Leyton Marsh - a development soft option Leyton Marsh Games Time Temporary Basketball Training Venue Planning application number: 2011/1560
In response to Waltham Forest's planning notice dated 12 December for the Leyton Marsh Olympic Games Basketball Training Venue, we have submitted the following Objection to WF setting out the reasons why Leyton marsh should not be a development soft option. Please do feel free to draw on this if you also want to register an objection. The deadline appears to be 2 January 2012. The address to email your comments to Terunesh[dot]McKoy[at]walthamforest[dot]gov[dot]uk or send your comments to is: waltham forest plan comments.
1. The application should be refused on the basis of adopted planning policies. The proposals conflict with a range of policies including:
** protection of Metropolitan Open Land (MOL);
** the London Plan;
** the emerging Local Development Framework (and the saved UDP policies);
** the LVRPA plan.
2. The proposals do not accord with the Olympic Fringe Framework Plan for Leyton/Lea Bridge and do not follow guidance contained in the Draft Upper Lea Valley Framework. The proposals should be refused on this basis unless exceptional circumstances can be proven, which the application does not provide.
The good planning of the area
3. Poor planning has brought the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) to this point where open space with the highest planning protection is considered to be available for development without proper examination of the alternatives. The ODA holds powers to acquire land; sufficient funds to acquire land for Olympic purposes; and possesses planning powers that apply to that land. The definition of the Olympic Park and its planning has failed to address the need for specialist training courts, despite the fact that this requirement was known. A failure to properly plan for this contingency does not in itself provide a justification for the development of Metropolitan Open Land, whether temporarily or permanently.
Metropolitan Open Land
4. The applicants rely on the claim that the MOL protection should be set-aside on the basis that the development is in the national interest; that it is a temporary use; and the site will be entirely restored to its former condition with no long-term harm/diminution.
5. The applicant has not fulfilled the requirements of the test of national interest. The claim of national interest can only stand where the need arises from the proper planning of the Olympic facilities, which it does not, and where other less harmful site options have been considered first; a sequential approach. The application demonstrates that no such rigorous process has been undertaken, only a bidding process by public bodies. No explanation why the facilities cannot be incorporated into the main Olympic Park has been given, or why the need for these courts was addressed only at this late stage. Extensive legacy and Olympic Fringe planning has been undertaken and at no point was this proposal raised.
6. The applicant claims that the need for the development of the Marsh arises from the need for two courts with wider run-off areas within 30 minutes drive of the Olympic Park after the failure to identify alternative courts through a limited bidding process amongst public bodies such as local schools. No private sites were considered. Re-organising or extending the Olympic Park was not considered (even though the original number of park buildings and facilities have been reduced). The run –off areas are, it appears, an international Olympic requirement, as the applicant states, but the 30 minute drive time appears to be a discretional criteria selected by the ODA.
7. Mitigation of the impacts of the development does not amount to a legacy or a significant material enhancement of the Marsh. The proposals attempt to mitigate, but do not enhance, and will not provide a local legacy to outweigh the impacts, some of which will be permanent. The sum of c.£65,000 amounts to a fee for a license/lease from the LVRPA which is not controlled through the application. There are no safeguards to ensure that this sum will amount to specific additional investment in the Marsh, or when enhancement work will be carried out.
8. The applicant refers to the wider ‘legacy’ arising from the Olympics in support of the application, but they cannot claim that this legacy will be lost if this application fails or if the practice courts were to be built on an alternative site more than 30 minutes drive from the Olympic Park.
9. The applicants state that the courts are either to be rented (and returned?) or moved to venues to be decided by Sport England and Govt. Olympic Executive. There is no assurance that they will be offered to local venues to serve the community affected by the development.
A temporary use unprecedented in its impacts
10. There seems to be no exception in planning policy that will allow non-compliant uses on MOL on the basis that the development is temporary.
11. The policy tests have not been met and the application misrepresents the tests, which do not allow exceptions on the basis that the development is temporary. It is a dangerous precedent to permit development of MOL on the basis that the harm is only temporary. This opens the door to a series of temporary developments on the Marshes.
12. The application refers to a history of temporary uses and structure on the marsh setting a precedent for development however; this application is unprecedented in terms of the scale, disturbance of the Marsh and longevity. It should be remembered that one of the temporary uses was for a church tent to facilitate the Olympic park development. Other temporary uses, such as park open days, are non-destructive of the Marsh area and in a completely different category, not even needing planning permission. This is yet another local precedent coming after the temporary church building, and the development of temporary allotments on Marsh Lane fields and the loss of that open space.
13. The applicants cannot assert that all impacts will be temporary unless the evidence base for these assertions is submitted. The potential harm arising from the development, such as to wildlife, archaeology etc, has not been assessed and no effective controls are therefore available to ensure that all of the impacts of the development will be temporary and the site entirely restored to its original state.
The role of the LVRPA
14. The case for the application includes, as a criteria for site selection, the strength of the LVRPA /ODA relationship. LVRPA support for the proposals cannot be taken at face value because they are the landowner and are a party to the development, with a private financial arrangement agreed in advance with ODA. LVRPA support and involvement does not provide sufficient test of the public interest and openness and is not equal to a rigorous independent assessment of the development options, which has not been undertaken or submitted.
Design, extent and scale of the proposals
15. Contrary to assertions made in the application that the approach was to minimise land take, the land-take has not been minimised. Less harmful, alternative site configurations have not been considered in the Design and Access Statement which states that this is an ‘ideal’ site for development; but in terms of adopted policy it most definitely is not. There is clearly considerable scope to reduce the extent of the proposals, as the pre application consultation plan demonstrates, with paved areas reduced.
16. The DAS does not explain options for minimising impacts/ footprint, roads, car parks, height etc. It sets out the general aims for the Olympic park, such as urbanisation and reclamation, which are inappropriate for this site and which conflict with the open space and natural, pastoral quality of the Marsh for which the overriding aim should be for it to remain unaltered or returned to a more natural state. The DAS does not examine why this temporary use cannot be placed in the Olympic Park.
Extensive road network to be built on the marsh
17. The proposed roads are the some of the most destructive elements of the development and will disturb the natural drainage and attenuation and cut through established wildlife habitats and corridors at the margins of the mown area of the Marsh. No justification is given for the extensive arrangement of access road loop, car parking, coach parking, and vehicle set down areas. No consideration of alternatives has been given, such as locating some parking (after dropping off) on the Ice rink car park or a single in-out road, which seems to better accord with the claim that vehicle movements will be low and insignificant. The Transport Assessment does not provide a justification for this extensive on site road network. Traffic impacts have not been minimised, as claimed, in order to minimise impacts on the Marsh and loss of amenity.
18. The proposed works to the sandy path and later reinstatement are not clearly defined. A paved road through the Marsh sets an unwelcome precedent, upsetting the delicate balance which currently allows limited vehicular access whilst guaranteeing a pedestrian friendly environment and a surface which deters cyclists from speeding. The grit surface of the path is an important quality of the Marsh, which will be harmed if the surface is paved and that paving allowed to remain.
A flawed site selection process will create a dangerous precedent
19. A dangerous precedent will be set if this application is allowed because a sequential approach to site selection has not been adopted.
20. The key question is: Which are the appropriate policies tests which must be met in order to permit anyone to build on the Marsh and are they demonstrably met in these circumstances? The preferable sequence of sites to be considered would be as follows:
1. Olympic park;
2. Other vacant Brownfield land (both public and private);
3. Playing fields and sports grounds;
4. Designated open space;
5. Metropolitan Open Land.
21. Alternative sites have not been properly assessed whilst the Marsh is clearly perceived as a less valuable open space and a ‘soft’ option; devalued by its former history as playing fields and before that as a blitz rubble dump. It is clear from the application that the Marsh land was considered as a preferred option from the beginning and this flies in the face of a proper policy-led approach.
22. If this application is allowed without a proper sequential test then the ability of the LPA’s and the LVRPA to resist inappropriate development and protect open space will be severely diminished. The potential ‘Olympic legacy’ for the area will be a weakening of open space protection overall with a dangerous precedent set.
Flawed logic on the impact of open space should be challenged
23. The application adopts a dissembling approach to measuring the impact of the proposals. By quoting the gross area of open space, including the adjoining Walthamstow Marsh and other open areas, the applicant potentially misrepresents the actual impact on Leyton Marsh, which is proportionally much greater. The applicant also attempts to describe the scale of the proposals in the context of the overall Park area, which is a very dangerous approach to allow to go unchallenged.
24. Metropolitan Open Land is designated and protected precisely because it is a scarce resource in London and because each and every acre is valuable. Planning Authorities in London should never allow a logic to take hold where an amount of Metropolitan Open Land can be considered ripe for development, whether temporarily or permanently, on the basis that the remaining amount of Metropolitan Open remains large. This is a recipe for gradual but cumulative erosion. Such an approach should not be promoted by public bodies such as the ODA and LVRPA and should be resisted by Local Planning Authorities.
The quality and amenity of the Marsh will be diminished
25. The value and amenity of the Marsh as open space is misrepresented by the applicants and given insufficient weight.
26. Whilst the application notes that paved paths around the Marsh will not be severed, many other qualities and amenities of the Marsh are disregarded.
27. The application refers only to paved paths around the perimeter of the Marsh when there are in fact three diagonal, non-paved, paths which traverse it. These paths will be severed by the proposals and diminish the overall quality of the walks through the Marshes of which the non paved paths across Leyton Marsh form an important segment.
28. The application does not note, and therefore does not weigh in the balance, the value of the central area of the Marsh, which on warm days is treated like a ‘big rug’ for sitting out, picnics etc. This amenity will be lost for the duration. The Marsh is the nearest wide-open green space to many residents in the area, particular in Low Leyton to the north east and along Lea Bridge Road.
29. The application does not give proper weight to the loss of openness resulting from the placement of a extensive range of large footprint and tall buildings in the centre of the Marsh. This will remove the sense of openness in all parts of the Marsh and in views across the Marsh from Walthamstow Marsh and from residents across the Lea Navigation.
30. The possible impacts of the development have not been properly assessed and it is therefore impossible to judge whether or not the application should be approved and, if so, what safeguards may need to be put in place. The following should be noted:
The application does not include any analysis of key views or 3d representations of the proposals. The visual impact of the proposals, as noted above, will be considerable with a loss of openness that will affect all of the marsh, the waterfront, the adjoining marshes and open areas and views from footpaths in the area. The location of the facility in the middle of the Marsh will result in the total loss of the open character of the Marsh for the period it is in place.
The site sits within an archaeological constraint area. The applicants only assert that no investigation is needed. Archaeological impacts have not been properly assessed and no safeguards have been put in place for construction. The only assessment (by GLAAS) relates to scraping site and is strongly reliant on the received assumption of a blitz rubble site. The GLAA reported comments relate only to the potential impact of scraping off the topsoil but do not address footings, drainage/attenuation works or access road works.
Noise impact has not been properly assessed and no effective controls over construction or operation have been offered. The applicants claim that there are no significant sources of background noise in the area. This is incorrect. Plant from the ice rink causes significant noise pollution with a loud whining sound late into the night. Significant noise nuisance also arises from the Argall Road industrial estate and the Lea Bridge Road. Together with the proposals these sources may generate a significant cumulative noise nuisance to nearby homes, which are within 20m of the application boundary.
Construction is not properly controlled with a limited construction/ disassembly statement given in the planning statement.
The Marsh includes a Principle Site of Nature Conservation Importance and adjoins a SSSI. No habitat/nature assessment has been undertaken but broad assertions are offered nevertheless.
As noted above, the position of LVRPA is conflicted in relation to the proposals and the planning authority should not rely on LVRPA support as evidence that there are no significant impacts upon the natural environment. The proposed road traverses and encroaches upon marginal planting areas in which plants and invertebrates impacts are unclear. This may impacts upon foraging bats and disturbance or loss of wildlife migration corridors, for instance. The construction, operational and deconstruction impacts may be considerable and will stretch over three seasons. The lack of a nature/habitat assessment sets a very bad precedent.
31.The sustainability appraisal submitted with the application fails to demonstrate that the proposals are sustainable. The temporary development of protected open space for purposes not fully justified and where alternative, more sustainable sites, have not been considered first, is a inherently unsustainable approach.
32. The proposals do not represent a material step towards a long-term sustainable future for the Marsh involving enhancement and a return to a more natural state of a water meadow/marsh and potential active floodplain.
33. The proposals do not meet tests of economic sustainability: They are high cost for such a short term benefit, incur the high cost of reinstating the Marsh to its former condition and offer only vague plans for the costly relocation of the facilities afterwards. The temporary nature of the proposal is presented as one of merit in relation to open space protection policy but is unsustainable essentially because it is temporary, with the facilities built once, deconstructed, site rehabilitated and then rebuilt again elsewhere.
34. The application does not meet the test of sustainable development and should therefore be refused.
Longer term strategy for the Marsh
35. The application should be refused because it does not accord, with and militates against, the longer-term strategy set out in planning policy. The proposals are a diversion from and a postponement of this longer-term strategy of enhancement with moves towards a more natural floodplain/water meadow landscape, remedying the harm of the former uses as a dump, a blitz rubble site, and later a recreation ground. It is regrettable that this history of damage to the natural Marsh is being used here to present it as a less valuable environmental asset and therefore suitable for temporary development.
36. The currently diminished quality of local open spaces has also been used to justify allotment development (by the ODA) at Marsh Lane. This is the continuation of a long history of treating open spaces as vacant and available for development, rather than as valuable social and natural amenities, deserving protection and enhancement.
37. Consultation on the application has been limited and curtailed. The proposed site area appears to have grown considerably since the pre- application consultation. This, along with the shortened consultation period (over the Christmas period), has potentially limited the chance for the community affected to develop a full understanding of the proposals and a fair opportunity to comment.
38. The application should be refused because:
** The ODA’s claim that this particular application is in the national interest and that the delivery of the entire games will be materially harmed if the application is refused is fatally undermined by their failure to properly plan for this contingency until now and to marshal their extensive planning and land purchase powers and their resources in order to meet this long known Olympic requirement for specialist practice courts in good time; not as a ‘stick it anywhere’ afterthought.
** Temporary development is nevertheless development in the meaning of the planning acts and this development therefore sets a dangerous precedent and potential weakening of open space protection.
** The proposals do not meet the tests of sustainable development.
** The application does not include a proper sequential assessment of alternative sites considered prior to proposing to build on the Marsh. The application reveals that the Marsh was considered to be available for development from the outset.
** The loss of openness, the established use of the centre of the space as a sitting out/picnic area and the severance of non paved footpaths across the meadow have not been recognised or taken into account in the application.
** A nature/habitat assessment has not been submitted to support the protection and enhancement of the designated natural environment.
** Insufficient regard has been paid to noise impact including the cumulative impacts arising from high noise levels generate by the ice rink’s plant and the Argall Road industrial estate, which are significant.
** The Marsh is set within an archaeological constraint area but no archaeological assessment or proposals to monitor construction or allow potential investigation have been submitted.
** The impacts of the development have not been minimised, contrary to the assertions made in the application; the proposals are excessive with unnecessarily extensive roads and parking areas. No justification is given for such an extensive temporary road network.
39. If the Authority is minded to approve the application it should take account of the following:
** The committee should recognise that a compelling case for development on the Marsh has not been made and this potentially dangerous precedent needs to be limited by a full explanation of the extenuating circumstances of the decision by the committee (but not set out by the applicants), along with appropriate safeguards, mitigation and compensation; including a substantial contribution towards the long term plans for the Marsh already set out in published planning policies and guidance.
** The overall footprint should be reduced. Hard surface areas should be considerably reduced with the loop road removed and parking spaces reduced, possibly utilising the extensive overflow ice rink parking area for lay-over parking.
** All plant should be low noise with silent running generators.
** The planning contribution should be increased, ring fenced to apply only to the Marsh, and possibly placed in a community trust. The Olympic ‘legacy’ for this proposed development should be measured locally and should relate to the local planning impacts; the loss of amenity, temporary and long term harm and the postponement of plans to enhance the Marsh. This should be in addition to any land transaction in relation to the £65,000 temporary lease/license from the LVRPA. The amount of the contribution should reflect the lack of a full justification for the proposals provided by the applicants.
** The first preference for the relocation of the buildings should be within 10 min drive time of the Marsh, and should include relocation and site preparation costs.
** The committee should consider asking the applicants/owners to enter into a binding covenant excluding all non-MOL compatible development in the future in order to limit the potential precedent.
** Notwithstanding the claims made by the applicants, a legal agreement should require removal, reinstatement and the completion of the enhancements within one year of the decision to approve.
** The sandy path should be reinstated to its original dimensions and the grit surface re-laid in order to prevent the development of a road with an urban character and faster running surface.
We have requested that the application is reported to a full meeting of the Council’s Planning Committee and that we are notified of the date and time of this meeting, when it is set.