Ice rink fears for protected marsh land blighted by Olympic development
PUBLISHED: 13:08 15 January 2013 | UPDATED: 13:09 15 January 2013
Fears that the construction of a temporary Olympic basketball hall on green space would set a precedent to develop the land have been realised after plans for a supersize ice rink were revealed.
Many Hackney residents fiercely opposed plans last year to build a structure for the 2012 Games on the protected Metropolitan Open Land at Leyton Marsh.
Waltham Forest Council cited exceptional circumstances, ignoring pleas to block development of the recreation land which lies across the River Lea borough boundary marker from Springfield Park.
Demonstrators from anti-capitalist group Occupy joined in with local protesters from Save Leyton Marsh campaign, blocking lorries from accessing the site last April before the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) took out a costly High Court injunction against them.
The only thing placating opponents was the ODA’s vow that land would revert to its original state by October 15.
Now, in a letter to Cllr Ian Rathbone, the chief executive of the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA), Shaun Dawson, has admitted that Leyton Marsh is one of a number of sites being considered for its ice rink expansion.
The existing ice centre lies next to the site of the dismantled temporary basketball hall in Lea Bridge Road and, says the LVRPA’s annual report and accounts, made a loss of £473,000 in the last financial year.
Mr Dawson’s letter reads: “We are of course mindful of the value of the Leyton Marsh as public open space and of the local sensibilities around any development in the area and how that might impact on the marsh.”
He continued: “If we do decide to seriously consider the existing ice centre site for a new ice centre we will put in place a local community engagement process at the very beginning. A decision as to whether to look at the current site in any detail is a few months away.”
Caroline Day from Save Leyton Marsh reacted with anger.
“This is absolutely extraordinary. We cannot believe they are even considering protected land in their development proposals,” she said.
“The only reason that the temporary basketball hall was given permission was the very special circumstances in the national interest – there are no grounds like that here.
“It was our fear all along that they would change the planning permission and make it ripe for development in the future.”
Cllr Rathbone added: “I just hope they don’t build on it because they will face such a major campaign. This will be an outrage with regards to their promises to us, which I hope they will keep.”
The LVRPA declined to comment further when contacted.
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