Fabsternation expresses consternation at state of Leyton Marsh

marsh floodedLocal Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy wrote to Gerry Murphy of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) explaining the inadequate restoration of Leyton Marsh, which the ODA and LVRPA promised would be returned to its ‘original condition’ by 15th October 2012.

This is the response she received:

Dear Stella,
Apologies for the delay in responding.
We have completed the reinstatement works in accordance with the specifications agreed with Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA) and Waltham Forest Council. Land on Porter’s Field used for the temporary basketball venue has now been handed back to LVRPA and an ongoing programme of maintenance, funded by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) is being agreed. The ODA has provided more than £65,000 to LVRPA as part a license agreement to be spent on improvements on Leyton Marsh, including increased seating, new paths and gates, and enhanced wildlife habitats. LVRPA is now responsible for the land and future enquiries should be addressed to them, although we remain happy to answer any further queries you may have regarding the reinstatement.
Best wishes,
Gerry Murphy
Director of Finance Olympic Delivery Authority


A local resident Waltham Forest resident, known on Twitter as @Fabsternation wrote this eloquent response:

Dear Mr Murphy

Thank you for your considered response.Yes, myself and others who use the marsh everyday are aware that the reinstatement works have been completed. The issue here is about the standard of work carried out by your contractors to reinstate the marsh back to its previous condition before handing it back to the LVRPA.

As you will have seen from the photos of Porter’s Field, it has been, and continues to be, partially flooded in vast areas. It is also bald and patchy in other sections. A walk around the area shows clear signs of poor & inconsistent workmanship. In a few areas, the turf has been laid ‘around’ existing structures before they were fully removed off site, leaving behind clear demarcations of ‘before’ & ‘after’ of where things had stood. It would be almost comical were it not for the fact it is rather botched.

It is worth pointing out that the field never used to flood for as long as living memory that myself and others have used the marsh to walk our dogs or use the space. Now it is both permanently squishy underfoot (to sections which are not flooded), while managing to be water-logged in various parts which are not unusable. It is evident that failure to consider proper grit for drainage under the top soil is part of the problem. You will no doubt realise too that the diversity of the turf is another reason why the field is constantly water-logged. Where there was biodiversity in the soil texture before, it has been replaced with what is visibly domestic monocultural turf.

I’d also like to point out that the large lining sheet which has controversially remained under the soil post-construction was supposed to be permeable. Perhaps it is not as permeable as we have been led to believe? The ongoing flooding does not subside even when the rain has stopped for a considerable period. There needs to be an investigation into this problem. As with all things causal & effectual, the problem has only arisen since the completion of the reinstatement of the marsh.

With respect, Leyton Marsh unfortunately has not been reinstated according to the LB Waltham Forest planning conditions. Our Walthamstow High Street Ward Councillor Clare Coghill, who is on copy here, will most certainly back us up on this when we say laying the responsibility of this problem now on to LBWF is wholly unacceptable. As we’ve witnessed from the triumphant Olympic summer, the ODA is capable of great things. In this instance however, I urge you to look at the photos post-reinstatement and tell us you are satisfied with the level of work carried out.

Perhaps a visit to the site is warranted in order to truly assess the condition of Porter’s Field and take steps to:
– investigate the reasons behind the permanency of the waterlogged areas
– make good the sections of turf where clear lines of demarcation are visible
  Because your contractors turfed around obstructions before these were removed, the work carried out is therefore technically incomplete
– look into how wild flowering seeds can be scattered to encourage & speed up a return of the biodiversity of the turf
– investigate whether the permeable lining left underground is in fact one of the causes of the flooding
– consider how grit can be reintroduced so the turf is not squishy and sinks underfoot

Lastly, you mention the introduction of the new benches as part of the programme of investment. Yes, myself and other Friends of the Marsh have noticed these new benches. Nice as they are to look at, there is one small but crucial problem with them: they are far too low for the elderly or those with mobility issues to actually use.

The old benches before were between 500mm to 600mm high and were of a more suitable & ergonomic height. Importantly, some also had back support which meant there was a ‘grab’ feature for stability when lowering or rising from the sitting position. These new ‘minimalist’ benches however are approximately 400mm in height and cause major difficulties for the elderly dog walkers I know who have been going to the marshes for over 60 years(!)

It seems the new benches have not turned out to be an improvement as they do not provide access for a wider range of people and fail to consider the most favourable corporal sitting position. It has to be asked: were residents and Marsh users consulted at the design stage before these minimalist benches were installed? A 200mm height difference, back support & grab feature considerations might not mean a lot to able-bodied public space users, but to the elderly, disabled and those with mobility issues, it literally falls short.

I attach photos of the old benches so you may compare with the new ones, and trust this too will be taken on board, with a view to increase the bench height so that a wider range of people may benefit and continue to use the marsh as before.

I look forward to a positive response with a strategy in place to rectify the points highlighted above.

Many thanks Gerry.

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