Gazette letters: Chicks, Britannia Leisure Centre, welcome road closures

Will was attacked (by a bird) for approaching this crow chick.

Will was attacked (by a bird) for approaching this crow chick. - Credit: Archant

Coots and moorhens everywhere this week. Every egg hatched, they are storming the waterways, exploring every last towpath crevice.

Eggs I caught a glimpse of running up the new river path and along the canal last week remain in the nest split in two, their inhabitants now born to a life on Hackney and Islington’s waterways.

Fluff-balls, they look unready to swim, the down of their feathers ill-suited to water – but already they speed across the water, ricocheting off the banks and causing untold distress to their parents. Swimming in the Heath pond this week I watched as a coot leapt up from the water, and with its beak wrestled down a willow branch to water level so its chicks could nibble at the leaves. Charming parental displays such as this, though touching, only tell half the story. Observe a coot family over a few days and you’ll likely witness some quite unpleasant aggression towards their young.

Waterfowl were not the only young birds on show this week. On Saturday morning in my garden I noticed a large crow chick sat quite contentedly on the lawn. Approaching it slowly just to check whether it needed some assistance (and please note the RSPB and the RSPCA recommend that, unless there is a visible sign of injury, it is best to leave the bird to its own devices), I was stunned by a hard thump on the back of my head.

Terrified, I turned round to see my attacker and a pair of enormous black wings passed before my eyes – one of the chick’s parents, telling me off for daring to come too close.

In his fairly long letter about the Britannia Development Plan, the mayor does not actually refute the facts quoted in my letter, most of which were from the council’s own planning application, writes Pat Turnbull, Save Britannia Leisure Centre.

For example, saying the City of London Academy Shoreditch Park, on its temporary site on Haggerston Park, is “open, full and over-subscribed” only proves if you open a new secondary school and do a lot of recruitment, it will get filled up, because parents think: a nice new, small school with no older pupils.

It does not answer the point in the council’s application that proves the school is not needed: there are 41 secondaries within three miles radius, which could increase by 5,100 pupils and still be within capacity.

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It seems a bit patronising of the mayor to say “people often don’t like change”. It’s pretty reasonable not to like a change that loses an existing, fully functioning leisure centre plus a little bit of green space (the car park with its fifty trees), and gets instead 481 flats (of which only 48 are to be council social rented) in three tall towers, plus an unnecessary school and a replacement leisure centre.

To object to at least six years’ noisy, disruptive demolition and construction for no advantage also seems reasonable, especially as the site is next to the Colville Estate.

The mayor does not seem to have taken on board the objection made by so many that all this expensive housing encourages more, driving local people out of the area.

But objectors should not be discouraged. It looks as if they have already had some effect. The council is likely to be submitting some new information on the application, which, we are told, will try to address some of the issues raised. This could happen this month. There will then be a further round of public consultation on the new information, and everyone will be able to comment again. So be prepared.

Yesterday (Wed), local parents, children and residents celebrated the opening of Hackney’s first bus gate on Lansdowne Drive along with the start of the London Fields Primary “school street”, writes Brenda Puech, chairman, Hackney Living Streets.

We have been asking for these for a long time and we are delighted the council is taking measures to reduce traffic, noise and pollution in the local area as follows.

Westgate Street outside London Fields Primary School has become a pedestrian, cycle and local buses only zone from 8.30am to 9.15am, and 3.15pm to 4pm Monday to Friday during term-time. A bus gate will be installed at the junction of Lansdowne Drive and Trederwen Road, which will only allow buses, pedestrians and cyclists through from 7am to 10 am and 3pm to 7pm, Monday to Saturday. There will be no left turn into Richmond Road from Mare Street at the same times.

Lansdowne Drive is currently a traffic nightmare with drivers using it as a short cut and racing through this narrow residential street. The speed of cars is excessive and dangerous making the street almost impossible to cross. Noise, speed and pollution are blighting the lives of families who live on this road.

Now, for a few hours each day, it is transformed into a quiet residential street where it is easy for everyone, especially older people, children and disabled people to cross over to get to London Fields and let children out on their own.