This is exclusive footage of Katy Andrews speech during the rally.
Around 200 people, including local residents, marsh users, children (as well as pets) gathered together on Saturday 10th March for a rally against the construction of private Olympic facilities on Leyton Marsh.
Although groundwork has already begun on site, the number gathered together was more than double that of a protest against the ‘development’ the week before. Many people walking and cycling through and by the side of the Marsh during the rally were completely shocked by the construction as they had no idea of the plans for the land.
The rally was organised by the local group ‘Save Leyton Marsh’, a collection of individuals from the community who have come together to oppose the plans for construction of basketball training facilities on public green space, and outraged that the ODA did not select a suitable brown field site.
The majority of this precious green belt site, previously enjoyed by thousands of locals and Londoners for rambling, dog walking, picnics, kite-flying, horse-riding and other leisure activities, has now been fenced off, preventing access to the land and causing great anger in the community.
Local people expressed their anger, not just at the lack of consultation but also the nature of the construction. Despite the ODA promising local residents in a meeting before the planning application was granted, that ‘only 15cm’ of topsoil would be removed, marsh users have been appalled by the creation of many large trenches that are several feet deep. Protected marsh grasses around the site has been driven on by vehicles, including a dog unit which has been disturbing locals at night. A previously tranquil river walkway is now a road for heavy-duty construction vehicles.
Despite the ODA claiming that it “would keep any impact on the marshes to an absolute minimum”, there is little evidence of this. People who attended the rally described the impact of the construction as ‘ruinous’, a ‘disaster’ and a ‘permanent scarring of the land’. Those witnessing the impact of the building works described their feeling of sadness and heartbreak at what had been allowed to take place on Metropolitan Open Land in the name of sport and using taxpayers’ money.
During the rally there were speeches from members of the group about carrying on the fight against the misnamed ‘development’, including with legal action and further protest.
Banners were attached to the fences surrounding the site, including ‘Save Our Marsh’, ‘No Olympic Destruction: Save Our Green Space’, Members Only’ and ‘2012 Olympic Gated Village’, drawing attention to the fact another public space has been effectively privatised for the duration of the Games and, some fear, beyond.
Protesters chanted ‘Save Our Marsh’ and ‘Keep It Green’. A singer sang a song she had written especially for the rally, expressing not just sadness at what was taking place but also the collective resolve to keep on fighting (‘Well you can’t just take our marsh away’). An exhibition of photographs of dogs enjoying the open space before the enclosure was placed alongside photos of the locals’ pets staring through the now fenced off areas.
The rally was lively, colourful and good-natured.
Save Leyton Marsh will continue to highlight the growing opposition to the destruction of the land with a ‘Eat and Greet: Reclaim Our Green Space’ picnic at the same time, 2pm on Saturday 17th March.