Objection of the week, no. 9


By Celia Coram

Scale and Suitability

Why propose to put an industrial building on a site of Metropolitan Open Land?

Having carried out a Google search I could find no other ‘ice centre’ that is built on a similar open space.

Furthermore, the International Olympic Committee’s own guidelines for ice centres covering both ice skating and ice hockey states:

First consider the possibility of making use of derelict areas, brownfield sites, industrial wasteland, disused sites etc.

As Metropolitan Open Land (MOL), Leyton Marsh should not be chosen. The IOC guidance also recommends sites that promote sustainable transport, such as walking and cycling, over cars; and whilst the walking and cycling routes have improved along the Lea Bridge Road, it is still dominated by cars and not near main train or underground routes that do not require people from a distance to makie transfers. The Olympic site is far better connected to Essex and Hertfordshire where many non-local users of the current Ice Centre are said to hail from.

Looking at the updated list of photos on the Waltham Forest Planning Application portal that include impressions of the scale of the building, I am particularly concerned by the loss of view from the river towards Friends Bridge, which marks a big step change in the nature of the area. See “6DL Photographs & Photomontages 23 April” in https://planning.walthamforest.gov.uk/application-search#VIEW?RefType=APPPlanCase&KeyText=194162

For reference and comparison, here is an example of an “Olympic-sized twin pad” ice rink that is located on an industrial park in Sheffield:

The LVRPA claim that the proposed Leisure Centre will “open up” the area, when in fact it will do the opposite. During the lockdown, we have all seen a dramatic upsurge in usage of our green spaces for walking, cycling and outside relaxation, whilst leisure centres have remained uselessly shut. Green spaces have proved to be even more valuable for physical and mental health. We do not yet know how long this pandemic will persist or whether it will be replaced by a similar outbreak, in which case such leisure buildings will need to remain shut or have much reduced usage. (This will also have a significant impact on the income generation projections of the proposed building.)

The London Borough of Waltham Forest could be entranced by having an ‘Olympic standard’ facility in the borough. This however might be wish fulfilment rather than a planning issue. It comes at a time with a major pandemic which has been largely caused by environmental breaches and when we are all trying to reassess what we should do to best support the environment that sustains us, and I would ask that officers and members of the Planning Committee seriously consider these additional points when it comes to making recommendations and decisions about whether this industrial building should be placed on our vital Metropolitan Open Land.

Another concern is the use of gabions. These have been used extensively on the Olympic site and have not resulted in very much growth of vegetation. The current ice centre also had some of these blocks installed on the outside of the building during the 2012 “Olympic” spruce-up, and are similarly bare apart from ivy and brambles growing over the top of the blocks, not anything seeded in them. These add to the industrial look of any building rather than ameliorating it. Below are some examples of bare gabions on the Hackney Sports Centre and the Olympic site. These have been installed since at least 2012, and show no signs of vegetation or habitation apart from plants growing in the ground in front of them. The suggestion that their presence on the ice centre building will make it environmentally habitable and blend in with the surroundings is therefore extremely questionable.

Water Pollution

Whilst the LVRPA has gone to some lengths to present the Ice Centre as being as “state of the art” as possible in its design, including the use of reed filter beds to process the ice water from the proposed rink into the Oxbow, the suggestion that this will be beneficial is, in my view, questionable. Glycol (an anti-freeze) is used in ice rinks, and they are also marked up for hockey using toxic paint, so one wonders whether reed beds will be sufficient, particularly if there is a breakdown in equipment at any time. I can cite an example in Vancouver, where the University’s ice rink processing went wrong and ended up killing a lot of fish. See https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/ubc/loses-appeal-of-1-155million-fine-conviction-for-dumping-ammonia-into-fish-bearing-stream.

Even though ammonia and carbon dioxide are the main refrigerants of choice for the majority of today’s ice rinks, they have their attendant issues as well. For example, whereas ammonia may be a primary refrigerant, it is often utilized concurrently with brine to boost its cooling properties. In consequence the refrigerant has a high saline content, and so if leaked it can cause serious environmental damage. Furthermore, although ‘some rinks’ add salt to the water to keep them from freezing, most modern rinks now add ethylene glycol, a type of anti-freeze which is highly toxic. Again, its leakage would be harmful to the environment, poisoning living organisms, their habitats and ecosystems. See https://inhabitat.com/ice-rink-alternatives-and-their-environmental-impact/

Air pollution

Although there are health benefits from the exercise of ice skating, there are counter health arguments based on research regarding the health risks of the circulating air in ice and leisure centres resulting in serious respiratory diseases that have affected, for example, hockey players:

In enclosed ice areas, a primary source of indoor air concerns is the release of combustion pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM) into the indoor air from the exhausts of ice resurfacers. Combustion pollutants are produced whenever any fuel such as gasoline, propane or diesel is burned.

How does carbon monoxide exposure affect your health?

Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, mild headaches and may have longer term effects on your Health.

[The United States Protection Agency]

Numerous studies have established a link between long-term exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide and ultra-fine particulate matter generated at indoor rinks by gas, diesel and propane ice resurfacing machines and a high prevalence of respiratory problems, such as asthma, exercise induced bronchiospasm (EIB), peripheral airway inflammation and/or airway wall fibrosis among figure skaters, short-track speed skaters and ice hockey players. A 2004 study found levels of ultra-fine and fine particulate matter from hourly ice-resurfacing by so called ‘Zambonis’ and ice edgers at levels 20 times outside air levels.


Ice Centres, however well designed, are not carbon neutral and are not good examples of how to meet Climate Change initiatives. The London Borough of Waltham Forest’s own Climate Change guidelines should make it question whether it should have such a building, particularly sited on green space.

This entry was posted in Ice Centre and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.