At yesterday’s Lea Bridge Ward (WF) Community Forum five officers from the LVRPA struggled to answer the many questions and concerns of residents about the current planning applications re consolidating the fait-accompli loss of the golf course public amenity and the further reduction of unfettered open access to marsh land by changes at the riding stables.
Residents challenged Stephen Wilkinson that his organisation was intending to turn more and more of our local green space into money-making schemes to suit the regionally-strategic and financial aims of the LVRPA – now that they have the burden of three flagship sports/leisure venues to support post-Olympics. He waffled. Next he had no answer to the statements of residents that, whatever supposed financial gain might be made by the LVRPA in having a campsite and extra private horse accommodation/ activities in the Leyton part of the marshes, no benefit could be calculated as coming directly to the locality. He provided no evidence that local people would either take up camping or were horse-owners needing livery accommodation. Nor could he suggest any nearby public-access non-club golfing for local people. In any case he had to agree that the all-London + Essex/Herts precept funding is the fixed financial arrangement under the Act of Parliament and no ‘profits’ can trickle through otherwise. Cllr Afzal Akram tried to help him out of a tight spot by suggesting that campers would bring business into Leyton shops and pubs – well it raised a laugh anyway.
Crucially, Stephen Wilkinson could not supply evidence to repeated questions about the justification for a campsite – other than stating that it had proved popular during the Olympics. This fooled no-one, and he had to acknowledge that the Camping & Caravanning Club of GB will not re-licence the site for this year. There was no indication as to how this might affect standards offered to the unwitting future campers.
In answer to questions about pony-trekking, residents were told that horses will be led across Lea Bridge Road in the mornings and returned later in the day – not via the underpass, but using the traffic light crossing (which governs the two pavements, the two cycle lanes, one bus lane and the two-lane DOT trunk highway). More laughter. There was no indication of how the animals’ welfare will be maintained while they are away from the stables, and what may be needed re any sheltering or feeding space.
The surprisingly large contingent from LVRPA did however promise that the proposals will bring the added benefit of three more jobs to the area (not specified whether part-time or temporary etc). As they made a hasty exit with their giant publicity board after their agenda item, they were left in no doubt that, although there was one resident who supported the campsite and did not mind losing the golf course, their organisation was viewed as acting in an underhand way – by not re-opening the golf course as promised after the Olympics, and by trying to claim that the full and permanent changes of use of the land are only temporary.