“Disastrous” decision could signal open season for Lea Valley park developments

Secretary of State Eric Pickles refused to intervene in controversial Essex Wharf development

The government’s refusal to intervene in a nature reserve flat battle has been branded “disastrous” by Lea Valley campaigners - who say it could open the floodgates for developers to ruin the regional park.

Waltham Forest Council granted planning permission in January for the controversial seven-storey Essex Wharf tower blocks in the Lee Valley Regional Park (LVRP) aside the River Lea.

The four tower blocks would obstruct open views from Upper Clapton’s Millfields North recreation ground across Leyton Marsh.

Opponents included Hackney Council and the Lea Valley Federation, a coalition of community and environmental groups fighting to preserve the LVRP as green space, who had hoped for an independent adjudication inquiry.

The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA), referred the decision to the Secretary of State for reconsideration, but Eric Pickles decided last week intervention would not be justified, “because the issues raised do not relate to matters of more than local importance.”

A spokesman for the Lea Valley Federation said: “Mr Pickles has used the idea of localism as the basis for letting the council decision stand on principle - but has missed the whole point that this was about the rights and needs of a regional authority.”

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“It is quite obvious that approval of large-scale, high-rise, view-destroying, residential accommodation of mediocre design on a site of open land, where no housing has been built since time immemorial, will lead to enormous pressure from developers for further flats and houses on all the open land alongside Lea Bridge Road.

“People are really angry about the way Waltham Forest Council and now the Government are betraying the ideals which lead to the creation of this green lung for London 45 years ago.”

Speaking on behalf of Leabridge ward councillors, Cllr Ian Rathbone warned that oversubscribed local infrastructure like schools, doctor surgeries and other services, would come under even pressure.

“The developers and Waltham Forest Council won’t be paying a penny towards helping with this,” he added.

Opponents are deciding whether to apply for a High Court judicial review, which could overturn the Secretary of State’s decision.