Hackney Council climb down over Marsh proposals

PUBLISHED: 09:07 25 May 2013 | UPDATED: 09:10 25 May 2013

Jay Z and Rianna performing at BBC Radio 1's Hackney Weekend 2012. Rianna - (C) BBC - Photographer: Sarah Barney

Jay Z and Rianna performing at BBC Radio 1's Hackney Weekend 2012. Rianna - (C) BBC - Photographer: Sarah Barney

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Hackney Council wanted to stage three major events each summer on the scale of the Hackney Weekend gig last June, which saw 100,000 music fans rock to the likes of Jay-Z and Rihanna.

Campaigners have hailed Hackney Council’s climb down over proposals to hold three events each year on the Marshes like last year’s Radio 1 mega pop concert, as a victory for democracy, common sense and nature.

But before applying to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) for five-year consent, a community consultation was carried out which was met with a resounding no.

Sports chiefs slammed the plans because the football, cricket and rugby pitches had been damaged by the footfall as well as by lorries setting up stages, and nearly a year on nine football pitches are still out of use.

On top of this, the Marshes were closed off for a month before the concert, severely disrupting the cricket season.

The Football Association (FA), the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) have all invested public money re-developing the Marshes, to ensure the site which is considered the “spiritual home” of Sunday league football remains a key sporting site in the capital.

A letter leaked from Sport England, the government agency responsible for promoting sport, warned the council: “The proposals to hold regular major events on Hackney Marshes were not part of your strategic business and sports development plans that Sport England and the national governing bodies took into consideration with our investment into the site, and we consider the new plans are a significant risk to the delivery of community sports participation.”

Cllr Jonathan McShane, the cabinet member for health, social care and culture, said they now appreciate the proposed number of events was too high for many people.

“We realise that by proposing blanket permission for a number of events across the summer, we caused great concern as the nature of any event would be unknown,” he added.

However the council has not ruled out holding future events on the Marshes but would assess any proposals from events promoters on an individual basis.

Cllr McShane added: “In the current economic climate, with local government funding continuing to be significantly reduced, it is vital we find new ways of funding the £500,000 subsidy we currently provide to run the Marshes, maintain their high quality, and keep costs to users at a reasonable level.”

After the concert, the council picked up a tab of £195,000 to repair all the pitches, including the brand new cricket pitches which had only just been installed at a cost of £750,000 to the ECB.

Caroline Day, spokeswoman for Save Leyton Marsh campaign group, which collected an 800-signature petition against the plans, said: the decision was a victory for democracy, common sense and nature.

“However the Council should protect the area and cease their plans to exploit the marshes for income generation in future,” she added.

Tom Tanner, Secretary of Stoke Newington Cricket Club, said they would be celebrating.

“At least for the time being it guarantees our future, but we will obviously be watching them like hawks to make sure any future proposals come with cast iron guarantees the pitches will not be damaged and any plans for future events would mean we wouldn’t be excluded from marshes for any period of time.”

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