Epping Forest could be Olympics police base

A woman walks her dog on Wanstead Flats, east London Epping Forest has been protected from development for the past 128 years

Officials are drafting a change to the law which would let police set up a temporary headquarters on protected land during the 2012 London Olympics.

The Metropolitan Police wants to use Wanstead Flats, east London, as a base for thousands of officers while the Games are held in nearby Stratford.

But the area is part of Epping Forest, which is protected from development.

The City of London Corporation, which is responsible for the forest, said the request would be "properly considered".

It said it was in a "difficult position" because of the need to balance the protection of the nature spot with the requirements of the police.

'One-off'

It has asked Home Office officials to consider how the law could be altered in time for the Games.

In 1882, Queen Victoria declared the forest should be for "the use and enjoyment of my people for all time" and a large part of it has been designed as a site of special scientific interest.

Scotland Yard said Wanstead Flats was the "only practicable site" for its plans and promised it would be returned to its original condition once the event was over.

Judy Adams, of the Friends of Epping Forest, said her group opposed "in principle" any development which would affect the area.

She said the Olympics was a "one-off", however, and acknowledged a compromise might be required to amend the present law, which was passed in 1878.

"We will be looking for guarantees over appropriate restoration of the site afterwards and mitigation - effectively compensation - for the loss of the site for however many months it may be," she added.

The Metropolitan Police has promised to hold a full public consultation before any planning application was submitted.

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