Charity wants to turn Lea Valley water depot into wild space for swimming

Illustration: Esmae Palmer

A charity and a community group are raising money to acquire and develop the Lea Valley water depot into a wild space for swimming and future community projects.

The ex-Thames Water depot on Lea Bridge Road, which borders Hackney and Waltham Forest, is a 5.68-hectare concrete site

The Countryside Charity (CPRE) is proposing to transform the space into a swathe of green space.

Almost £30,000 has already been raised by grassroots campaign group Save Lea Marshes and CPRE.

Alice Roberts, Head of Green Space Campaigns at CPRE told Eastlondonlines: “This is a fantastic opportunity to create an amazing new park, and to open up connections and routes along the Lea Valley.

It’s the missing piece of Hackney and Lea Marshes puzzle and we wholeheartedly support this campaign.

Alice Roberts, Head of Green Space Campaigns at the Countryside charity

Thames Water filled in the filter beds in the early 1980s and subsequently used the site as an operational depot until it no longer needed it and sold it for more than £33 million to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.  

The project includes a plan to dig out the old Victoria filter beds that were once used to supply clean water for the area and make it appropriate for wild swimming and community use.

Not only does the redevelopment include plans to re-wild the green space, but also to transform the former depot buildings into hostel accommodations and space for future community projects.  

Julian Cheyne, who is part of the project team, told Hackney Gazette: “This piece of Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) has been inaccessible to local residents for too long.

“The rest of the old filter beds on the former East London Waterworks sites have been opened up to the public so it is about time this missing piece joined them.” 

A map showing the ex-Thames Water depot site and surrounding areas.  Pic: East London Waterworks Park (ELWP) 

Giles Burton, Technical Coordinator and Architectural Designer at Hill Group UK told ELL: “The development would offer endless opportunity to the communities it borders- with spaces being designed for community projects, as well as the transformation of the old depot buildings into hostels: hopefully offering emergency shelter for those who need it most.

“The plans are in nature’s favour, hence the strong support from CPRE. Re-wilding the land will allow for safe wild swimming, and removing the old Victoria filter beds will encourage safer environments for animals.

“It is an imaginative and well thought out plan, which has received backing from multiple councils as well as environmental groups such as Plastic Free Hackney.”  

Giles Burton, Technical Coordinator and Architectural Designer at Hill Group UK
The former Thames Water depot site, outlined in red, is seen as the missing jigsaw piece in the waterworks parks plans and would reconnect surrounding areas currently fenced off.  Pic: East London Waterworks Park (ELWP) 

Rewilding the concrete site would join Leyton and Walthamstow Marshes, Walthamstow Wetlands and Tottenham Marshes, the Waterworks Centre and Nature Reserve, Hackney Marshes and Middlesex Filter Beds to make a gigantic urban park.   

The project has reached 95% of the initial target, which will be used to hire a surveyor to find a clear value of the land to establish the fundraising total.  

You can support the project here  

And more details can be found here  

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