Save Lea Marshes’ Objection to Gasworks Proposal

1. The importance of the openness of open space

The Gas Works development will have a negative impact on the openness of the Marshes and Jubilee Park and it will add to the feeling of overcrowding and being overlooked in those using these spaces.

The Marshes are Metropolitan Open Land. The references to Green Belts in the NPPF and case law below also apply to Metropolitan Open Land. NPPF 133. The Government attaches great importance to Green Belts. The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence. Waltham Forest Council’s own ‘Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land Review’ says, regarding the Ice Centre at Leyton Marsh, see para. 5.16, ‘it supports such relocation as this would provide an opportunity to rationalise the land uses in MOL3 and enhance the sense of openness, particularly views north-south along the Lea Valley’.

Plainly Waltham Forest considers ‘sense of openness’ to be an important issue when it comes to the impact of large scale developments like the one at the Gas Works and others planned for the future.

2. Visual impacts do harm to the openness of such important green spaces.

NPPF 144. When considering any planning application, local planning authorities should ensure that substantial weight is given to any harm to the Green Belt. ‘Very special circumstances’ will not exist unless the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm resulting from the proposal, is clearly outweighed by other considerations”

“Whether, in the individual circumstances of a particular case, there are likely to be visual as wellas spatial effects of the openness of the Green Belt , and, if so, whether those effects are likely to be harmful or benign, will be for the decision-maker to judge. But the need for those judgments to be exercised is, in my view, inherent in the policy.” [38] Samuel Smith
“In my view, therefore, when the development under consideration is within one of the five categories of paragraph 90 and is likely to have visual effects within the Green Belt, the policy implicitly requires the decision-maker to consider how those visual effects bear on the question of whether the development would “preserve the openness of the Green Belt”. [40] Samuel Smith

The visual dimension of openness was considered in Turner v. SSCLG
Sales LJ interpreted the concept of openness as one which was “not narrowly limited to [a]
volumetric approach” but “is open-textured and a number of factors are capable of being relevant when it comes to applying it to the particular facts of a specific case” [14].

3. The developers seem to have made no serious assessment of the visual impacts on the neighbouring open spaces. They say:

14.6 “The completed Development will provide views of the taller buildings (Block D and E) which will assist in signposting Leyton from the wider area and will bring a positive use of a previously derelict site. The Development will have direct moderate to minor beneficial effects on TCA 1 Leyton Fringe as well as indirect moderate to minor beneficial effects on TCAs 2 and 3. Quod | LeaBridge Gasworks | Environmental Statement, Volume 1 | March 2020

2914.7 The completed Development will have no adverse effects on representative views of the Site, with the majority of effects considered to range between moderate to minor beneficial. Whilst there will be a noticeable change from a number of viewpoints, it is considered that overall, the Development will have a beneficial effect on the surrounding townscape. There will be no effect on Viewpoints 5 Lea Bridge Road, 9 Hackney Marshes Pavilion and 11 River Lea Towpath.

14.8 There is potential for cumulative effects on views from the east and south-east of the Site overlooking Leyton Jubilee Park (Viewpoints 2, 6 and 7). During the construction phase, effects will remain moderate adverse from these viewpoints and during the operational phase there will be moderate beneficial effects.

To say the Development will have ‘no adverse effects’ on views simply fails to address the harms described in the NPPF and case law. The applicants refer to the tall towers ‘signposting Leyton’. Protecting the Marshes and their openness for the well being of the residents of Leyton and other parts of Waltham Forest is of infinitely greater importance than a tall building marking its territory. This is a snapshot from their Planning Statement showing how the towers will overlook Jubilee Park:

The applicants refer to ‘potential for cumulative effects on views’ at Jubilee Park during construction but then they say this will be beneficial on completion. How can this be described as beneficial? It is totally at variance with the need to preserve the sense of openness of the open space affected.

Below is a diagram showing the towers overlooking Jubilee Park. It is hard to see how this is anything other than oppressive when it comes to the openness of the open space.

On page 33 of their Planning Statement the applicants include one diagram suggesting visual impacts on Hackney Marshes from the pavilion at North Marsh. They do not provide any diagrams showing the impact from the south of Hackney Marsh or any diagrams showing the impact on the Marshes further north, at the Waterworks, Leyton Marsh or Walthamstow Marsh. Context is needed to show how the proposed development will fit with other construction in the area. No context is provided in the application. The reality is construction is steadily encroaching on the views from the Marshes thereby reducing their openness.

Above is a view of the Motion towers from Porter’s Field during construction. The two tall Gas Works towers are similar in height to the tallest Motion tower. Porter’s field is a similar distance from Motion as the Waterworks is from the Gas Works. Other examples below show how construction is intruding on the Marshes. The Gas Works will add to this intrusion.

Above is a view of the Motion towers from just south of the Waterworks cafe, below is a view from the Waterworks Nature Reserve:

Below, view from the Waterworks Meadow, the tallest Gas towers are the same height as the tallest. Motion tower and will be behind the FedEx warehouse.

A more specific view of the FedEx warehouse, the Gas Works towers will be behind the warehouse:

The same applies to Walthamstow and Leyton Marshes where towers are ever more visible. Above, view of Motion towers from the Aqueduct Path behind the Riding Centre.

Above, view of Motion towers from Walthamstow Marshes.

Below, view of Motion towers from Leyton Marsh:

Context of construction, view looking north from between Walthamstow and Leyton Marshes:

Above, view from Leyton Marsh showing future location of Gas Towers. The pylon on the right is on the Waterworks Nature Reserve. The Gas Works towers will be between the two pylons.

The Gas Works development will also be visible from Hackney Marshes. Picture below taken from south end of Hackney Marsh, the Gas Works will be to right of Motion tower.

The view above is not included in the applicants’ documents even though the view from the south of Hackney Marsh is supposed to be included. But then neither is the context of construction around the Marshes included anywhere.

Below is a view of the various constructions from the pavilion at Hackney North Marsh, the only location from which a projected view is provided.Increasingly the Marshes are becoming surrounded by towers.

The Gas Works towers will further impact on the openness of the open spaces on the Marshes and at Jubilee Park. This will cause harm to those spaces and to the benefits people derive from them.

4. Preventing harm to green open space is important for people’s health and well being.

The construction of such tall towers so close to important green open spaces will seriously detract from the enjoyment of those spaces and their usefulness as places of relaxation. Open space has increasingly been recognised as having important social and health benefits. It is important to ensure any construction near such spaces is appropriate and does not visually impact on those spaces in such a way to reduce those benefits.

Mind’s report ‘Ecotherapy: the green agenda for mental health’ presents the findings of the first ever study looking at how green exercise specifically affects people with mental health problems. A walk in a country park was compared with a walk in an indoor shopping centre. The results are startling:
● 71 per cent reported decreased levels of depression after the green walk
● 22 per cent felt their depression increased after walking through an indoor shopping centre
only 45 per cent experienced a decrease in depression
● 71 per cent said they felt less tense after the green walk
● 50 per cent said their feelings of tension had increased after the shopping centre walk
● 90 per cent had increased self-esteem after the country walk
● 44 per cent said their self-esteem decreased after window shopping in the shopping centre.
● 71 per cent reported decreased levels of depression after the green walk
● 71 per cent said they felt less tense after the green walk
● 90 per cent had increased self-esteem after the country walk
It is interesting to note that a ‘country’ walk has even more impact than a ‘green’ walk. It is worth
noting that the Marshes represent a very substantial area of green space, wilder than an urban park,
more closely resembling what might be called a country walk.
Mind is unequivocal about the potential benefits of rolling out eco-therapy in appropriate places,
“Hundreds of people have benefited from the green projects run by our local Mind associations but if prescribing ecotherapy was part of mainstream practice it could potentially help the millions of people across the country who are affected by mental distress.”

Recent surveys reflect the earlier findings of the Mind reports; a ‘sense of connectedness to nature is linked with greater psychological well-being’ (Cervinka et al., 2011; Howell et al., 2011).

Studies on obesity levels among children showed ‘levels are lower when there is more nearby green space to their residence’ (Dadvand et al., 2014). Proximity to green spaces is associated with reduced anxiety and mood disorder (Nutsford, Pearson and Kingham, 2013). A recent evidence review commissioned by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund, conducted by Sheffield Hallam University and The University of Sheffield includes a peer review of 385 studies. It highlights the social benefits of parks and green spaces (predominantly in the UK, Europe, the US and Australia) and underlines the potential of parks to deliver ‘multiple health benefits for the local communities and support long term mental and physical health’ (Dobson et al, 2019). Facilitated visits to green spaces improved the self-esteem, mental well-being and social lives of people with disabilities (Jakubec et al., 2016).

The Heritage and Society Report of 2019 recognised the significance of protecting natural heritage: https://historicengland.org.uk/content/heritage-counts/pub/2019/heritage-and-society-2019/ .

It found that the main source of pride for adults is ‘countryside and scenery’ at 53% (more than any other category). Parks and green spaces are a key component of social infrastructure; ‘the physical places and organisations that shape the way people interact’ (Klinenberg, 2018, p.5).

Crucially, parks and green spaces enable people to connect with nature, which in turn benefits well being.

5. Impact of new populations on existing open spaces
The policy of building large scale high density housing developments near to open spaces will inevitably place greater stress on that open space. While new housing may well be needed the appropriateness of its location, size, scale and impact on existing resources has to be taken into account. Others have commented on the lack of adequate rail transport, doctors’ surgeries, schools and the impact on roads, even by a supposedly car free development, as not only will residents still have cars but they will also need delivery, repair and maintenance services and such like.

Open spaces do not exist simply for the benefit of developers who can then advertise the desirability of the location for future residents and make a profit out of these public resources. These open spaces, particularly the Marshes, serve a much wider community than those living in the immediate vicinity of Lea Bridge. This development will be added to developments already built and others being planned. It is worth noting the judgement in Turner as below:

“The openness of the Green Belt has a spatial aspect as well as a visual aspect , and the absence of visual intrusion does not mean that there is no impact on the openness of the Green Belt as a result of the location of a new or materially larger building there.” – Sales LJ in Turner

Source of legal information used:

Click to access HLG-Samuel-Smith-Green-Belt-Planning-Seminar.pdf

Recent events at the Waterworks have shown how vulnerable open spaces are to inappropriate and damaging events. Waltham Forest Council sensibly refused an application to allow a music festival to take over that space. The events following that refusal, when people held barbecues and parties leaving behind quantities of litter for others to remove, showed that open space is not an unlimited resource. Care has to be taken to ensure it will remain available for future generations. Open spaces like Jubilee Park and the Marshes are of much greater value than the presence of a tower
signposting an urban destination, Allowing large scale developments to make unsustainable demands on these spaces will help to destroy such an important resource. It is imperative to avoid these harms.

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