Thursday, 4 September 2014

Access closed by Network Rail

c: Briggs Hannah <Hannah.Briggs@networkrail.co.uk>, Belcher Adrian <Adrian.Belcher@networkrail.co.uk>

Subject: RE: URGENT REQUEST RE LAND ACCESS CLOSURE BY NETWORK RAIL

Dear Stella

Land Access Closure – Walthamstow Marshes

Thank you for your email below in respect of the above.

Our route crime team took the decision to lock the gates a couple of weeks ago on the ground of trespassers who have been trespassing on the land around the marshes.
Unfortunately we have suffered numerous incidents caused by trespassers which had direct implications on the safe running of the lines. Additionally our mobile operations managers have attended the sites on several occasions and found trespassers, illegal
camping, dwelling on the land and also some illegal activities around the land. Land Sheriffs (our security contractors) attended this site as well on frequent occasions, and found the risk of cable theft and illegal activities being too high and recommended
we close the gates.

As such we would not be comfortable unlocking the gates at this stage. I understand this can be a frustration for some of your constituents, however safety is
our number one priority as such the decision was made to lock the gates and restrict access to our land.

Whilst conducting a fence line walk at this location, we noticed that our newly erected signs on the triangle access had been vandalised. The vandalism consists
of graffiti on all signs, all of which being in black permanent marker and one sign had been ripped down (please see below photographs). These have now been replaced by our land sheriff team (final photograph).

I hope you find the above information useful.

Kind Regards


Fed Hussain
Community Relations Executive
Communications

www.networkrail.co.uk

From:
stellacreasy@gmail.com [mailto:stellacreasy@gmail.com]
On Behalf Of stella creasy

Sent: 25 August 2014 22:59

To: Belcher Adrian; Hussain Fadaia;
cllr.masood.ahmad@walthamforest.gov.uk;
cllr.yemi.osho@walthamforest.gov.uk

Subject: Fwd: URGENT REQUEST RE LAND ACCESS CLOSURE BY NETWORK RAIL


Hello Adrian and Fed,

Please see below for further correspondence on the access to the marshes Network Rail provides and a query one of the local councillors has passed to me- I'd appreciate your help getting them a response to this query that they can share
with Claire.

Masood/Yemi- hope this is helpful,

kind regards

Stella

---------- Forwarded message ----------

From: Cllr Masood Ahmad <Cllr.Masood.Ahmad@walthamforest.gov.uk>

Date: Thu, Aug 21, 2014 at 2:37 PM

Subject: Fwd: URGENT REQUEST RE LAND ACCESS CLOSURE BY NETWORK RAIL

To: Cllr Enquiries <Cllr.Enquiries@walthamforest.gov.uk>, Cllr Mohammed Asghar <Cllr.Mohammad.Asghar@walthamforest.gov.uk>, Cllr Yemi Osho
<Cllr.Yemi.Osho@walthamforest.gov.uk>, Mariam Ifzal <Mariam.Ifzal@walthamforest.gov.uk>

Cc: stella creasy <stella@workingforwalthamstow.org.uk>

Please forward this urgent enquiry to the relevant people for quick response.

Residents need to know what's happening around Marshes. I think enclosed email is quite self explanatory.

Regards

Cllr M Ahmad

Sent from my iPhone

Begin forwarded message:

From: Claire Weiss <claireweiss@hotmail.com>

Date: 20 August 2014 20:02:58 BST

To: cllr masood ahmad <cllr.masood.ahmad@walthamforest.gov.uk>, "cllr.mohammad.asghar@walthamforest.gov.uk"
<cllr.mohammad.asghar@walthamforest.gov.uk>, "cllr.yemi.osho@walthamforest.gov.uk" <cllr.yemi.osho@walthamforest.gov.uk>



Subject: URGENT REQUEST RE LAND ACCESS CLOSURE BY NETWORK RAIL

Dear Waltham Forest Lea Bridge Councillors

This is an urgent request to ask that Waltham Forest Council through yourselves takes steps to contact Network Rail immediately about the locking of an area of land on the Marshes in contravention of its open access
history and character. See the attached photograph.

A number of people from Waltham Forest and the Hackney side of the River Lea have expressed their extreme concern and I have agreed to approach you. I have copied in to this email Cllr Ian Rathbone from Lea Bridge Ward LB Hackney, and I do recommend that there
is some communication about this and other matters between the Councillors of both sides of the River.

You will be aware that I have already contacted you about TfL proposals re Cross Rail, and you will be aware that there has been talk of a tunnel portal on the Marshes in this connection. I suspect that none of this has been properly referred to Waltham Forest
Council let alone residents. This leads to suspicion as to the intentions of Network Rail in closing the access to this land. None of the current TfL proposals should merit the unilateral and immediate closing off of a part of the Marshes without warning or
consultation.

Please would you urgently ascertain from Network Rail what on earth they are doing, and explain to them the nature of this part of our valuable open space.

I hope to hear from you as soon as possible, and will be circulating any news to those interested.

Many thanks,

Claire Weiss
Dear Masood and Stella,

Many thanks for your actions in obtaining this response from Network Rail about their fencing off and locking of a piece of open-access land. I have already shared the response with others who are interested in protecting the Marshes, and a number of issues have arisen.

Firstly, of course the need to ensure the safety of railway lines is totally recognised by everyone I have been in correspondence with. Network Rail obviously have a responsibility for that. People also recognise that formal camping on the Marshes without permission is not allowed nor is taking up residence there. But many of us have had picnics there and spent time on the Marshes under pop-up shelters without feeling the heavy hand of the Land Sheriffs.

However the Network Rail letter alleges that there have been:

  • trespassers who have been trespassing on the land around the Marshes
  • numerous incidents caused by trespassers that had implications for the railway
  • more trespassers
  • illegal camping
  • dwelling
  • illegal activities
  • risk of cable theft and illegal activities
  • graffitti on Network Rail signs and removal of one

I am puzzled by a) the vagueness of this and b) the apparent failure of Network Rail to point to their wider environmental responsibilities and duties of care. The Triangle land, while it is owned by Network Rail, is neither a station nor car park: it is an integral part of the Walthamstow Marshes SSSI. It is a protected wild environment that also offers a unique bit of semi-privacy, and its traditional use for informal enjoyment has been recognised locally for decades. With four mentions of trespassing and three mentions of illegal activities in the letter you might think that Network Rail were on to something important. But somehow they never quite say what's going on. Apart from the attaching of four photographs of graffitteed signs, they have provided no other evidence of the trespassing or illegal activities that they allege, nor have they named examples of what they claim to have found. And while they mention their security company there is no mention of any recourse to, or advice from, the British Transport Police.

I am left wondering to what extent their account can be substantiated. Specifically, I would like to know what they mean about:

  • "trespassers who have been trespassing around the Marshes". The wording indicates that that Network Rail is not referring to people climbing onto the railway lines.  I am not aware that it is possible to be a trespasser on the Marshes and would like to know where, precisely, Network Rail regards a person as a 'trespasser around the Marshes'?
  • "numerous incidents". How many, in what period of time, and what kind of incidents? What evidence have they collected? Have they reported any criminal activity to the Police? Have they challenged any alleged perpetrators of incidents face-to-face? What records do they keep about this?
  • what precisely are the 'illegal activities' other than camping or dwelling?

Next, I believe there may be some wider social implications of this situation:
1. According to reports from local residents, the fencing off and locking of The Triangle appears to have had the possible knock-on effect of causing people's informal enjoyment of the Marshes (and here I mean people engaging in sexual activity) to be spread wider to more open areas and to become more visible. For some local residents this has become undesirable.

2. At the same time, there have been reports that vulnerable people who may have had to resort to a life in the open air were using The Triangle.  Where destruction such as unchecked campfires and the abandoning of rubbish accompanies these situations, of course most people recognise that there needs to be quick action for the sake of the environment. Nevertheless there are agencies with responsibilities for assisting those who sleep rough - and which should have the training and resources to deal with sensitive and harrowing situations. The Network Rail letter gives no indication of awareness of this.

3. According to a report on a social network, some fear has arisen (in the wake of an appalling attack on a woman jogger elsewhere in the Borough) that the Marshes are becoming less safe. This is unfortunate in itself, because nothing breeds fear more than fear itself, but also because I am witnessing an associated growing demonisation of some social groups (for instance homeless people, gay people) that may or may not be involved, and a resort to discriminatory assumptions about what is illegal.

In summary I am afraid that Network Rail, with its rather clumsy approach to the questions, is compounding the issues rather than solving them. Stella and Masood, do you agree that in connection with managing The Triangle land, Network Rail should be encouraged to collaborate with the LVRPA, the Environment Agency, local Councils, not least local residents and Marsh users, and pay more attention to their environmental responsibilities and duties of care, in addition to protecting the safety of the tracks?

Masood, as I have suggested in an earlier email, we desperately need to have a WF Lea Bridge Ward Community Forum  - none has been held since December 2013. Could we join up with other Ward Forums that cover Walthamstow Marsh and Leyton Marsh and invite Network Rail to come? You may be aware that there are parallel questions that need to be put to the Council in Leyton Ward - where large areas of natural habitat have been deliberately cut back and destroyed by the Council in the name of clearing rubbish and deterring unauthorised use. The Marshes are under attack from many angles.

Best regards,

Claire

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