High Court action   
Judge Refuses Save Leyton Marsh time to find legal representation and has Olympic tickets for (wait for it) Basketball

Today in the royal Courts of Justice there have been some very fishy shenanigans going on. Save Leyton Marsh Campaign group and members of the Community Support Camp received two injunctions that were served around nine o'clock on Monday evening at the building site on Leyton Marsh when most of the camp was at a campaign group meeting at the local pub. Save Leyton Marsh was formed over three months ago by local community members to save the Marsh from further building encroachments on their important public green spaces. In that time, with large community backing, some of the group began blocking the vehicles. The campaign group then invited the Occupy movement to help sustain the blockade. Since the Community Support Camp became established work has ceased for nine days, much to the appreciation of the majority of Leyton Marsh users.

The process of planning application and construction of the basketball training facility is riddled with inconsistences. The Olympic Delivery Authority rented the green area from the Lea Valley Park Regional Authority for £130,000 until October 15th 2012. Even the Waltham Forest Council planning report admits the unacceptability of building on the marshes but granted planning permission regardless. Interestingly the Lib Dem and Conservative representatives voted against whereas Labour voted for and won the majority vote. Perhaps cynicism is getting the better of me but a bit of political wheeling and dealing behind the scenes is not uncommon.

The ODA failed to provide any evidence of a genuine search for alternative sites - a 'greenfield' site should have been an absolute last resort. Only 250 letters were handed out and 20 notices put up, over the Christmas period, to notify the public of the planning consultation process. But the decision had been made and contracts signed 6 months earlier, of which park users knew nothing. Members of Save Leyton Marsh are adamant the consultation happened in too short a time for the nearby residents to become aware and voice their concerns - even during the planning process, which was a rubber stamping formality.

With the increase of council tax in London the local community are not only paying for the Olympics and to keep this land open for all but to have it co-opted from them and changed to the areas detriment, restricting public access and as has happened elsewhere opening the floodgates for future construction.

The assurances that the ODA have released are not helped by the fact that it has become clear the LVPRA are desperate for money and can't even afford to enforce its bylaws. The omission in the ODA's latest letter to the public that the land will be returned to its former state adds to the distrust. The cherry on the cake being the construction company digging deeply into contaminated ground that they had claimed, in their planning application, would not be disturbed. Add to the cherry the added woe that a world war two bomb was discovered. Plus, of five samples taken of soil from the site prior to construction, three contained such high levels of lead that they were classed as hazardous waste.

The pressure on the ODA, LVPRA, Waltham Forest Council and Nussli (Schweiz) AG has been mounting. There are no exit strategy plans to return the area to its former glory (a condition for the planning application), no environmental impact assessment and tonnes of suspected contaminated soil - in which asbestos and lead have been found.

It seems that the various authorities, now including the Royal Courts of Justice, are too proud to admit they have made a mistake - the first court hearing happened yesterday. The focus of it was to stop games of boules and more direct ways of preventing activity on the building site. Only having one day to prepare the judge refused to allow time for the defendants to find a solicitor to represent the persons unknown who were being threatened with £335,000 in costs which were repealed for being unfounded. It had the desired affect and scared local community members from being named defendants. If so much was not at stake the farce would have reached laughable proportions when the judge had to declare a special interest in the proceedings, admitting he had Olympic tickets for (wait for it) basketball.

The second injunction hearing to clear the encampment took place today. Not without irony the name of the second Judge is called Master Marsh - someone who arranged this is definitely having a giggle. He did not allow any legal representation. He denied volunteers to be a named defendant as well as a McKenzie friend (a layman assistant). Master Marsh admitted to consulting with the Judge from the previous day, thus prejudicing the case even further. The deal was sealed with further insult to any notion of justice when he read his verdict against the defenceless defendants verbatim from a prepared piece paper that had been written before the hearing. We know the game is rigged but we had hoped for a modicum of subtlety. Some tangible argument to disprove the campaigners' observations would at least leave the powers that be looking respectable.

by Daniel Ashman (Save Leyton Marsh Campaign)

(Thu, 5 Apr 2012)

  Lea Marshes   Basketball project