Public inquiry will soon determine controversial Marsh plans

An artist's impression of the Marsh pavillion

An artist's impression of the Marsh pavillion - Credit: Archant

An inquiry into whether to grant approval to controversial plans for a sports pavillion, along with a car park that has already been built on protected land, is drawing to a close on Thursday.

The current pavillion on the Marshes

The current pavillion on the Marshes - Credit: Archant

Earlier this month Hackney Council’s planning committee gave the green light to the council’s own two applications to build a car park on East Marsh and cricket facilities and a 68-space car park on North Marsh - both on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL).

The application for the 60-space car park on East Marsh was withdrawn from the planning committee at the last minute in September 2013 when it emerged it had already been built without the mandatory consent from either the council or the government’s Planning Inspectorate (PINS).

The month before, a council officer 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.

Then in January 2014 environmental campaigners Save Lea Marshes uncovered documents which showed the council was given the green light by the government’s Planning Inspectorate (PINS) in 2009 to build a 20-changing room pavillion on the footprint of the present outdated North Marsh building next to Cow Bridge off Mandeville Street, Lower Clapton.

At the time the council claimed this was the “optimum location” for the pavillion to ensure it did “not impact on the open nature of the Marshes” and SLM urged them to build in the same footprint rather than on protected land.

Claims by the council that the 2009 plans had been rendered unfeasible because of a water pipe were shown to be untrue when yet more planning documents were uncovered.

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Last September the council brought in planning consultant Firstplan as its agent for a combined application for the two developments. Later that month PINS announced an inquiry would be the “most appropriate way” to determine the application.

When the application received approval from the council’s planning committee last month, Cllr Jonathan McShane, cabinet member for health, social care and culture, said: “This decision is great news, and brings us a crucial step closer to realising the full potential of the Marshes as a centre for sport and community activity, accessible to all. We know lots of people want this new pavillion and the necessary car parking that comes with it.”