Olympic Land Grab Thwarted

Waltham Forest Council reject London Development Agencies plans to use
common land to relocate allotments from within the proposed Olympic park

Wednesday evening ( 7th February 2007 ) brought bad news for the London Development Agency
who?s bid to acquire land related to the Olympics was turned down by
planners at Waltham Forest Town Hall. The LDA was applying for planning
permission for allotments on Marsh Lane Fields where they want to
relocate the existing Manor Gardens allotments, currently located
within the proposed Olympic Park.

Local
residents and the LDA were allowed three minutes to argue their case.
Members of the public talked passionately against the loss of their
open space, which they describe as a piece of the countryside in
London. The LDA was somewhat less convincing, when they tried to sell
the loss of this open space on the back of the supposed advantages of
the Olympics in general.

Users of the existing Manor Gardens
Allotments do not want to leave their site. It is a beautiful place
with a real sense of community. They have been campaigning and
organising to save their land. Much of the land the LDA wishes to
secure for the Olympics has a rich history. Manor Gardens was given by
Major Villiers, a friend of Winston Churchill, to be used ?in
perpetuity? as gardens by local people. The Gardens? proposed
relocation site at Marsh Lane Fields is what is known as Lammas Land,
and is in theory protected as metropolitan open space.

Hackney
Marshes are also former Lammas Lands. These were meadows on which
parishioners have the right to graze cattle. These rights date back to
before the Norman Conquest, and possibly pre date the Roman era. Locals
at Marsh Lane Fields use these rights to graze their horses. The LDA?s
plans to take various other open spaces including part of Hackney
Marshes for a car park serving the Olympics are likely to face legal
challenges due to this status.

Within and surrounding the
proposed Olympic park are many areas that have been off the developers?
radar and have consequently grown organically to develop their own
flavour and authenticity. An authenticity rarely found in London, both
the sites affected by last night?s planning decision are examples of
this. Rare places in London where money doesn?t have to be spent for
recreation, their character is not contrived or there for anyone?s
profit. Somehow romantic places where people graze horses, dig their
veg, or just hang out and chat over roasting chestnuts. Consequently
determined campaigns are

running to save places under threat
from what many see the Disneyization proposed by Olympic planners. How
the squeaky clean Olympic brand identity can sit with the authenticity
of the existing area is an interesting question. How for example will
junk yards on the periphery of the Olympic Park square with the image
of London 2012.

After yesterday?s victory Waltham Forest?s
debating chamber echoed with the sound of cheering as locals. However
as Rosemary Johnson, who gave evidence against last night?s proposal,
says ? ?the LDA will be back? meaning they will most likely mount an
appeal, and so the battle for Manor Gardens Allotments and Marsh Lane
Fields is far from over. It is however a least a serious delay for the
LDA who are under enormous pressure as the clock ticks relentlessly
towards 2012. It is one of many battles the LDA will face, with many
who remain unimpressed by the Olympics.

I am sorry everyone
but this article has taken a lot of work and so ? though please feel
free to copy the story for not for profit purposes but profit making
companies will have to pay me for it. Hence photos and text are ?
Copyright Mike Wells

Thursday 8th Feb 2007