London Indymedia

news from leyton marsh and call to action

rikkiindymedia(At)gmail[dot]com (rikki) | 09.04.2012 16:55 | Free Spaces | London

i visited leyton marsh yesterday afternoon and spoke to the occupiers and many locals about the olympic build, the legal situation, and the plans to continue resisting. here are my report and pics.

just one of the many visits from locals
just one of the many visits from locals

excavated rubble, not topsoil
excavated rubble, not topsoil

security on site
security on site


the river lea next to the marsh
the river lea next to the marsh

only security dogs allowed
only security dogs allowed

a window on contamination
a window on contamination

toxic warning
toxic warning

camp kitchen
camp kitchen

take a stand
take a stand

save leyton marsh
save leyton marsh

Pictures: 'some rights reserved' - free for credited non-commercial use, otherwise contact author for permission
leyton marsh is a large green space, just north of the lea bridge road, and east of the river lea. it lies between the urban areas of clapton and walthamstow, from where people come in droves to walk, picnic, exercise, fly kites, horse-ride, dog-walk, play games, and enjoy and experience the diversity of natural habitat.

it is designated as 'metropolitan open land', and is also an 'archaeological priority zone', sitting within a 'principal site of nature conservation importance', and in close proximity to a 'site of special scientific interest nature reserve'. under the council's open space strategy, it is also deemed as a 'special protection area', and last year it received a 'green flag award'.

despite all the above, and in the face of 115 planning objections, (many from established groups, management companies, resident groups, and other associations each representing numbers of people, as well as several Hackney councillors), planning permission was given earlier this year for an olympic basketball training facility.

the plans are for a tall building housing two 11-metre high basketball courts, plus a reception area, a car park, an access road, a drop off area, plant storage, and high security fencing. all this will supposedly be a temporary structure for a period of 8 months, after which everything will, say the 'olympic delivery authority' (ODA), be returned to its original state.

despite ODA assurances that not only will everything be returned to its original state, but that further money will be spent on improving the land after october, campaigners and locals have serious concerns over the lasting effects of the disruption, especially on the delicate eco-system.

even if the ODA's promises were kept, there is the glaring idiocy of spending so much public money on a temporary structure to then be destroyed with absolutely no legacy benefit to londoners.

rather than focussing purely on resistance, campaigners have been busy searching for other solutions to the need for basketball training facilities. they have identified three possible sites, much better suited to provide both the temporary facilities and then a lasting legacy.

the first of these is walthamstow dog stadium, a large iconic enclosed space close to the olympic park which currently lays idle. second, just a stone's throw from the marsh in markhouse road is the kelmscott leisure centre. its basketball courts were recently refurbished, and it is wheelchair accessible. any further improvements to the courts or the buildings would give lasting value to the local community. lastly, there is the 'score centre', a purpose-built sports facility in nearby leyton, with indoor football and basketball. again, with minimal work it could provide at least one of the training courts and leave a lasting legacy benefit.

however, earlier this year, waltham forest council gave planning permission to the ODA. even their own documents are riddled with notes that the development involves departure from a huge swathe of regional and national policies, and that the application doesn't propose any legacy benefits, and having established that it would normally be "refused as a matter of principle", they they go on to pass it on the sole basis of the "exceptional circumstances that delivering the london games create".

so, 7,600 square metres of existing rough grassland will be removed for the access roads alone, in an area designated a 'principal site of nature conservation'. the buildings will be placed on a huge paved area, and additional brick storage ponds will be dug. in order to return the area to its original state, all the soil and rubble will be heaped in a further area of the marsh, resulting in "a significant area of the main part of the marsh being unavailable to the public for at least 8 months".

campaigners have also identified very serious concerns over disturbing the soil in this area. the planning permission allows 15cms of topsoil to be removed, but monitors have clearly caught the ODA digging much deeper already, and this is a very serious issue because of the history of the area.

the site is actually where a lot of rubble is buried from bombed factories during WWII. many of these factories used heavy metal and even radioactive materials, and much of the rubble is severely contaminated. campaigners from the 'games monitor' site have commissioned independent scientific analyses of soil from similar areas at olympic sites, and have discovered dangerous levels of contaminants likely to be harmful to both workers and the public, including asbestos, radioactive waste and heavy metals like lead. there is also, with the deeper, unauthorised excavation, a real risk of unexploded ordnance, and indeed, shortly after the work began, and unexploded WWII bomb was discovered.

so, shortly after work began at the site, a protest camp sprang up next to it, and after on several occasions successfully and peacefully halting lorries from entering, the occupiers were summoned to the high court and the ODA were granted an injunction against "persons unknown who are unlawfully occupying…in connection with protest activity".

several hackney councillors have signed an open letter to the ODA expressing dissappointment in the legal action, and questioning the ODA's claims and transparency.

while i was visiting the camp yesterday afternoon, i was struck by the number of passers-by, mostly locals, who visited and were eager to talk to the occupiers. the kitchen is well-stocked due to the kindness and support of local people, and there is plenty of commitment and support for peaceful direct action when the lorries return (the building project has currently been abandoned for two weeks while the court case unfolded).

although the ODA have not given any clear indication, local people and activists are expecting a return to work tomorrow morning, and there is clearly a strong contingent who feel the need to resist in defiance of the court injunction which was granted last week.

although the camp is not calling out for any great number of resident supporters, feeling that negotiations and their relationship with the police actually benefit from being small in number, they do welcome non-violent people to attend the actions, the first of which is expected to be early tomorrow morning.

if you are intending to join in any actions, please be aware that the camp has asked people to be polite and non-violent at all times towards the contractors, many of whom have expressed private surprise and horror that such a green site is being turned into a building site, and who are precarious workers who do not support the ODA in principle.

as well as those willing to risk potential arrest, supporters are of course welcome to document, and witness the actions of the police and any other authorities involved.

building is not allowed to begin before 8am, but lorries apparently queue up from 7.30, so visitors are urged to arrive around 7am. tomorrow looks like it will be a large-scale operation on both sides, with the resumption of delayed works pitted against a very strong local feeling towards what many see as a flawed legal process at the high court, ignoring the reality of what the ODA are committing on the ground in flagrant breach of permission, as well as the fact that one of the judges is said to hold tickets for the olympic basketball games. (more details on the court case)

visitors are welcome for ensuing actions each morning at the same time.

next saturday, dog-walkers (especially those with mischievous hounds) are particularly welcome from 9.30am for a 'mass dog disobedience class'.

there is an optimism, given the scale of local feeling, that the ODA may yet be beaten, and that the sensible alternatives may have to be reconsidered in the face of such opposition. tomorrow is the first and possibly biggest battle in that process.

more info and updates at
email: saveleytonmarsh [At] hotmail {d0t} com
twitter #leytonmarsh

relevant and very well-researched olympic info at

location; behind lee valley ice centre on lea bridge rd, E10 7QL
buses 55, 48, 56
10/15 mins walk from clapton overground
contact: 07963 475 195

Contact email: rikkiindymedia(At)gmail[dot]com

rikkiindymedia(At)gmail[dot]com (rikki)
- Original article on IMC London:


South Coast

Other UK IMCs
Bristol/South West
Northern Indymedia

London Topics

Animal Liberation
Climate Chaos
Energy Crisis
Free Spaces
Ocean Defence
Other Press
Public sector cuts
Social Struggles
Terror War
Workers' Movements

London IMC


About | Contact
Mission Statement
Editorial Guidelines
Publish | Help

Search :