More objections to the proposed Ice Centre on Lea Bridge Road

The following objection has been submitted to the LVRPA’s consultation on the new Ice Centre. Feel free to use any of these arguments in your own submission (and see the blog immediately after this one for further arguments).

I wish to object to the proposed new Ice Centre on the Lea Bridge Road.

The LVRPA has given its reasons for wishing to locate the Ice Centre on the Lea Bridge Road in the Minutes to the Additional Authority Meeting of 16th June 2016. This document discusses at length the results of the Feasibility Exercise, which examined the relative merits of the Lea Bridge, Eton Manor, Waterworks and Picketts Lock sites. It would appear that the main reason why the LVRPA has chosen the Lea Bridge site is that it scores higher in the Scoring Matrix than the other sites. The Scoring Matrix is designed to lend the exercise a spurious air of objectivity, by computing a numerical score for each site. But such a calculation can only be as reliable as the values that are input into it, and these values are themselves subjective. As I shall demonstrate, many of them are clearly wrong – some have always been wrong, and facts have changed since 2016 with the consequence that others are now also wrong. For brevity, I shall only consider the values for the Lea Bridge and Eton Manor sites.

  1. Accessibility from existing catchments. This appears to mean: How easy will it be for people visiting the existing centre to visit the new centre instead? It has a weighting of 12. Why such a high value? Why should it matter particularly to the LVRPA whether people visiting the new centre are exactly the same as those visiting the existing centre? Before the existing centre was built (in 1981), there was no “existing catchment”, so any “need” for skating facilities that now exists is entirely a consequence of the LVRPA’s decision to create the existing centre in the first place. As it happens, both the Lea Bridge and Eton Manor sites are similar distances from the same population centres, so they can be expected to attract much the same clientele.
  2. Adjacencies of other leisure uses. The Eton Manor site has a score of 3. The leisure uses adjacent to Eton Manor (which are mainly sporting) are exactly the sort of uses likely to appeal to patrons of a skating rink. It should have a much higher score.
  3. Access by cycle. The Lea Bridge site has a score of 4, and the Eton Manor site 3. The approach to Eton Manor by cycle is much easier than that to the Lea Bridge site. The score for Eton Manor should be at least as high as that for Lea Bridge.
  4. Access by car. This has a weighting of 15, whereas the criteria for access for cycle and for foot both have a weighting of 5. This cannot be justified. The London Boroughs of both Hackney and Waltham Forest have a strategy of prioritizing walking and cycling over driving. Therefore the weighting for driving must be lower than for walking and cycling. It is disgraceful that the LVRPA should need to have this pointed out.
  5. Access by public transport. Both sites have a score of 4. This is odd because, according to the LVRPA’s own figures, Eton Manor is worse served than Lea Bridge by public transport. However, these figures are themselves wrong, as I explain in Appendix B. In fact, Lea Bridge is worse served than Eton Manor by public transport, so its score should be reduced.
  6. Fit on site. The Lea Bridge site has a score of 5, and Eton Manor 4. According to the latest (2019) plan the footprint of the proposed new building has been considerably reduced, so both sites must surely now score equally.
  7. Ice centre and on-site parking. This has a weighting of 10; the Lea Bridge site has a score of 4, and Eton Manor 1. According to the latest (2019) plan the number of car-parking spaces has been considerably reduced, in line with transport policy. As a consequence of the transport policy, the weighting should be considerably reduced. And since the requirement for spaces is now less, the score for Eton Manor should be increased.
  8. Ability for other revenue-generating possibilities. The Lea Bridge site has a score of 4, and Eton Manor 2. This appears to refers to the financial viability of an on-site gym. The distance between the Lea Bridge and Eton Manor sites is about 2316m. Within a radius of half this distance of the Lea Bridge site, there are four gyms (shortly to be increased to five, by the addition of a gym at 97a Lea Bridge Road); within a radius of half this distance of the Eton Manor site, there are six gyms. This is not a significant difference (see Appendix C). So the difference in the competition for gym provision near to the two sites is not very significant. In any case, there are other possible means of generating revenue besides the provision of a gym. Therefore the score for Eton Manor should be increased.
  9. Grounds/landscape constraints. The Lea Bridge site has a score of 4, and Eton Manor 3. It is not clear why Eton Manor scores lower than Lea Bridge. Eton Manor is a fairly barren site close to a motorway, whereas the existing site is close to an SSSI. The latest (2019) plan entails felling a number of mature trees at Lea Bridge, whereas there are no mature trees at Eton Manor. It is also acknowledged that there are a number of buried services that constrain development at Lea Bridge. Therefore the scores for Lea Bridge and Eton Manor should be swapped round.
  10. Impact on business plan. The Lea Bridge site has a score of 5, and Eton Manor 3. This is an example of double-counting, since this issue has already been taken into account under “Ability for other revenue-generating possibilities” above.

Click here to see a copy of the Scoring Matrix. The LVRPA’s original scores and weightings are on the left. On the right the scores and weightings are corrected to resolve the issues described above. Where a value is increased it is coloured red; where it is decreased it is coloured green. As can be seen, the score for Lea Bridge reduces from 933 (75%) to 910 (73%), and the score for Eton Manor increases from 882 (71%) to 953 (76%), as a result of these modifications.

Beyond the Scoring Matrix, much has been made of the idea that the Lea Bridge site can “provide a gateway to the Lee Valley Regional Park” and a “wider visitor offer with its central location and visibility on the road frontage”, and it is claimed that the latest plan will result in “opened up views on to the marsh”. This is absurd. It is proposed that a large building should be replaced by an even larger one. How can this open up views? And why is there a need to provide a “gateway” and a “wider visitor offer” in any case? The marshes are already visited by large numbers of people. They go there to seek isolation from the hurly-burly of London. Any increase in visitor numbers can only be detrimental to that experience, quite apart from the damage that more people will do to the ecology of the marshes. If the LVRPA really feels the need to trumpet its presence to passers-by, it could do so less harmfully at Eton Manor.

Finally, there is another good reason to put the new Ice Centre at Eton Manor. When the Olympics came to London, the allotments at Bully Point were destroyed, and an area of Marsh Lane Fields was fenced off and converted into temporary allotments for the holders who had been displaced. It was clearly stated at the time that this was only a temporary measure, and that after the Olympics were over, the allotments would be moved to a permanent site in the new Olympic Park at Eton Manor, and the temporary site on Marsh Lane Fields would be restored to public open space. But that never happened. The allotments that were supposed to be temporary have become permanent. So the result is that a precious area of open space has been lost to the public. Now is a chance to put right that injustice. If the new Ice Centre is built at Eton Manor, the site of the current Ice Centre at Lea Bridge can then be cleared and returned to open space. That would go a considerable way to compensating for the loss of open space on Marsh Lane Fields.

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