Proposed plans for a new cricket pavilion and a car park to be built on green space in the Hackney Marshes are being challenged by a group of environmental campaigners.
Save Lea Marshes, a campaign group fighting to preserve the area, have called on Hackney Council to return to an original plan for the pavilion which was devised in 2009, and received approval from the government’s Planning Inspectorate.
But Councillor Jonathan McShane, Cabinet Member for Health, Social Care and Culture, revealed that this would not be possible.
He said: “We looked long and hard at design options based on the original footprint, but a number of serious practical barriers make this the wrong location”.
These practical barriers have been deemed non-existent by the campaign group. Spokesperson, Caroline Day, said: “If there were any significant practical barriers to building on the footprint of the old changing rooms, this plan would not have received Planning Inspectorate consent, as it did in 2009. The Council have not come up with any new information and their previous list of avowed practical barriers have been discredited as false or irrelevant.”
On the issue of the car park, the Council maintains that it is needed to support the local community. McShane added that: “The simple fact is a degree of parking provision at Hackney Marshes is needed to support the thousands of people who enjoy taking part in sport and we have worked hard to keep the number as low as possible.
“The new car park proposal is smaller than the previous 240-space car park on the north marsh”.
Whilst not disagreeing with meeting the needs of the local sporting community, Day believes that the new plan and associated car park have more to do with potential income generating activities the Council has in store for the marshes.
She said: “The thousands of people the Council is really referring too are the future festival goers, since this car park is really being constructed for future festival use and, despite having ample opportunity, the Council have repeatedly refused to rule out its use for future festivals.
“They have not reversed their policy on hosting 3 mega-events every year on the marshes, despite over 95% of local residents who were regular users of the marshes being against this. This speaks volumes.”
She added that: “A degree of parking is included in the old pavilion plan which we support. It is misleading to reference the old car park on north marsh which fell into complete disuse over ten years ago.
“The calculations on car numbers required also fails to take into consideration the new car park constructed on East Marsh without any planning permission. The Council are contradicting their own policy of reducing car use in the borough”.