Thursday 7 October 2010

Wanstead Flats Sold For A Pittance

Checking my e-mail this morning, much of the feedback from last night's Save Wanstead Flats consultation meeting contains a reoccurring theme - the belief that the City of London Corporation were initially reluctant to grant permission for the Met's Olympics operational base but were told very pointedly that the police would simply go around them, so they caved in. This may also explain the minuscule rent that has been charged for the use of the Flats for 90 days in 2012.

Local resident Kevin Mansell mentioned yesterday evening that one of his neighbours had compared the rent demanded for the operational base to how much Newham council is charged for holding an annual fireworks display, a figure that was disputed by representatives of the Corporation. However, he has forwarded on the calculation this morning and the thinking behind it seems sound:

"While browsing through the Agendas, Minutes and Reports of the Epping Forest and Commons Committee, I came across [a report] giving permission to hold a fire work display on the fairground site on Wanstead Flats. Newham Council are being charged £5,000 for 2 hours access to the site. That’s £2,500 an hour!

Ninety days is 2,160 hours. I think you can reasonably argue the police operation will be 24/7 so 2,160 x £2,500 is £5,400,000... At a massively discounted rate of £500 per hour, it would be £1,080,000. The paltry £170,000 equates to £78 pounds per hour."

If the City of London Corporation was actually asking for £5 million, or even just over £1 million, I'm certain that the proposed Wanstead Flats site would suddenly become far less attractive when compared to the commercial options considered by the police. Many will recall that the Superintendent of Epping Forest, Paul Thomson, admitted at the Mass Community Picnic on 5 September that the Flats was chosen because it is the cheapest option.

On this basis, one of the main reasons local people have been forced into a battle against the Met's proposals is that the 'custodians' of Epping Forest sold out our open space for a pittance. Put this together with how easily they buckled under pressure from the Met and it's little wonder Thomson's plea for people to place their trust in the Corporation was met with such derision last night.

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