Monday, 26 May 2014

Walthamstow Wetlands Planning Application

Planning Application: 2014/0716/LA

Rose Jaijee is the LBWF 'Walthamstow Wetlands Coordinator' - paid for by the Lottery I understand.

This project is my pet hate...

I looked into this last year and have the lottery funding application documents (which WF did not want to release)

It's a typical case of using a lottery sledgehammer to crack a nut and transform a tranquil nature reserve into a marketable 'destination' a very expensively converted marine Engine House with visitor centre, shop and cafe etc. and a busy through route going through he middle. This is apparently justified as local people are 'deprived of access to nature'. It will also help marketing of Awesomestow and be a feature to attract property developers - all at no cost to WF.  As they put it "maximise opportunities for economic renewal".

What annoys me is that the marketing of the project has been based on the misleading assertion that it will open up access to the public and that the reservoirs are currently inaccessible.

Ie the planning application states that this project will "enable people to access the reservoirs" ! 

LWT, who are getting paid by LBWF to do the PR, were claiming this on their website, until I complained and they admitted it was incorrect and changed it. But It's been very important for them to maintain the fiction that no-one knows about the reservoirs or ever goes there or that they are great as they are.

Some of my grievances are -
a) their aim is to attract a lot more people to the site by making it into an intensively marketed general leisure destination. Since they acknowledge this is incompatible with wildlife they want to try and restrict visitors  to a 'core' area where they can spend at the cafe and buy wildlife themed tat thereby defeating the whole stated purpose of opening it up.

b) Currently, once you've entered via Forest Road you are free to wander anywhere. Once they've 'opened it up' the best areas will be gated off to 'protect the wildlife' or access allowed only with a 'guide' .

c) There will be the usual mushrooming of expensive signposts, interpretation boards, fencing and access control gates spoiling the landscape and ambience

d) There was no meaningful consultation prior to the planning application - everything seemed to kept deliberately vague with no detailed written proposal of precisely how it would all work or what the impacts might realistically be. No documents have been published publicly since 2010.

e) why does it suddenly need teams of volunteers with their own 'hub' building? What are they going to be doing? lots of cutting stuff down presumably.

f) how long will people be shut out as the construction works to 'open it up' take place?

g) the proposed entrances in the plan are now only those that already exist - Forest Road and Coppermill Lane. Having public access from Coppermill is an administrative matter and doesn't involve spending millions of lottery money.

h) in addition to £3.5m lottery money, Thames Water have committed £1.5m - I'd rather see this spent on keeping their crap out of the Lea than on architects and fancy footpaths 

i) London Wetlands Centre at Barnes has a single point of entry, as do most nature reserves (including the Waterworks whch despite being free entry the LVRPA have refused to open a 2nd entrance) - strangely these places are never described as secret, inaccessible, fragmented or beset by physical barriers.

It's also annoying that you cannot download planning documents from WF - the Design & Access statement is 163 pages and you can only read it via their awkward online document viewer where you can't select text or search.


Sent: Sunday, 27 April 2014, 23:12
Subject: Re: RE: Waltham Forest planning application 2014/0716/LA

Rose Jaijee spoke at that meeting! We gave her ten mins and she went on for half an hour!

Subject: RE: Waltham Forest planning application 2014/0716/LA 
Sent: Sun, Apr 27, 2014 9:04:55 PM 

It looks similar to one of the “proposals” put forward by the Lea Valley Federation.  It is shown on a pamphlet that I obtained at a presentation that the LVF gave at the Round Chapel a few years ago.  I actually brought the pamphlet along to our meeting last week.  I was intending to show it around during AOB, but in the event the meeting went on so long that I decided to save it for another occasion!


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