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Questions put to the Olympic Development Authority about the basketball court
Questions given on behalf of local residents by Julia Lafferty and presented to the ODA by Hackney councillor Linda Kelly.
...and the ODA's response to each one
Q. Why was it that such a publicly valued and important site in Lea Valley Regional Park was chosen when it is considered that there were other suitable sites available for the temporary basketball facility which would not have impacted upon the tranquil and green environment of Lea Valley Regional Park?
A. Many alternative sites were considered but these did not meet the size requirements set out by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) or the travel-time requirements of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Kelmscott Leisure Centre for example, is not large enough and another alternative, the Score Centre in Leyton, is to be used by the US National Olympic Committee for the period of the Games.
For basketball and wheelchair basketball the IOC required that all sports are to be provided with training facilities to the same standard as the competition venues that are not more than 30 mins drive from the Olympic Village. FIBA require that the four training courts are to the 40m x 24m full size. To put this into context, a standard, 4-court (badminton) school sports hall is 33m x 18m.
Why was the site not incorporated into the original plans for the Olympic site?
The Olympic Park site is a compact site and there would not have been the space to incorporate the four courts necessary for basketball training. Training facilities for all sports are held outside of the Olympic Park.
Q. Why did the proposals for the basketball training facility not come forward until 2012?
A. The process for finding a suitable Games Time Training Venues has been ongoing for more than three years.
The ODA has tried wherever possible to use existing venues as Games Time Training Venues and has invested c. £15m in projects in and around East London that will continue to be legacy assets after the Games.
We had also hoped to do this for the basketball training venue requirement. As part of fulfilling this requirement, the ODA is upgrading the Basketball facilities at Hackney Community College and Barking Abbey School which is also home to the Barking Abbey Basketball Academy, both of which are being used as basketball Games Time Training Venues.
However, due to the loss of a potential third venue in mid 2010, it became apparent that a temporary solution would be required for the remaining two basketball courts needed.
The ODA had to run a procurement process for a contractor, and then the contractor had to develop plans in sufficient detail to submit a planning application, which happened in 2011.
Q. Does the ODA understand why there is public protest over the current development and do they not think that what is happening on Leyton Marsh is in conflict with the principles governing usage of Lea Valley Regional Park land and the public benefit?
A. The ODA’s Games Time Training Venue on Leyton Marsh is temporary only and the site will be fully re-instated to its pre-Games condition. We are committed to handing the land back to LVRPA on 15th October 2012 and have contractual arrangements in place to dismantle the venue and reinstate the ground by this date.
Throughout these works local people will be able to access the open spaces and walkways around the site while the temporary basketball practice venue is built. The latest update that has been sent to residents includes a map which shows areas closed due to construction and the vast majority of the land remaining open to the public, including Sandy Lane and all public footpaths.
Q. Does the ODA understand why local residents are concerned that Leyton Marsh is at risk and what response can they give to reassure them that Leyton Marsh will not be lost to another future permanent development?
A. We appreciate the concerns of local residents but as mentioned above, the ODA is contractually bound to restore this land to its pre-Games condition by 15th October 2012 before handing back to Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA) as landowner.
Any concerns about the use of the land after the 15th October should be directed to LVRPA as landowner as the ODA will no longer have any responsibility for this land.
Q. Residents understand that Waltham Forest Borough Council was not approached by the Olympic Development Authority to find out what brownfield land they had available that might be suitable for a temporary basketball facility?
A. A number of alternative existing sites throughout East London were identified through an expression of interest process although none matched the specific size requirements from FIBA, or where there were facilities, they were not less than a 30-minute drive from the Olympic Village – an IOC requirement.
Furthermore, in September 2011 a re-review of alternatives was undertaken and 15 other sites (that were still available) within the 30-minute drive-time were reviewed. However, none of them met FIBA’s space requirements.
Q. Does the ODA agree that the taking of Metropolitan Open Land for development should be only considered as a last resort, not because it is an easy option? If they do, why was the development of Leyton Marsh considered to be appropriate and acceptable?
A. As detailed above, options were explored prior to the agreement with LVRPA. Leyton Marsh will be fully restored to its pre-Games condition by 15th October 2012.Therafter, any concerns regarding the use of the land should be referred to LVRPA as landowner.
Q. So where is the binding legal covenant to exclude all non-compatible Metropolitan Open Land development in the future in order to prevent a potential precedent?
A. As mentioned previously, any queries regarding the future use of this land after 15th October 2012 when the ODA hands the land back to LVRPA, should be directed to LVRPA as landowner.
Q. Why was no nature habitat assessment was submitted to support the development application?
This is in spite of the fact that the Lea Valley Park Authority's own publications make it clear that Leyton Marsh is an area which is devoted to the protection of wildlife. Why else would it be featured in their guides to the Lea Bridge Road Nature Reserves as a place to view birds, butterflies and dragonflies?
A. Natural England were statutory consultees to the planning consultation and stated that they did not identify any issues that cause them concern.
However, we recognise the importance of the ecological issues on this site and commissioned an Ecological Report to support the application.
The Report recommended mitigation measures as follows, all of which the ODA are observing:
1. Toolbox talk to ensure construction site staff are aware of the designated sites;
2. High visibility fencing to minimise risks of incursion into habitat outside the working area;
3. Precautionary search of rough grassland areas by an ecologist for reptile’s amphibians and invasive plants and presence of an ecologist during vegetation clearance within the Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation;
4. Careful storage of topsoil and reinstatement of grassland with a suitable native grassland seed mixture.
The Report concludes as follows:
“With these mitigation measures, the overall impact of the proposed development on nature conservation will be neutral. In addition, through a payment to Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, the development will result in enhancement of Leyton Marsh and a long term benefit to nature conservation. With these enhancements, there will be a minor positive impact.”
How can it be non-material to change from an 8 inches (15 cm) deep skimming of topsoil to removing nearly 2 feet of rubble?
Inevitably site surveys can only provide a snapshot of ground conditions and it is often the case, as in our work at Leyton Marsh, that initial digging reveals different soil and sub-surface composition that makes it necessary to go a little deeper to provide stable foundations.
The ODA alerted the local authority as soon as we became aware that this would be necessary and submitted an amended application, as is standard practice. This is no way changes the principles behind the original planning consent. This is a temporary structure that will be removed as soon as the Games are finished and land returned to its previous state.
The planning authority did not request a further ecological assessment in granting an amendment to the original depth of excavation however did stipulate certain conditions as to soil removal from site which we are observing. Since the local authority approved the deeper excavations on 05 April 2012, and our contractor was able to restart their works, we have been in close liaison with the Health and Safety Executive, the Environment Agency and the local authority’s Environmental Health Officers. You will see changes on site in the next few weeks and, once the statutory bodies have approved the plan for the soil mound our contractor will implement removal.
From: Gerry Murphy Director of Finance Olympic Delivery Authority
Work began on site in March and is due to be completed by early July so the venue can be handed over to the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) to enable athletes from many countries to start their training. LOCOG will then hand the site back to the ODA in September so that the venue can be dismantled and reinstatement works can begin to restore Leyton Marsh to its pre-Games condition.
Under the terms of our planning permission from the London Borough of Waltham Forest and our licence from the landowner, Lea Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA), the ODA is obliged to do this by 15th October 2012 and to the satisfaction of LVRPA
The ODA already has contractual arrangements in place for these dismantling and reinstatement works to complete on time.
LVRPA will then spend £65,000 to improve Leyton Marsh, providing lasting benefits for local people. Seating will be increased, and pathways and gateways improved. Wildlife habitats for otters and kingfishers will be enhanced and new boxes installed to attract more birds and bats. The funding for this will come from the fee received from the ODA
Any concerns about the use of the land after 15th October 2012 should be addressed to LVRPA as landowner as the ODA will no longer be responsible for this part of Leyton Marsh.
Link to above document to download
Previous posts on the subject of the basketball courts: