Campaigners’ fury at “corrupt” Hackney Council “stitch up” over third Marsh car park

The East Marsh when it was paved over for the Olympics

The East Marsh when it was paved over for the Olympics - Credit: Archant

Campaigners are furious at what they claim are council attempts to “stitch up” the outcome of a consultation to create a third car park on Hackney Marshes.

A planning application has been lodged to create a 60-space car park on East Marsh, which was concreted over in 2011 to make way for a coach park for last year’s Olympics.

Although it was promised the land would be reinstated with grass by February 2013, it is not going to be usable for football until next year.

Now the council says it wants to “reinstate” a car park on East Marsh next to Ruckholt Road, “to meet the needs of the borough’s residents who wish to use the marsh for education or recreational purposes”.

Its plans for a 68-space car park nearby, next to Cow Bridge on Hackney Marsh, have already sparked contention as reported in the Gazette last week.

Nature lovers oppose the introduction of cars onto green open land, and believe it contradicts the council’s own policy to discourage car use.

Their anger intensified when they realised Leigh Sims, the council employee who made the East Marsh application circulated an email to her council colleagues encouraging them to comment favourably on it.

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Ms Sims, the council’s interim project manager for leisure and green spaces wrote: “If you feel this is a positive proposal and contributes to the facility mix on the Marshes, please circulate this email to any colleagues and contacts that you feel would be interested in commenting on the proposed car park.”

She continued: “Public and external organisations comments are influential in the planning decision - we are expecting a number of individuals and organisations to oppose the development so would welcome your support.”

Save Lea Marshes (SLM) spokeswoman Caroline Day said the email was “outrageous” and “corrupt”.

“It’s an attempt to stitch up the outcome of the consultation and to completely dishonestly affect the results so the public opposition to the application is not explicit,” she said.

“Then they can drive through the application based on their own desire to do it.”

“Council workers may well be local residents, but they are working for the organisation attempting to put through the application, they are therefore not disinterested members of the public,” she added.

SLM campaigners and members of Hackney Marsh User Group believe the existing car park at the Hackney Marsh User Centre in Homerton Road is underused and sufficient to meet demand.

Paul Charman, from the the pressure group, Olympic Games Monitor said: “A lot of people feel it’s an extra bit of parking for the Olympic Park.

“No one was aware it was being constructed until recently but the council claim it’s part of their long term view for the marshes,” he added.

The East Marsh car park would be paid for by the London Legacy Development Corporation.

Kev Refuse, a member of the Hackney Marsh User Group believes the move is a “cynical application by the council to make money out of our marsh”.

“The only logical explanation is that they are still pushing ahead with the ‘mega’ events plan, which they have always said they’d bring back, by putting in as many car parks as they can” he said.

“They seem to be wanting as much vehicular access as possible, by opening up bridges to traffic where no traffic has been in twelve years like Cow Bridge and opening car parks wherever they can.

“All this for a council supposed to be discouraging car use.”

The application which was available to view on the council’s website on Tuesday, is open for comments on the planning portal until September 2.

Emails and written comments can be sent to the council’s planning department until October 18.

A spokeswoman for the council said they would not comment on live planning applications.