The LVRPA has revealed its true colours at last. Let’s tell them how we feel.

I appreciate there is a great deal going on at the moment, and that this is a time of great uncertainty for us all. But if you want to direct your anger and frustration somewhere, can I suggest the LVRPA deserve a shot across the bows…

Save Lea Marshes has been concerned for some time about the LVRPA’s intention towards the Waterworks meadow, the large area of land south of the Waterworks Centre and Nature Reserve. So, in June 2019, we wrote to Shaun Dawson, the Chief Executive to ‘request an opportunity to engage with the LVRPA on the future use of this area’. And, in July 2019, we were told that the Authority had commissioned an ecological consultant to carry out a habitat survey.

Although slightly suspicious of the LVRPA’s motives, we thought a habitat survey could only be a good thing, and we were cautiously optimistic about the results when we received the survey in January 2020. You can take a look at it here. We thought the findings sounded robust and we endorsed the management options. We said that we would look forward to the outcome of an internal meeting to review the site management options and to discussing the next steps. Our hope was, of course, that the whole site would improve as a result of the report.

They say hope springs eternal. It does. Now I ask myself if the hopeful are always foolish? When I first came to hear about the LVRPA in early 2012, when they were supporting the Olympic Delivery Authority to build a temporary basketball arena on Porter’s Field, Leyton Marsh, I advocated dialogue with the organisation. More experienced campaigners said it was a waste of time, but I doggedly met with Shaun Dawson every few months, patiently explained why people were so angry and asking the LVRPA to work more closely with local people to resolve our differences. And we have continued to try and engage with the LVRPA ever since. Most recently we asked them how we can trust the environmental promises they are making about the ice centre. But every time, every single time, we have been met with a wall of obfuscation and dissembling. Save Lea Marshes does not oppose the LVRPA because it likes to be in opposition. It opposes the LVRPA because of the LVRPA’s actions. This is a case in point…

While waiting to hear about the outcome of the internal meeting to review the site management options, we were blindsided by the horrific news that the LVRPA has agreed to rent the land to the Waterworks Festival. The site is next door to the Waterworks Nature Reserve and is designated as part of a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation (SMINC). If the noise and light pollution will be significant nuisance for human neighbours, it will be catastrophic for neighbouring wildlife, particularly birds. This is simply an inappropriate place to hold a one-off one-day music festival, let alone an annual three-day event.

And the LVRPA’s response? This from Shaun Dawson, the organisation’s Chief Executive:

Dear Abigail

I do hope that all is well with you.

I am writing on behalf of colleagues following our internal meeting on the subject of ‘rewilding’ of the golf course area last week. Cath and team have done some good work but it did strike us that the future management of the area and the approach the Authority adopts is very much dependent upon the WF’s Licensing Committee’s decision re: events on the site over the next few years. If the Licensing Committee gives us the green light then we are looking at a conservation management plan in that context. However if the Committee takes an alternative position, which I appreciate is the position that you and others that have submitted objections would like to see, we will then be looking at a different management regime.

We are keen to enhance the ecological value of the area but our objective is to achieve that in the context of part of the area being used for outdoor events. We shall await the outcome of the Licensing Committee meeting and then take the work forward. We will be in touch after the Licensing Committee meeting to arrange a discussion with you.

Best regards

Shaun

So, to paraphrase, Cath Patrick, the LVRPA’s Conservation Manager, has done some good work but we’ll ignore all of it if we can make some money from the site. From the mouth of the Chief Executive we have the clearest confirmation yet that the LVRPA cares about money more than the environment.

We should be angry about this. Very, very angry about this.

But let’s do a little bit more than just be angry… We have been delighted by the wave of opposition to the Waterworks Festival and to the number of objections to the premises licence that have been logged with Waltham Forest Council. I’d love to shine this beacon of common sense on the LVRPA now. So, will you help us by writing to Shaun Dawson and copying all the Authority Members? You can use the template below. Or you can write your own letter.

To:
sdawson@leevalleypark.org.uk
Cc:
paul.osborn@harrow.gov.uk; derrick.ashley@hertfordshire.gov.uk; david.andrews@hertfordshire.gov.uk; ken.ayling@ntlworld.com; john.bevan@haringey.gov.uk; frances.button@hertfordshire.gov.uk; rowena.champion@islington.gov.uk; cllr.ricki.gadsby@essex.gov.uk; david.gardner@royalgreenwich.gov.uk; cllr.mike.garnett@essex.gov.uk; cllr.christine.hamilton@enfield.gov.uk; cllr.r.houston@barnet.gov.uk; heather.johnson@camden.gov.uk; Cllr.Denise.Jones@towerhamlets.gov.uk; christopher.kennedy@hackney.gov.uk; graham.mcandrew@hertfordshire.gov.uk; cllr.valerie.metcalfe@essex.gov.uk; cllr.gn@broxbourne.gov.uk; nigel.quinton@btinternet.com; marysartin@yahoo.com; sydstavrou@hotmail.co.uk; cllr.simon.walsh@essex.gov.uk; john.wyllie@eastherts.gov.uk; Cllr.Terry.Wheeler@walthamforest.gov.uk
Subject:
A complaint about your approach to land management at the Waterworks

Dear Shaun

Save Lea Marshes has shared your recent email to Abigail Woodman and I wish to complain about your approach to land management at the Waterworks.

The nub of your position, quoting from your email, is as follows:

the future management of the area and the approach the Authority adopts is very much dependent upon the WF’s Licensing Committee’s decision re events on the site over the next few years.

This seems to be an astonishing approach for a statutory authority to adopt towards the environment, especially an authority whose primary function is to protect its environmental assets.

And, when you refer to a “different management regime”, we think you are saying that the Authority will wash its hands of the Waterworks site if it cannot generate revenue from regular events.

This is of course the first time you have formally flagged an intention to stage regular events “over the next few years” although we inferred from the start that this was the Authority’s intention.

Also, and we may have got this wrong, we think you are implying that it would be a realistic decision on our part to acquiesce in this licensing application, and encourage others to do so, if we want to see plans for the future management of the area that we would be content with.

We think it would be most helpful to the Authority’s understanding of the position if we spell out the reasons why the Faustian pact you appear to be proposing is wholly unacceptable:

  1. We are wholly opposed to pop festivals or other large events on the site and this position will not change.
  2. We have made it clear, over a long period, that we are open to discussing options for the management of the Waterworks estate and there has never been any reciprocation on your part. Your email, with this threat of an undefined “different management regime”, sees you continue your approach of keeping local people in the dark.
  3. It also seems very clear that you intend to bypass other stakeholders who ought to be consulted. Our understanding is that if the Park Authority intends to abandon or vary its plans for the Waterworks estate, as set out in its Area 2 Proposals, that is a variation of the Park Plan which requires certain consultative processes. We see no sign that the officers of the Authority are willing to share their plans with the democratically accountable Authority members, let alone wider stakeholders. How can you possibly justify that?
  4. We cannot overlook the obvious fact that the Authority defines its position on the Waterworks estate primarily in terms of raising money and not by reference to its duties to improve and preserve the Park. We are aware that it was the Park Authority’s initiative to sell off a large portion of the Waterworks estate as “enabling development” for the ice centre. Having abandoned the notion of enabling development, the Authority has nevertheless offered up much of the land in response to Waltham Forest’s call for sites, and we assume that much of the estate has been deemed to be no longer required for Park Purposes under your Corporate Land and Property Strategy. Now you are seeking a revenue stream, and no doubt a profit, before proposing a “management strategy” (which we have not yet seen) for the area. The Park Authority seems deaf to the fact that people here in Waltham Forest and Hackney want to see the Park better managed as connected and cherished green space and not as a source of revenue to keep the Authority’s show on the road.

It would be very helpful to have your clear and prompt response to these points.

Yours sincerely

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