‘Racist’ remark of Olympic Park developer who referred to ‘Traveller infestation’ is condemned

The site on the Olympic Park being developed by East Wick and Sweetwater. Picture: Google Earth

The site on the Olympic Park being developed by East Wick and Sweetwater. Picture: Google Earth - Credit: Archant

Olympic Park developers have been denounced for making a “highly offensive and racist remark” after referring to an “infestation of Travellers” at a public meeting.

The comment was made by Andrew Atkins, the development director of the East Wick and Sweetwater Projects, at a meeting to discuss affordable housing on the Olympic Park.

Two separate occupations of the sites by Travellers lasted five weeks, and Mr Atkins attributed a two-month delay to one development to an “infestation of Travellers”.

One person who attended the meeting and whose name the Gazette has agreed to withhold said: “It was an incredibly shocking, racist, dehumanising thing to say about a group of people and an attitude that I had hoped was absolutely rejected by any modern organisation.”

They added: “None of his three colleagues who were working for the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) commented on or objected to his turn of phrase.”

Debby Kennett, chief exec of the London Gypsies and Travellers Unit in Westgate Street, London Fields, said it was “particularly disturbing” that “this highly offensive and racist remark was expressed unchallenged in a public meeting. “This only perpetuates the view that using this type of language about Gypsies and Travellers is still acceptable,” she said.

A spokesman for the East Wick and Sweetwater project said the comment “was not intended to be derogatory”, and was in reference to “illegal activity”. “The occupation, as well as the subsequent dumping of hundreds of tonnes of waste and environmental damage, set us back in delivering phase one of much needed homes,” he said. “Equality and diversity is of paramount importance to all parties involved in this project and the member of staff concerned has been advised as to our policies on this matter.”

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But the LLDC is “deeply concerned” about the language used, according to a spokesman: “We have raised the matter urgently with the East Wick and Sweetwater developer and asked them to take immediate action.”