East Marsh fiasco “a right mess” as Hackney Council withdraws car park application

The car park the council have put in an application to build actually already exists on East Marsh.

The car park the council have put in an application to build actually already exists on East Marsh. Photo credit Paul Charman - Credit: Archant

A planning application to build a car park on East Marsh was withdrawn at the last minute to include a report on why it has already been built in a new submission.

The council’s planning committee was due to make a decision last night about the 60-space car park on East Marsh, which has been constructed without the mandatory consent from either the council or the government’s Planning Inspectorate.

But on Friday afternoon, members of the public who had written to complain about the application were told it had been withdrawn.

The consultation was due to officially close yesterday - coinciding with the planning committee meeting - meaning public objections had not been included in the planning officer’s report recommending approval.

East Marsh was concreted over in 2011 to make way for a coach park for the Olympics, and the approved reinstatement plan did not include a car park.

The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) had promised to reinstate the land to grass and football pitches.

Caroline Day, spokesman for campaign group Save Lea Marshes said the fiasco has been a “right mess” and “riddled by legal irregularity”.

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“The council did not bother to consult the community before constructing most of this car park, lodged an application expecting public opposition and therefore sought support from its own council employees to attempt to make it look less unpopular,” she said.

“Shamefully, this was not the end of the irregularity by Hackney Council, which then produced a report recommending approval before the consultation closed and people were given a chance to lodge objections.”

She continued: “Our questions regarding what will happen to the unlawful car park whilst consultation is re-enacted retrospectively remain unanswered, and we would like to know what action planning enforcement will take.”

A council spokesman said the council would not be taking enforcement action against itself regarding the development.

Backbench Labour councillors Ian Rathbone Deniz Oguzkanli have asked the council to investigate the matter: “In our view it should never have reached this stage,” they said in a joint statement.

The applicant, the council’s interim project manager for leisure and green spaces Leigh Sims, will re-draft her application to include information about why the car park - situated at the corner of the East Marsh where Spittlefields Market meets Ruckholt Road - is already in place.

Ms Sims was accused of trying to “stitch up” the outcome of the planning application by circulating an email to her council colleagues encouraging them to comment favourably on it.

A new application will also include details of a previous consultation undertaken about the Marshes six years ago, the level of car parking provision on East Marsh in the past, the reasons for “reinstating” a car park in a different place there, and the council’s overall plans for car parking provision at key sporting facilities on the Marshes.