Hackney Council claimed previous cricket pavillion site was the “optimum location” - before car park plans emerged

Campaigners mock up the size of the proposed cricket pavillion on Hackney Marshes

Campaigners mock up the size of the proposed cricket pavillion on Hackney Marshes - Credit: Archant

Environmental campaigners have called on Hackney Council to build the cricket pavilion design already awarded planning permission several years ago in what they described at the time as the “optimum location”, rather then a newer design which involves building a car park on open green space.

The Save Lea Marshes (SLM) group has discovered documents which show the council was given the green light by the government’s Planning Inspectorate (PINS) in 2009 to build a 20-changing room pavilion on the footprint of the present outdated North Marsh building next to the renovated Cow Bridge off Mandeville Street, Lower Clapton.

At the time the council claimed this was the “optimum location” for the pavilion to ensure it did “not impact on the open nature of the Marshes”.

“This is an important consideration especially because the land is designated as Metropolitan Open Land (MOL),” they continued in support of their application.

It was never built however and the council’s latest scheme which was unveiled last year proposes a building with four less changing rooms sited on open land used for recreation, along with a 68-space car park where the current outdated changing rooms presently stand.

Caroline Day, spokeswoman for SLM said it begs the question why the council never built the first design, and accused the council of wanting to resurrect its plans to use the Marshes as a “cash cow”, by holding more major events there like the Radio 1 Hackney Weekend.

The council’s parks and green spaces events policy was changed in 2012 to give approval to hold three major events each year on the marshes, but the council was forced to drop its plans last May when a Planning Inspectorate consultation demonstrated overwhelming public opposition.

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Ms Day said: “Considering everything we know, including the fact that Hackney Council had this building originally planned without such a large car park, that despite overwhelming public opposition to the proposals for mega-events they chose not to abandon the idea, and that such a large car park would provide crucial logistical support for large vehicular access, all the evidence supports the conclusion that this proposed construction is primarily being designed in this new way to support future mega-events on the marshes and not for sport.

“Their silence on the matter of the car park being constructed and used for future festivals is deafening - their original proposals were better for the sports clubs, better for the marshes, better for everyone.”

Cllr Jonathan McShane, cabinet member for health, social care and culture, said in a statement that they had “looked long and hard” at design options based on the original footprint, but a number of serious practical barriers made this it “wrong location”.

He continued: “The simple fact is a degree of parking provision at Hackney Marshes is needed to support the thousands of people who enjoy taking part in sport and we have worked hard to keep the number as low as possible.”

He claims the new car park proposal is smaller than the previous 240-space car park on the north marsh, but campaigners have pointed out this has been out of use for over a decade since Cow Bridge became unsafe.