It is wonderful to see the building gone at last and to be able to stand on Sandy Lane and look right across Porter’s Field again. There is still heavy machinery on the site, as the work is by no means finished, but it is good to see progress. It was also good to be joined by representatives from Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, alongside an Environmental Health officer from London Borough of Waltham Forest and representatives from the ODA, Nussli and Atkins.
I couldn’t resist kicking things off by re-emphasising my concerns about the way the topsoil was stored and tested for contaminates. In my opinion, the fact that the site was closed only a few hours after our last visit because workers thought they had discovered an unexploded bomb in the topsoil vindicates my argument that testing was not thorough. If they didn’t find rusty pipe in the topsoil when they tested it, how were they supposed to find much smaller fragments of asbestos?
There will be 200mm of topsoil and turf on top of the geotextile membrane (which looks like rice sacks from the Far East) and, walking across the site, it does look as if this depth is being achieved. Because the stored topsoil won’t cover the whole site there will be three strips of different topsoil: original topsoil, original and imported topsoil mixed together and imported topsoil. We asked for a map showing where these different soils will be laid so that we can track the growth and biodiversity over the next few years, and this request was supported by the representatives from LVRPA.
Our main concern is the way in which the soil has been compressed by the diggers laying it out. It is true that it is better to lay turf on soil which has been compacted, but I would argue that the weight of the machinery means that the soil has been compacted far too much and, consequently, the drainage capability of the topsoil will be poor. We could see puddles of standing water on the topsoil and there was no give in these puddles when we stood in them. The earth really is very solid. Those present at the meeting said that it is STRI’s responsibility to decide whether the ground will support their turf, so it was frustrating that a representative from STRI wasn’t able to attend the meeting and talk to us. With the turf laying due to begin on Monday there are clearly going to be discussions between STRI, the ODA, Nussli and Atkins over the weekend to decide whether to begin harvesting the turf. I am concerned that compromises will be reached that may not be in the best interests of Leyton Marsh. The turf and other reinstatement works are only under guarantee for one year, and it is quite feasible that the consequences of poor decisions made now will not surface for a year or more, whereupon the responsibility for remediation will fall to LVRPA and their stretched budgets. We therefore requested a record of all discussions that take place, and the rationale behind any decision made. Again, this request was supported by the representatives from LVRPA.
The weather is now the critical factor in whether or not Leyton Marsh will be returned to local people by 15 October. If it rains too much (and it did rain a lot on Friday evening, although Saturday was good and Sunday seems to be shaping up well) then the turf laying will be delayed until the ground is drier. I would argue that the plan should have had some tuck in it to allow for rain – after all it hasn’t been a dry year this year has it?! – but we may need to be a little more patient.