This petition to Hackney Council calls upon them to preserve Hackney Marshes as common land with unfettered access throughout the year for sport, leisure and appreciation of nature for all the residents of Hackney to enjoy, regardless of income.
This petition opposes in the strongest possible terms the plan to make Hackney Marshes available as an events space for the whole summer, every summer, from 1st May to 31st August.
There are several reasons why this move to commercialise and privatise this ancient common land for any length of time should be opposed:
Last year’s Radio 1 Weekender caused significant damage to Hackney Marshes; including increased littering of wildlife areas and the river, caused serious noise pollution (especially to residents living in Leyton) and degradation of many football, cricket and rugby pitches through the rutting and compacting caused by heavy vehicles being driven across the land. This damage has been well documented by Hackney Gazette http://sustainablehackney.org.uk/photo/marshes-events-gazette-7-march-2013
Residents of Hackney and the wider area have already suffered the loss of East Marsh, including 11 football and 3 rugby pitches, previously available to all people for leisure and recreation all year round. East Marsh has still not been restored to public use and even when it is eventually returned, it will not be close to its original condition, due to the excavation of the area for the Olympics.
Hackney Council made many promises about the Radio 1 Weekender that it did not keep. Firstly, that the area affected would only be inaccessible to the public for just two weeks, whilst it was in fact inaccessible for one whole month. Secondly, that the area would only be a small section of the Marsh, leaving the vast majority of the Marshes accessible for public enjoyment. As local residents who regularly walk the Marshes will know, the whole Marshes were enclosed by opaque fencing, several metres high, also blocking the popular river paths from use by cyclists and pedestrians. During the concert itself, access was blocked, not just to the entire marshes but also to the surrounding bridges and Middlesex Filter Beds, preventing public enjoyment of a far larger area.
As a result of a festival just one weekend in duration, the cricket club had to cancel their entire season due to the damage incurred to the marshes. Some of the brand new cricket pitches, costing £750,000, were completely destroyed by the festival. The three teams of the local rugby club had to play all their games away for three months of the season due to the damage. The start of the football season was delayed from August until the end of September and match schedules have been disrupted for six months because there have been so many unusable pitches most weekends, as many as 30 have been out of use some weeks. The visible scars from the festival can still be witnessed now, eight months later. A huge body of evidence related to the impact of what we were told was a 'one-off' festival can be found here: http://sustainablehackney.org.uk/hmug/page/R1HW-evidence#top and the reaction to the Council's proposals from grassroots sports clubs can be read in The Evening Standard here: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/more-festivals-will-destroy-sport-on-hackney-marshes-8526118.html
The Council should be making it their priority to remediate the damaged areas for the local sports clubs who faced many losses during the Olympic period, rather than be planning more events of a similar kind and with undoubtedly worse consequences for the environment since the duration of intense use will be far greater.
Hackney Marshes is an important area for people to follow the Council’s advice and ‘get fit and healthy’ all year round for free. They are also a unique habitat for wildlife. Whilst 17% of London’s green spaces have been paved in recent years, the Marshes provide a haven for many species that it should be our concern to protect. Loud events involving many thousands of people disturb wildlife, including rare species.
The Marshes are not a municipal park and should not be managed for income generation purposes for the Council but for the good of all, including all residents and for nature. These proposals indicate that Hackney Council are not aware of the unique character and value of our common land and we ask them to halt their plans.
Entertainment events should be held in suitable venues, such as the recently developed Olympic Park, where there will not be the same adverse impact on the environment and will not entail a restriction in people’s ancient right to enjoy their common land, which does not belong to the Council, but to all people under law.