Thursday, 19 January 2012

New Monitoring Role For Wanstead Flats Campaign

Rather like the very first public meeting on plans to place an Olympics police operations base on Wanstead Flats, back in July 2010, I had no idea how many people would turn up at Durning Hall in Forest Gate last night to discuss what residents wanted to do next. After the disappointment of December's court decision, would people vote with their feet or was there still a popular commitment to defend the Flats?

Attendance by around forty people yesterday, almost half of them teenagers, was therefore very welcome. The 90-minute debate ranged from concerns about the scale of Olympic security (an issue I'll return to in more detail in a future article) to how decisions were made by the City of London Corporation and Redbridge council. Encouragingly, a number of important decisions were made - most notably that the Save Wanstead Flats campaign will continue. Its new role will focus on monitoring the impact of the Metropolitan Police's base on the local neighbourhood and on people who use Wanstead Flats, as well as the extent of damage to the site after the Olympics are over. The campaign is looking for written assurances from the police that there will be no restrictions on access to the Flats beyond the boundaries of the fenced enclosure and on our ability to enjoy the remainder of the land for its intended recreation and leisure purposes.

The Save Wanstead Flats campaign website will soon include a reporting form so that local people can feed back and report any concerns or complaints. The intention is both to highlight immediate problems and draw together lessons that illustrate why any future attempt to use the Flats for security purposes would be completely inappropriate. Some residents also want to take up issues such as challenging the undemocratic nature of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 and changing the way planning permission on the Flats is solely the responsibility of Redbridge council, in situations that mainly affect people from other boroughs. But the main decision, overwhelmingly supported last night, was to mark the beginning and end of the police occupation of Wanstead Flats with a reminder that the land remains public and belongs to us.

On Sunday 10th June, the campaign is inviting everyone to 'Come Dine With Us On Wanstead Flats' with a community picnic on the planned site of the operations base, similar to the event organised in September 2010. A further gathering, to welcome the Flats back to full open access for all, will be held once the site is restored in late September. More details on this and a further campaign meeting will follow soon - but for the time being, keep 10th June in your diary free.

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