means to you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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://firstname.lastname@example.org,-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.
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
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:
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.
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.
FURTHER REASONS FOR NOT SITING ICE CENTRE ON LEYTON MARSH
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.
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.
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/
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.
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: email@example.com
Application No. 194162: Lee Valley Ice Centre, Lea Bridge Road E10 7QL
I am objecting to this application.
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.
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.
Impact on MOL
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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Very Special Circumstances Considerations
The Role of the Park Authority
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.
The arguments on P33 of the Planning Statement are misleading and wrong in law.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Need to Replace the Ice Centre
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
Delivering Community Benefits
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.
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.
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.
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.
Delivering Health Benefits
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.
Improving the quality of MOL
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.
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
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.
Harrow School Appeal Decision
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.”
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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  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:
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.
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.
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’.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Objection number six is from Laurie. He explores in detail how the new ice centre will be inappropriate development on Metropolitan Open Land and why a new facility would be better situated elsewhere in the Lee Valley Park:
I wish to object to the planning application for a new ice centre on the Lea Bridge Road and set out my grounds below.
A. The proposed new twin pad Ice centre constitutes Inappropriate Development for the purposes of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
The following matters constitute common ground between Save Lea Marshes (hereafter “SLM”):
Relevant Provisions of National Planning Policy Framework (“NPPF”)
The following provisions of NPPF are engaged by this application:
143. Inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances.
144. When considering any planning application, local planning authorities should ensure that substantial weight is given to any harm to the Green Belt. ‘Very special circumstances’ will not exist unless the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm resulting from the proposal, is clearly outweighed by other considerations.
145. A local planning authority should regard the construction of new buildings as inappropriate in the Green Belt. Exceptions to this are:
d) the replacement of a building, provided the new building is in the same use and not materially larger than the one it replaces; …
As officers are aware, it is settled law that references to “Green Belt” incorporate references to Metropolitan Open Land (“MOL”)
The replacement ice centre is not merely materially larger than the present ice centre but is massively larger.
It is well-established by case law, see in particular Heath and Hampstead society, R (on the application of) v. London Borough of Camden  EWHC 977 (Admin) that the test whether the replacement of a building is inappropriate by reason of NPPF 145(d) is
“ primarily an objective one by reference to size”
The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority accept that the proposed new ice centre is inappropriate by virtue of 145(d) and that they therefore rely on the “very special circumstances” objection.
The existing ice centre has a footprint of 3,596 sqm. The proposed replacement facility has a footprint of 8,417 sqm, an increase of 135%. Given that case law clearly shows that “size matters” in judging the appropriateness of a replacement development, the massively enlarged footprint of this proposed development is a matter to which the Council should give great weight.
This application will only succeed if the Council concludes that “very special circumstances” apply for the purposes of Paragraph 144 of NPPF. “Very special circumstances” can only apply if the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm resulting from the proposal, are clearly outweighed by other considerations.
Harm must be assessed by reference to the size of the proposed new development and its impact on the openness of the Green Belt. It is not sufficient for the Park Authority to argue that the Lea Bridge site is the most appropriate, the starting point must be an assessment of the harm to the Green Belt resulting from the development of this site.
The Park Authority’s case rests on the submission that the current location represents the “most appropriate site”
Appendix 1 to the Park Authority’s planning statement together with the various sub-Appendices go to this question. There are numerous flaws in the Park Authority’s comparative analysis which are discussed below.
B. The Park Authority’s Analysis is fundamentally flawed because it fails to give due weight to the impact of this proposed development on the Green Belt.
A. The starting point for the Council, in analysing this submission, is to consider the purposes which Green Belt designation seeks to serve as set out in Para 134 of NPPF:
a) to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas;
b) to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another;
c) to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment.
B. The Park Authority’s application assumes throughout that “all MOL is equal” and by implication, any equivalent ice centre development on any parcel of MOL has equal impact. The Council should pay particular attention to the Site Evaluation and scoring matrix prepared by the Park Authority and submitted in support of this application. This wholly lacks any MOL assessment or evaluation of the impact of the proposed development on the openness of the Green Belt.
C. The impact of the development upon the openness of the Green Belt is a central issue which the Park Authority wholly side steps. It is a central issue in the John Lyon case, of which the Park Authority make much in their application, and a key factor in the John Lyon case was that significant views across the Green Belt would not be affected by the development. John Lyon followed the case of Turner v. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Anor  EWCA Civ 466 which provides comprehensive guidance on the correct approach to openness.
D. The new proposed Ice Centre would create an urban frontage (i.e. the proposed extended building + associated car parking) extending from close to the existing Essex Wharf development to the former aqueduct. This is shown clearly in Figure 2 of the Park Authority’s Planning Statement in which the footprint of the proposed new development is shown by the red line:
It should be noted that, to the east of the aqueduct, the openness has already been very significantly compromised by the Park Authority’s riding centre which has been enlarged by the Authority on 13 separate occasions.
E. Figure 2 provides a very helpful basis for a before and after comparison. The present ice centre, although unsightly, occupies only a limited part of the road frontage and the continuity of the Park – the green chain of open spaces – is preserved. That will be eliminated if the application is allowed. Effectively the new proposed Ice Centre would merge the built-up areas of Hackney (+ Essex Wharf) to the west, and Walthamstow to the east, – something which Green Belt designation is expressly designed to prevent.
F. In contrast with the Park Authority’s analysis, which contains no MOL Assessment, Waltham Forest Council has carried out an assessment as part of the Regulation 18 consultation process for the new emerging local plan. In relation to the Ice Centre site (referred to as MOL 3) the Council’s assessment states
“This MOL represents an important strategic open space between the built up areas to the west (Hackney) and the east (Walthamstow). The majority of the parcel is clearly distinguishable from the built up area.” (Emphasis added)
In answer to the question “Does the MOL form part of a green chain or link in the network of green infrastructure?” the assessment notes
“The whole parcel falls within the Lee Valley Regional Park and includes the Lee Valley Pathway and several other public rights of way. The whole parcel lies within the River Lea and Tributaries archaeological primary zone. The Lee Valley ice Centre currently detracts from the continuity of the “green chain” along the Lea Valley both visually and in terms of ecological connectivity”
It is very important to contrast this assessment with the assessment of one of the alternative sites – MOL 6 – adjacent to the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis site (hereafter “the Eton Manor Site”) which was rejected by the Park Authority.
In relation to MOL 6 the Assessment states that individually,
“Parcel MOL6 is not a large enough area of open land to be considered of regional importance and therefore its continued designation as MOL would not be appropriate and further [although] the whole parcel lies within the Lee Valley Regional Park… in isolation the parcel would not be considered MOL.”
MOL 6 in other words is an isolated pocket of land which does not separate urban districts in the same way and is not part of the connected green chain of open spaces which the designation of the Regional Park was specifically designed to preserve.
I submit that the Council is obliged to give weight to its own MOL Assessment which is part of the evidence gathering process for its own emerging replacement Local Plan.
G. In seeking to sidestep this issue the Park Authority’s Planning Statement argues at Para 1.48 of Appendix 1
“To put the quantity of development into context, the proposed development will equate to just 0.0001828% of Lee Valley Regional Park’s Green Belt or MOL (which forms 95% of the Park), based on a proposed building footprint of 7,029 sqm. This is an extremely low figure in the context of the LVRPA MOL and Green Belt designation and does not begin consider the entire MOL and green belt designations across London and the surrounding area. Therefore, the existing LVIC site would have a minimal impact on the purpose and function of the MOL of the Lee Valley Regional Park, London and the surrounding area.”
This amounts to saying that it is acceptable to build on this section of Green Belt (or in this case the Regional Park) because other sections of the Green Belt are unaffected! It is an argument which could be applied by analogy to any development of Green Belt – it doesn’t matter if we destroy the openness of this bit of the Green Belt because there is plenty more Green Belt to go round.
This argument goes diametrically against the structure of planning guidance which states that the Green Belt must be protected by controlling developments which inter alia, materially increase the built footprint of what is already there. If the Park Authority’s argument were accepted, it would render the whole of Paragraph 145 a nullity. The argument is particularly insidious coming from the Park Authority which is entrusted by Act of Parliament with the primary duty to protect the Lee Valley Park as a place for the occupation of leisure.
H. It should be noted that when the Park Authority consulted upon the present site selection, I, together with others, urged the Park Authority, in constructing its scoring matrix, to give weight to the character of alternative sites under consideration and the environmental impact upon the Park. This the Park Authority declined to do. Its scoring matrix gives no weight whatsoever to the impact of the proposed development on the openness and connectedness of the Regional Park.
C. The Council should not rely upon the Park Authority’s Scoring Matrix but should make its own assessment of alternative sites in deciding whether the very special circumstances exception applies to the proposed development on this site.
The Park Authority’s case necessarily rests on its scoring matrix to show that Lea Bridge is the most appropriate site for the Ice Centre. In its original matrix, Lea Bridge was considered against three other sites, namely land on the site of the Park Authority’s Waterworks Centre and car park (“the Waterworks Site”), land adjacent to the Park Authority’s Hockey and Tennis Centre , (the “Eton Manor Site”), and land at Picketts Lock in Enfield .
As is clear from submitted documents, the result of the original scoring matrix was very close. The Lea Bridge Site was scored at 74.6%, the Waterworks Site at 72.6% and the Eton Manor Site at 70%. Picketts Lock was scored at 65.1%.
For the present application, the Park Authority and their consultants have re-marked those sites and also introduced further comparators including the Thames Water Depot and Broxbourne.
The new grading purports to demonstrate a much wider gap between Leabridge and the original comparator sites. Lea Bridge is now scored at 77.7%. Eton Manor at 62.8% and the Waterworks at 60.8%.
Since it is the nub of the Park Authority’s “very special circumstances” case that alternative sites are less appropriate, the Council is bound to look through the Park Authority’s assessments, and conduct its own analysis of alternative prospective sites before deciding whether the very special circumstances exception applies. The regrading is clearly an exercise in advocacy for the outcome sought by the Authority and cannot be safely relied upon.
In Section D of this submission, I will point out that in relation to one of the comparator sites, Eton Manor, the Park Authority’s Planning Statement appears to be actively misleading. Before dealing with that point, I make the following observations on the scoring matrix.
As previously noted, the Lea Bridge site was originally marked only marginally ahead of alternative venues
The Lea Bridge site was originally scored at 74.6%, the Waterworks Site at 72.6% and the Eton Manor Site at 70%. Given that the Authority is now being invited to apply very special circumstances to allow development on a site which its own assessment rates as being of “strategic importance”, it should have regard to this close margin.
The Park Authority has failed to keep alternative options under review as its plans for the Ice centre have developed
At an early stage the Park Authority realised that the plans which informed its scoring matrix could not be delivered within budget. The Park Authority approved in April 2019 a scaling down of the Ice Centre footprint from 10,450 sqm to 8,300 sqm and a large reduction in associated car parking. Since constraints upon site size and/or car parking were said to be determining factors against the selection of either the Waterworks Site or the Eton Manor Site the Park Authority was invited to reconsider its site selection in the light of the reduced footprint. This the Park Authority declined to do.
As already indicated, the scoring matrix contained no weighting for an MOL Assessment
As already noted, having regard to the purposes of Green Belt protection, as outlined in Para 134 of NPPF, there should have been a comparative MOL assessment and this should have been given a high weighting.
The weighting fails properly to reflect traffic and congestion issues
It is of the essence of the current application that the “elite” ice pad will be a sporting venue which will inevitably attract peak traffic flows when events are staged – hence the requirement for a large, albeit reduced, car park. Although the Planning Statement seeks to minimise this issue, it is clear that many of these events will be staged in the evening when traffic generated by the venue will compete with peak rush hour flows.
Whilst not wishing to endorse undue car use, it should be noted that the Eton Manor Site has the merit of being adjacent to high capacity 106(M) and A12 motorways.
By contrast, all traffic to the Lea Bridge site must approach by Leabridge Road leading to inevitable severe congestion and pollution. In disregarding this matter in the scoring matrix, the Park Authority possibly relegated this consideration as an external cost. However Para 144 NPPF clearly requires “any other harm resulting from the proposal” to be taken into account in deciding whether “very special circumstances” apply. This is, therefore, highly relevant to the planning assessment.
The Scoring Matrix mis-states the relative merits of the Lea Bridge site and the Eton Manor Site in terms of public transport
The original scoring matrix (applied when Park Authority members approved this site) placed emphasis on the availability of the newly reopened Lea Bridge Station, at 9 minutes walking distance. The Park Authority’s scoring matrix gave no weight to the fact that the train service at Lea Bridge has 15 minute intervals and contained impossible assumptions for travel times including a 9 assumed minute journey time from the Ice Centre to Tottenham Hale. Eton Mills was marked down disregarding the fact that there is a 10 minute walk to Leyton Station on the Central Line with two minute service intervals.
If Eton Manor were selected, there is the obvious likelihood that a loop bus service to Stratford (with excellent onward connections) could be developed serving the expanding Chobham Manor housing development and the Hockey and Tennis Centre as well as the Ice Centre.
The Scoring Matrix disregards the obvious synergies between the Eton Manor Site and the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre and the Lee Valley Velodrome
There are obvious sporting and logistical synergies arising if the Ice Centre is placed adjacent to the Hockey and Tennis Centre. The most significant is the use of car parking. The Hockey and Tennis Centre is served by a very large car park which is largely empty apart from major sporting events which are quite infrequent.
There are other club events (not searchable on the Park Authority’s website) but it appears clear that there are only eight events within the next three months likely to place any significant demand on the Authority’s car parking facilities at Eton Manor
It appears obvious that with a little planning it should be possible to minimise the occasions when there are conflicts between major Ice Centre events and major Hockey Centre events, saving on car parking space, with obvious saving of financial and ecological resources. There are likely to be other advantages, over time, in linking the Ice Centre, the Hockey and Tennis Centre, and the Lee Valley Velodrome as one sporting campus.
The Scoring Matrix mis-states ground and landscape restraints
The scoring matrix scores the Lea Bridge Site higher than the Eton Manor Site implying that there are fewer ground and landscape restraints at Lea Bridge. That scoring was originally done before any assessment of the constraints affecting Lea Bridge. It has since emerged that the Lea Bridge Site involves the felling of mature trees (consistently understated by the Park Authority) and the disturbance of habitat necessitating the creation of what the Park Authority has disparagingly described as “hedgehog hotels” which are likely in practice to be of very doubtful efficacy
The Scoring Matrix contains a confirmation bias in favour of the current site
The scoring matrix inevitably contains systematic confirmation bias in favour of the outcome sought by the Park Authority. For example:
a) Weightings in the scoring matrix for “current catchment” (given higher weight than “future catchment”) and expressions of support inevitably favour the status quo and should be given no weight in considering “very special circumstances”.
b) “Community stakeholder” support and “Sporting stakeholder support” inevitably reflect the fact that the Park Authority has solicited such support
c) “Impact on business plan” is an essentially circular scoring criterion which reflects that the Authority is invested in the outcome it seeks and should have no place in this “very special circumstances” evaluation.
The Park Authority has sought to sell both the Waterworks Site and the Eton Manor Site and this calls into question the objectivity of its scoring matrix.
This matter goes to the heart of the fairness and objectivity of the Park Authority’s case that “very special circumstances” should be applied to give consent to development at Lea Bridge.
The Waterworks Site
The Council will be aware that the Park Authority approached the Waltham Forest Regeneration Team in early 2016 (before Park Authority members had approved the selection of the Lea Bridge Site) with a view to zoning the Waterworks Site for housing, referred to as “enabling development” to finance the Ice Centre. This proposal at one stage appeared to be supported by Waltham Forest in its so-called “Eastside Vision” planning consultation.
As a result of strong public reaction, that aspect of Eastside Vision is no longer being advocated by the Council and the Park Authority states that it no longer requires enabling development to finance the Ice Centre as it is able to borrow the necessary funds at current very low rates of interest. Nevertheless, the Park Authority continues to seek the opportunity to sell off the Waterworks Site as development land and the Council will be aware that the Park Authority has offered up this site in response to the Council’s current Call for Sites.
The Eton Manor Site
The Park Authority is negotiating to sell off the Eton Manor Site for a hotel development on a long lease which, it has stated, will raise both capital and revenue for the Authority. It is our understanding that a planning application has not as yet been submitted to the London Legacy Development Corporation. See further section D of this objection.
The issue this raises is as follows. The Park Authority has a clear and documented strategy, its “Corporate Land and Property Strategy”, of financing its activities (and reducing its financial levy) in part through sales of land deemed no longer required for Park purposes. Both the alternative sites in Waltham Forest evaluated by the Park for comparative purposes are earmarked for sale in due course.
The Park Authority will no doubt argue that both the Waterworks Site and the Eton Manor Site were rejected after a rigorous evaluation, and that only after that exercise was completed were alternatives for those sites considered and disposal decided upon (notwithstanding that the known chronology of discussions about the Waterworks Site puts that in doubt). In dealing with the current “very special circumstances” application, the Council as Planning Authority must regard those submissions with proper scepticism. Not to put too fine a point on it, the merits of the alternative sites for the Ice Centre may have been understated because the Park Authority wishes to sell off those sites.
D. Objections to the Eton Manor site mentioned in the Park Authority’s Planning Statement may be actively misleading.
The Park Authority has since 2016 been actively pursuing plans to sell off land at the Eton Manor site on a long lease for a Hotel Development.
The following is a verbatim quote from the Authority working paper A/4274/19 approved at a meeting of the full Park Authority on 17th October 2019. This can be accessed at
Following a detailed marketing exercise for a leisure development on the Eton Manor site, a hotel development proposal was chosen in March as the preferred option. The proposed development which will complement Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre and support activities and business in the north of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park comprises a 98 bed hotel, a significant fitness gym (for hotel guests and Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park visitors) and a food and beverage outlet.
The Authority will gain financially through a capital sum and revenue stream as part of a long term lease arrangement.
It is apparent that this proposed hotel development would occupy the area previously earmarked for playing pitches making Appendix 1.5 to the Park Authority’s Planning Statement wholly irrelevant.
Appendix 1 to the Park Authority’s Planning Statement comprises a discussion of alternative sites under the heading “The most appropriate site”. It is stated there as follows:
1.31. The 2016 assessment considered Eton Manor to be less favourable than the current ice centre site to be the site of the replacement ice centre. In the intervening period, proposals for the Eton Manor site have advanced. The adopted Local Plan is currently being reviewed and the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) revised Local Plan submission draft includes modifications that have removed the reference to five-a-side football pitches at paragraph
11.3. The submission draft includes a new reference which states:
“The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre at Eton Manor and the Lee Valley Velo Park are world class sports facilities. Originally developed for the London 2012 Olympic Games and subsequently transformed they are both important national leisure and sporting venues hosting local, national and international events and support the Legacy Corporation’s aspiration to deliver a sporting legacy for local communities. The two venues are owned by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and are managed through a leisure trust. The Legacy Corporation continues to work closely with and support the Park Authority as it seeks to improve and grow the offer associated with the venues and thereby ensure their long term sustainability. This includes the further development of the land and facilities associated with the Hockey and Tennis Centre at Eton Manor which can complement the rest of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.”(Our emphasis).
1.32. This modification reflects the resounding success of the International Hockey major events programme. The site is now safeguarded for development of facilities associated with the Hockey and Tennis Centre. A new ice centre would take space and create a footfall clash that would compromise the international events programme that England Hockey hold at the venue. The success of the International Hockey events programme means that the site is seen as the UK’s national hockey centre for major international events and now has a worldwide reputation as this. If the ice centre were to take-up the space and capacity on site, the ability to host international events would be compromised and, simply, the events will not come to London. As such the venue’s world level status would be lost.
1.33. Therefore, the site is no longer available to be considered as an alternative site for the replacement ice centre.
1.34. In short, since 2016 the Park Authority and England Hockey are certain that Eton Manor is no longer available (or suitable) to accommodate the replacement ice centre.
These paragraphs appear to be at the very least economical with the truth in that:
“The further development of the land and facilities associated with the Hockey and Tennis Centre at Eton Manor” appears to refer to the hotel facility refer to above. The use of the word “associated” seems highly misleading.
Similarly the reference to the fact that the site is now safeguarded for development of facilities associated with the Hockey and Tennis Centre implies that the Hockey and Tennis Centre is to be in some why developed or enlarged. There are in fact no such plans.
The submission strongly implies that the land adjacent to the Hockey and Tennis centre has to be safeguarded to avoid the international status of the Hockey Centre being compromised. There is no evidence to support that. It is interesting to note that the Park Authority Minutes 18th October 2018 state:
Eton Manor – Hockey & Tennis Centre are under used, hoping to activate the site and add value to the Olympic Park, such as adding visitor accommodation. We are currently starting a soft marketing campaign to see what market interest there is.
Far from supporting the proposition that the land is needed to support the Hockey and Tennis Centre the minutes evidence that the Park Authority has been scrabbling around to find some alternative use for this land.
The previous discussion in this objection about future events show that the alleged footfall clash alleged does not in fact exist.
I submit that the reality is that the Park Authority has no plans for the Eton Manor site which can be meaningfully said to be associated with the Hockey and Tennis Centre. The reality is that the Authority has been looking for the most profitable use of spare land and has come up with the hotel proposal. That proposal has not yet been the subject of any public consultation nor has it gone to planning. The land is not therefore committed to any alternative use and could be used for an Ice Centre.
Furthermore, an elite Ice Centre adjacent to the Olympic Park would clearly be an excellent sporting legacy.
Because the Park Authority’s summary of the position concerning Eton Manor is so misleading, the Council should give no weight to it in deciding what is “the most appropriate site” and whether “very special circumstances apply”. The Council will need to conduct its own investigation and interrogate the Park Authority about its plans for the Eton Manor Site.
E. The Council is commended to take a consistent approach with its determination of the application for two academy schools in the Thames Water Site.
The Council took a correct and principled approach to this application which was considered at the Council’s Planning Committee on 25th March 2019. Paragraph 1 of the minutes of the Committee’s decision state as follows:
The proposed development would, by reason of its use represent inappropriate development in Metropolitan Open Land and by reason of its siting, height, excessive foot print, scale, bulk, massing and location, would not protect and enhance the existing green infrastructure, access to the open space complement and improve the quality of the open space, thereby causing substantial harm to its openness.
It is submitted that the siting, height, footprint, scale, bulk, massing and location of the proposed Ice Centre would all have a greater detrimental effect on the quality and openness of open space.
Applying the balancing exercise required by Paragraph 144 of NPPF, a consistent approach would point clearly to the conclusion that “very special circumstances” have not been made out.
It is clear that a very unusual assessment is required in this case.
The Park Authority, seeks a very major expansion of a built development on MOL of great strategic importance and asks the Council to invoke “very special circumstances” to permit a development which is otherwise plainly inappropriate. It is the essence of the Park Authority’s case that alternative sites have been evaluated and found to be unsuitable. This case has not been made out and that the Council is bound to conduct its own evaluation. Although the Eton Manor Site would also be on MOL; having regard to its lesser strategic significance, and other factors, it would actually make a better site for the Ice Centre and that therefore “very special circumstances” do not favour the Lea Bridge Site.
Finally, I would draw attention to what is stated in the Council’s own assessment of MOL 3:
The Lee Valley ice Centre currently detracts from the continuity of the “green chain” along the Lea Valley both visually and in terms of ecological connectivity”
If an alternative site is selected, MOL3, a site of strategic importance, can be restored as part of the “green chain” which the designation of the Lee Valley Regional Park was intended to achieve.
Here’s Vicky Sholund’s multi-faceted objection to the new Lee Valley Ice Centre being situated at Leyton Marsh.
You can still submit relevant objections to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Application number: 194162
I am writing as someone who lives in Hackney and spends at least a couple of hours every day on the marshes. I have lived here for about 30 years and in the past few years have seen an incredible increase in the number of people walking and spending quiet time in the marshes. This means there is a need for more green space to accommodate all of these people, not less. I have also known people over the years who have used the ice centre, and none of them have used it because it is on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL). They would quite happily use a new one if it was easy enough to access, which Eton Manor is.
It does not constitute part of this objection to make a case for another site although I think a good case could be made in for Eton Manor if the LVRPA are keen to build a new ice centre. Eton Manor was one of the sites originally being considered by the LVRPA for the new ice centre, the MOL reports states: “5.26 Subject to detailed feasibility assessment, the site could make a good location for the Lea Valley Ice Centre.”
The main basis of my objection is to point out that the reasons the applicant has given as Very Special Circumstances (VSC) for building on this site do not constitute Very Special Circumstances – not as individual points, nor do the individual points add up to one large VSC.
Here are some of the VSC that the applicant lists and the arguments against:
The LVRPA’s “duty”. Paragraph 16.21 states that the LVRPA “has a statutory duty to develop sports and leisure facilities in the Regional Park. Since 95% of the Park is Green Belt or MOL, it is likely that some new facilities will be developed on protected land.” But the LVRPA has a “statutory duty” to do many things under the 1966 Act, and the provision of sports and leisure facilities is only one part (and not necessarily the most important part) of its remit. And, more importantly, nothing in the 1966 Act says that the need to provide such facilities entitles the LVRPA to override other considerations. The 1966 Act does not give a minimum provision of any particular facilities, so such provision should be subject to all other relevant constraints. There is no basis for arguing that the need to provide a specific facility constitutes a VSC. The fact that the LVRPA currently provides skating facilities to the public does not place any obligation on it to go on doing so. Until 2012, the LVRPA provided golfing facilities at the Waterworks. When it stopped doing so, this was not because of any lack of demand from the public, but because it thought that it could make more money by using the Waterworks site for other purposes. There was enough protest from golfers at the time, that the LVRPA promised to re-open the golf course after the Olympics campsite, but broke that promise.
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 need to have an operational ice centre. The present ice centre is nearing the end of its life and will soon no longer be able to function. The LVRPA states that the need to replace it is a VSC, because this sort of facility must exist in this area. However, this “need” is generated entirely by the LVRPA — if they had not built the current ice centre (in the 1980s), then there would be no particular demand to build a bigger and better one now. It may be that the LBWF would like to have an ice centre somewhere within the borough, but there is no reason that it has to be where it is, or on LVRPA land, or even that it needs be provided by the LVRPA. And the need for the applicant to make money is also not a special circumstance. So, there is no VSC involved here.
There is no other twin-pad ice centre in London. How is this a VSC? The applicant does not explain the relevance of this fact. Nor does it explain why the only twin-pad ice centre in London has to be on Leyton Marsh, or as in point 2, why it has to be on LVRPA land or provided by the LVRPA.
Increased usage. In paragraphs 10.43 to 10.56, the LVRPA explains how a larger ice centre will result in more availability to the public and more availability to sports clubs – which will better enable it to fulfil its “duty” (as described earlier) and so this is also a VSC. But a closer reading of paragraph 10.48 shows that this is just a way of saying that the LVRPA will earn more revenue from a larger facility. Such a commercial argument cannot constitute a VSC. It is also the case that removing the ice centre from the site entirely will increase the usage of the site by walkers, outdoor exercise groups, nature lovers, dog trainers, etc, which will in fact be decreased if the new centre is built as it will extend onto currently open green space. The provision of space for those sorts of recreation is also one of the LVRPA’s duties.
Community benefits. In Section 11, the applicant describes the benefits that would accrue to the community from the new ice centre and claims them as a VSC. Many of these may indeed be genuine benefits, but the suggestion that they constitute a VSC depends crucially upon the premise that there is no other possible location for the new ice centre and that “the community” is largely made up of ice skaters. However, by far the majority of people who go to that part of the marshes are walkers, dog walkers, nature lovers, runners, etc. There is no benefit for them of having such a large building urbanising what is a well-loved green space.
The applicant has consistently ignored this part of the community. In the original “consultation” it ran to decide on which of four potential sites the new ice centre should be built on, they only put up notices of the consultation meetings at the ice centre. When local people found out, they went to the “consultations” and made their views plain, but it was clear the LVRPA had already decided to build the new centre on the current site before the “consultations” even took place.
In June 2019, two members of Save Lea Marshes were invited to a pre-consultation meeting with the LVRPA to see the plans and talk to the landscaper and architect. We were promised that notices for the consultation would be put up all over the park so that the non ice skating users of the marshes would know about it. This didn’t happen until a couple of days before the end of the consultation period, despite several emails to the person responsible for publicity about it. This of course skewed the consultation results as the majority of responses were from ice centre users.
The benefits for the majority of marsh users are site-specific, dependent on the marshes remaining open green space. The benefits for the ice skaters are not site specific – i.e. they need a building to ice skate in, but it doesn’t have to be on Leyton Marsh.
Health benefits. In Section 12, the applicant describes the health benefits that may result from the new ice centre and claims that they also constitute a VSC. This is analogous to the community benefits described above. They may be genuine benefits, but they could only be considered to be a VSC if there is no other possible location for the new ice centre. And again, while the presence of the ice centre may be beneficial to some people (those who patronise it), it will have the opposite effect on other people (those who would enjoy this area of Leyton Marsh if it were undeveloped). The main benefit would be to the LVRPA, who place more importance on provision to paying customers than to non-paying users of the park.
Other considerations re health benefits:
enhancing the provision, visibility and accessibility of green space available for walking for leisure outweighs the LVRPA’s argument for paid leisure activities; research shows that it is the former which is patently more beneficial for both mental and physical health of a greater portion of the population than elite sporting venues for athletes and spectators.
Studies have shown that visits to green spaces improve the self-esteem, mental well-being and social lives of people with disabilities. Improving accessibility to Leyton Marsh from Lea Bridge Road could have a more positive impact on those with disabilities than providing an accessible leisure venue.
Studies on obesity levels among children show that levels are lower when there is more nearby green space to their residence. Proximity to green spaces is associated with reduced anxiety and mood disorder.
The applicants have over-estimated the benefits of paid-for indoor leisure activity and underestimated the value of free access to nature in their assessment of the LVIC site and have therefore not proven very special circumstances in terms of location.
Other points to make in argument for denying the application:
Transport: The Lea Bridge Road is already heavily congested. If the applicant is correct in its assessment that usage will increase with a new ice centre (a contention that is debatable), then it follows that it will bring an increase in traffic on the Lea Bridge Road as that is the only route to the ice centre. Eton Manor is much better served by public transport links and will thereby be more in keeping with current policy of sustainable transport and decrease in car use.
Pollution: the applicant acknowledges that pollution will increase due to the increase in car use that goes with a larger facility at this site but offers various offsetting solutions. Offsetting has become somewhat discredited as it rarely results in reductions of pollution – at best resulting in the status quo. Increasing the levels of pollution in the area is in contravention of the council’s Air Quality Action Plan. It is also another example of the needs of one part of the community (ice centre users) being seen as more important than another (green space users), although of course pollution will affect everyone who spends time in the area, or even just walks or cycles through it.
Biodiversity: the applicant’s argument that by building a new ice centre, it will increase the biodiversity is spurious. Essentially what is promised is that in spite of having put little effort into increasing biodiversity on the site for many years, they will make an effort to do so with a new ice centre. In fact, there will be a loss of potential biodiversity due to the nearly doubling in size of the footprint and any increase in effort in the remaining green space will not compensate for the area lost. If they are concerned about increasing the biodiversity of the area, it would be better to build elsewhere, tear down the old centre and put some effort into restoring the site in a way that really increases habitat and biodiversity.