A campaign group has launched a petition to stop Hackney Council from hosting major events on Hackney Marshes.
The new group, Save Lea Marshes, calls for the marshes to remain as common land throughout the year – available for all Hackney residents. They claim that the BBC Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend in June last year caused “significant damage” to the wildlife, river and sports pitches.
Caroline Day, spokesperson for Save Lea Marshes said: “Many people who attended last year’s event on the marshes, two thirds of whom were from outside the borough, will not have been aware of the significant damage incurred to the area from the event.” The petition is hosted on change.org and has so far gathered over 180 signatures.
“I think the majority would be shocked by the serious adverse impact the event had, and is continuing to have on the environment and grassroots sport.”
Hackney Councillor Jonathan McShane, Cabinet Member for Health, Social Care and Cultures, told ELL the council has invested £18 million over the last 5 years on improving pitches and adding new facilities across the marshes.
“I understand people’s concerns but 100,000 people – including 30,000 Hackney residents – attended the BBC Radio 1 Hackney Weekend, so there is clearly demand and interest in these sorts of events from residents across the borough.”
According to Day, Hackney Council promised the Planning Inspectorate that the land would be returned to its original condition after the event, but failed to do so. The petition aims to stop damage of this nature on the marshes from happening again.
Day believes the council should take responsibility for the protection of the environment, and stage music events in more suitable locations, such as the recently developed Olympic Park.
Tim Evans, a bee keeper at the Community Tree Nursery on the marsh, said: “I’ve used the marsh for 25 years. We were resisting the Olympics and associated short-sighted projects right from the start in 2004.”
“Our experience with Radio 1 Hackney Weekend was that all the other uses of the marsh were hindered or completely shut down for nearly a month. in addition, a hawthorn hedge along Homerton Rd was ripped out and never replanted”.
During the Hackney Weekend last summer, the marshes were entirely enclosed by opaque fencing for one month despite the council’s promise that only a “small section” of the Marsh would be closed for two weeks.
When ELL interviewed local people about the prospect of more major events being hosted on the marshes we were met with a mixed response. Read the report here