Marsh Lane Fields
Victory for green campaigners
After months of campaigning Leyton residents are celebrating after hearing the council has rejected plans to turn their open green space into allotments.
At the end of last year the New Lammus Land Defence Committee and local councillors got together to oppose the fencing in of their open green space.
The London Development Agency wanted some of Marsh Lane fields to re house gardeners who were losing their plots to the Olympics.
As it happens the Manor Gardening Society, the gardeners in question, are battling against the orders to move them from their site in the first place.
Over forty protestors were outside the town hall when Waltham Forest Council announced it had rejected the LDA's proposals.
The council says: “The committee refused the planning application on the grounds of visual impact and loss of openness. Waltham Forest remains committed to the Olympic games and will continue to work with the LDA and all other bodies to ensure London benefits from the best Olympic games ever”.
Campaigners will celebrate their success on Marsh Lane fields this weekend. However, there is a feeling they may be doing so prematurely as the LDA have decided to submit another application:
Gareth Blacker, Director of the Olympic Land Team at the LDA, says:
The idea of putting allotments on Marsh Lane Fields would be just laughable. This proposal does NOTHING for London 2012, nor for the wider Olympic movement that I'd love to feel able to support, but to bring them into public disrepute. It does NOTHING for the voters and council tax payers of Waltham Forest - nor our children who like to play on the Fields and along the Lane.
Kate Barker, author of the recent Barker Report, said on the BBC's World At One programme: "what people really value is urban green space".
In the case of Marsh Lane Fields - WE DO!!
We use this Metropolitan Open Land, this little piece of the country in a city, for many purposes. Like walking the dog, cycling to work, playing ball this is England - of course we play football there! But there are many more things to do on a green field, and why not? patting the ponies, picking berries, getting a bit of peace and quiet and many more.
You should have been there early this morning, when I was - with the morning sun, and the frost on the grass. It was really beautiful!
To make way for an ENCLOSED facility, from NEWHAM, are we to lose such a great swathe - an unnecessarily great swathe - of this, contrary to Borough and London plans, national and regional planning policy, to gain only nuisance and safety hazards?
We, the people of Leyton, say NO!
Where is the legally-obliged exchange land? Where is any compensation?
Rosemary Johnson, Leyton
It's quite extraordinary that planners for the London Olympics have overlooked a wonderful opportunity to preserve a unique slice of London life and incorporate Manor Garden Allotment into the scheme instead of demolishing it without a thought. Not only would it preserve the rights of local people to grow their own food in perpetuity (as the founder, Rt. Hon. Major Villiers intended) but it would shine brighter than the Olympic flame in highlighting the Government's wish for this to be the "greenest Olympics ever." The biodiversity and local-distinctiveness that exists there has taken 100 years to evolve. It will be destroyed in a few days. Allotments carry all the hopes and aspirations of a Utopian existence: friendship, fairness, tolerance, cooperation, understanding and friendly competition regardless of creed, colour, age or ability. Sound familiar? The Olympic dream if I remember rightly.
It's not too late.
So Tony Blair is hailing the greenest ever Olympics? He clearly does not spend any time in the same East London in which I'm a regular lodger.
Green Olympics? - hardly. London Olympic Destruction Agency, as we locals know them, are purloining and concreting over green space at a rate of knots that would be truly incredible anywhere else in the country, or at any time before the 5-ring circus headed this direction.
Nearest to me, they are proposing to purloin and concrete over East Marsh, part of the world-famous common land of Hackney Marshes, and historic Lammas grazing common since the times of King Alfred. Why? to make a drop-off point for park and ride coaches, and parking bays for drivers with disabilities. No-one knows why, as people with disabilities that would mean the require a special parking bay is hardly likely to be in a position to make the long trek from there, and up and over a steep bridge, to the actual venues. But in the process, they are concreting over 11 football pitches, 3 rugby pitches, 3 cricket pitches with all-weather wickets, an eight lane running track and long and high jump facilities. And lots of nice grass and trees where us mere mortals go and walk, picnic or just sit out in the sun.
Further a field they want to steal parts of Hackney main marsh, and in fact just about all the open space and common land south of it, a lovely little park and children's play area just down the High Road from me, and a bit further north, a large section of the Lammas common lands of Leyton, and turn the turn the track across it into a main road.
And in the so-called Olympic park itself, they want to evict a beautiful island of gardens, that could so easily become a shining example of the green and sustainable living Mr Blair is so keen to hail, and a great attraction and inspiration for all our visitors from afar, to make way for a concrete path with a strip of grass along either side, Which could so easily be a path with a strip of garden on either side.
Green? Sustainable?? I think we should send Tony Blair for a test for colour-blindness. Well, it has long seemed he cannot recognise the red of his party's roots; maybe his colour vision is more widely deficient. That could explain a lot.
From personal experience, those who seek the sort of facilities required by Olympic sports rarely have to wait very long to get them, but most Londoners seeking an allotment plot will wait several years to get one; those in central London will probably have to travel to Barnet, Coulsdon or some equally distant place because they are unlikely in the forseeable future to get one nearer to their home. Many more adults, in all age groups, derive benefit from the healthy outdoor exercise provided by allotment cultivation than do so from Olympic sports.
Jack Dudley Swale, London
Allotments have, after all, been copied everywhere from Germany to Japan. In Japan more allotments have been opened in the last ten years than we have all together in the UK. While the Japanese are recognising the enormous health and social benefits provided by allotments, getting rid of unworkable Victorian style parks to make way for them, the UK is doing the opposite. The LDA particularly continues to undervalue and destroy them instead of taking pride and showcasing them.
Manor Gardening Society would like to feed the Olympic athlete from the smallest country, open a visitors centre showing our history which would incorporate the fascinating story of Major Arthur Villiers, our founder, who was great friend with Churchill. The history of the Dig for Victory campaign and the waves of immigration into UK which has created the wonderful diversity of our allotment and London communities.
Making the allotments into a central feature of the Olympic and Legacy Parks would send out the clearest possible signal to the world about the UK's ambitions for food production, health for all and environmentally sustainable living. Preserving into the bargain a rich plant and animal life.
Django Bates, composer and Professor of Music at the University of Copenhagen says, 'Blair has promised the 'greenest Olympics ever, yet plans to destroy the historical Manor Garden Allotments to make way for a footpath are still in place. The people who are fighting to continue to grow andshare produce, on land that was bequeathed to them in perpetuity, are truly 'green'. So far, the Olympic planners are not.'
I am writing to express my despair at the destruction of the remaining green areas of this district by the Olympic juggernaut. I refer to the Manor Garden Allotments, the Bully Point Reserve & Cycleway, Bow Back Rivers, even the famous Hackney Marsh football pitches. It seems extraordinary that in the name of sport what actually exists and is enjoyed has to die for the sake of a month long jamboree of little interest to most Londoners. Elite sport is corrupt, essentially unhealthy and regularly spawns enormous stadia of burdensome proportions to the cities foolish enough to build them. Any talk of a "green games"is evidently guff designed to disguise the enormous destruction wrought by politicians' megalomania.
While I dare say it is too late to stop the Olympic madness t would at least indicate London's politicians have some environmental understanding if they were to leave the allotments alone - they were after all granted in perpetuity.
Lord Coe and Tony Blair claim that the 2012 London Olympics are to be the greenest most environmentally sustainable games ever. Then why do they propose the demolition of the one hundred year old Manor Gardens allotments on the site? Surely a communal vegetable garden is a "cutting edge example of sustainability" and should be incorporated into the Olympic park not destroyed.
Manor gardens is multi cultural community that promotes exercise and a healthy diet for all ages; is a benefit to wild life and the environment and is affordable to anyone. Practically all the sheds and greenhouses are made from recycled materials and no Gas or Electricity is used.
Manor Gardens is not situated at a crucial site in the scheme and could easily be saved with no impact on the overall plans for the games.
If Blair and Coe can think of any activity that is more sustainable than growing ones own food then we would be very interested to hear about it. If not then perhaps they should be incorporating more allotments into these Olympics rather than destroying this beautiful place that many generations of East Londoners have invested so much in.
Matt and Cathryn Moffatt. (Plotholders)
I went to the beautiful Manor Gardens Allotments in Hackney when visiting from New York last autumn. I felt I learned more about London there than from circling in the Eye.
I am horrified at an Olympic Plan that would destroy the network of life sustaining relationships I saw--relationships between plants, birds, and soil and between local people, some of nationalities that in other places are at war with one another.
The Prime Minister's comments extolling the 'cutting edge sustainability' of the plans for the London Olympics reveal that he does not understand either sustainability or the purpose of the Olympics.
Carol Williams Sag Harbor, New York
last updated: 28/12/2007 at 15:00