Asst Director Planning, London Borough of Hackney
26 March 2012
I am receiving reports from Hackney residents of some serious concerns about the development of the Olympic basketball court on Leyton Marsh, directly opposite the homes of many of my constituents at Riverside Close E5 and on the Lathams development.
I attach a photo taken of a pile of rubble on site. This looks to me like a full scale development and not the 'temporary structure' described and shown on plans by the ODA last December to us as Lea Bridge ward councillors. Only last Wednesday the Cabinet member for Planning and regeneration once again repeated to me in the OSB committee that this was a temporary structure and so Hackney Council are not so concerned. It looks to me and to many others that this is a permanent structure and the building of it will wipe out any evidence of any top soil which is unlikely to be replaced.
This needs some serious investigation and representations made to the LB Waltham Forest and the ODA about how much they have already departed from the original plans submitted. They need to be asked to halt the work whilst further investigation takes place.
Firstly, to find out what checks and safeguards have been put in place bearing in mind the nature of the Leyton Marsh land as a former World War 2 rubble dump.
I have discovered that there is an application for deeper excavations to be made at this location. I am extremely alarmed at this and I do not accept that it should be considered as an 'immaterial' matter able to be delegated as some residents have been informed. I feel that the application adds to the misgivings of local people that there are hazards in the Leyton Marsh terrain which should have been surveyed and analysed, and the impact of their excavation assessed in terms of environmental, health and safety matters, before any diggers were sent in.
The planning application was received from London 2012 in late February or the beginning of March (on list of applications received to 12th March 2012) seeking a Variation to application 2011/1560. This was the Application by the ODA/London 2012 for the massive basketball facilities on Metropolitan Open Land at Porter's Field Meadow, Leyton Marshes.
The new application has been allocated ref number 2012/0359, and would involve digging to twice the depth they currently have permission for. They are already digging well below the depth currently permitted. This is said to be (in the screening opinion presumably) a "non-material consideration"! How can it be non-material to change from an 8 inches (15 cm) deep skimming of topsoil to removing nearly 2 feet of rubble?
The reason given for not providing (and planning Officers not demanding) any EIA or Archaeological Survey or Contaminated Land Report with the original application was that only 8" of topsoil - ie turf and plant roots - would be removed, and would be stored on site in mounds or bunds. There is little evidence of this process happening.
If that is going to change then we need to demand a full EIAS and an archaeological opinion. In fact it is clear from the debris in the heaps of rubble and from the fact that last week the diggers actually hit an unexploded wartime bomb that they are already digging far deeper into the unspecified and unrecorded wartime rubble that was dumped on the area.
The application could be determined any time under delegated powers by officers, as the officers have deemed the matter to be immaterial. It is not immaterial, and things need to be stopped whilst this matter is considered.
Anyone looking at the surface of Leyton Marsh will see that it has many dips and bulges: these are indicative of the underlying uncrushed heavy raw rubble underneath. Some of it will have settled over the years, some will not. There may be hidden cavities. Anyone looking at the huge tips of spoil now mounting up on Leyton Marsh will see pieces of masonry, parts of brick walls, chimneys. An unexploded bomb has been found already. I think it is madness to continue churning up this unknown, unanalysed seventy-year-old rubble dump indiscriminately and without proper contamination prevention. This presents a potential threat to Hackney residents.
I believe that urgent contact needs to be made with LB Waltham Forest planning dept and a halt made to the building of this facility whilst investigations are carried out and further discussion take place as to the intention of the ODA here.
This is a project which under any other circumstance would never have met any planning criteria. I believe that to lose a well-used and hugely beneficial green field in Leyton is too high a price to pay for a few weeks of Games.
To get further entrenched in this unfortunate misadventure of trying to balance a 21st-century indoor sports facility on an unstable bed of hazardous rubble is not sensible.
The basketball court has no legacy value whatsoever to the people of either Hackney or Waltham Forest as it is planned to be sold in October. Waltham Forest already has high-specification basketball courts built with public money - which are apparently going to be closed during the Olympics!
And there is still a big question of the effect all this building activity is having on the local wildlife and fauna in the area.
I have copied this to the Save Leyton Marsh group, a recently and spontaneously-formed group of local people from Waltham Forest and Hackney concerned about this issue. And to the local MPs.
I look forward to hearing that urgent action is being taken to prevent any further serious damage being caused.
Yours sincerely, Cllr Ian Rathbone