R1HW: the evidence


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Radio 1 Hackney Weekend: the evidence

This is some of what we know about what happened on Hackney Marsh before, during and after the Radio 1 Hackney Weekend in June-July 2012. 

If you have evidence to add please comment here or at the HMUG Forum. We'll continue to update this page. Thanks to everyone who's contributed so far. 

Public Consultation and Planning Application


On 11 November 2010 Hackney Council applied for planning inspectorate permission for aspects of 3 events.

  • an 'experiential event' to run from the opening of the Olympics to the close of the PAralympics (27 July - 9 September) 'perhaps not continually'
  • a food village open for a period of less than 28 days sometime between 23 June and 9 September 2012 overlapping the music and experiential events
  • the major music event on 23 and 24 June 2012.

The Planning Inspectorate decision about R1HW is COM 205 of 4 April 2011. Hackney Council was granted permission for structures, and to lay down a solid surface for vehicles. The application and consent:

"[did not] cover any of the associated temporary fencing proposed for the events as the Council considers that it has powers to set apart or enclose the areas under the 1967 Act"

Area enclosed

The "1967 Act" in fact allows the council to fence off no more than 1/10th of the marsh for such an event:

(ii) the part of any open space set apart or enclosed for the use of persons listening to or viewing an entertainment (including a band concert, dramatic performance cinematograph exhibition or pageant) shall not exceed in any open space one acre or one-tenth of the open space whichever is the greater;

In its application the council said:

"the total area that will be occupied for the viewing and listening to the music event, is 137,593 sqm (34 acres)."


They have clearly picked an area of 34 acres to represent 10% of a purported open space area of 340 acres.
But the 340 acres area comes from the CL17 common land registration for 'Hackney Marshes' - which includes various separate pieces of land in the area including East Marsh (not public open space during the Olympic period) and the bits in the Olympic Park that Hackney no longer owned - Arena Field, Morris and White Hart Fields and which have mostly been built on. It also includes Mabley Green and Daubeney Fields, which LBH treats as separate open spaces for all practical purposes.
The Main Marsh has an area of c. 75.8 ha / 187 acres.
The rectangular area marked to represent the size of music event in the PINS application does portray 34 acres, but the actual site area enclosed was larger. The 'event area' shown on the Council's R1HW factsheet is around 87 acres. The area enclosed behind the outer green wall was 150 acres.
It seems clear that LBH enclosed more common land than the law allows. 


Length of time, location, exclusion

For the music event the consent says explicitly:

"The event build, delivery and get out would all fit into a two week window"

They actually took four weeks.

"the events will be sited in the centre of the Marshes."
The R1HW event area was on the east side abutting the SINC and River Lea and the public were excluded from the entire east side of Hackney Marsh  for 4 weeks.
"whilst the extent of the area of land required for the music event is confirmed, its exact position on the Main Marsh is not yet finalised. The Council has indicated an ‘area of search’ within which the event will take place."
As can been seen from the COM 205 map below, the 'area of search' proposed and for which consent was granted is not where the event was sited. The main stage itself and other parts of the event site lay outside the blue line area indicated in the application.
"there are various access points to Hackney Marshes and only limited access points will be unavailable at any one time"
During the BBC weekend all general access to Hackney Marshes was blocked.
"large areas of the common will still be available to the public during these events for walking, relaxing and sporting activities"
The public were entirely excluded from the common during the BBC weekend, and in addition were deprived of access to other areas such as the Lea Navigation towpath and Middlesex Filterbeds. During the rest of the month the fencing prevented normal use such as being able to walk directly across Hackney Marshes.


The permission plays heavily on the relation of the Olympics to the 'large sporting focus' of the marshes: 

The policies and plans in place for the Marshes provide for sporting use, including
 use for Olympic related activity

Immediate & complete restoration

The council promised:

all restoration to the football pitches would be completed in time for the opening of the football season in September

Some pitches were still unusable in March 2013.

The Inspector commented:

I am satisfied that the proposals are consistent with [Defra guidance] as the Council has committed to return the land to its original state or better following the events.


Three puzzling maps

Map submitted by Hackney Council to the Planning Inspectorate and appended to the inspector's report (COM 205):

The location of the works is shown in red on the attached plan, with the dotted blue line representing the ‘area of search’ in which the music event of a size indicated in red will take place.

The event was not fully sited within the blue line. There is no reference to the contruction enclosure which closed the east side and old River Lea for 4 weeks, nor to the Green Wall. The construction enclosure was not of the size indicated in red, but occupied a larger land area. The event occupied the whole marsh for 4 days. It also closed the towpath and Middlesex Filter Beds which are managed by the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority.


Map published by Hackney Council in Information for local residents, May 2012.

No sign of the Green Wall.

No mention of the construction area fence which ran right round the outside of the Event Area (i.e. between the Event Area and the Green Wall) and right up to Friends Bridge where there was a northern vehicle gate staffed by private security.

The riverside pathway is falsely shown as open.

The Event Area seems to take up more space than in the planning application, though it is hard to tell without doing some geometry.









Our sketch map of the line of the Green Wall.

No access to the riverside pathway.

Only 4 places where users could enter the marsh through the wall. The northern gate in the green wall was not always open, and when it was, admission reportedly seemed to depend at times on the whim of the private security staff.

The construction enclosure fence ran right round the outside of the Event Area and ran right up to Friends Bridge - not shown here.

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Tues 10: With 2 months to go, in the absence of information from the council, HMUG requests a briefing meeting. Council officers reveal arrangements not available on the Council website. 

For a whole month, the path from Friends Bridge to Homerton Road by the Old River Lea will be closed. The canal towpath from Lea Bridge to White Post Lane will be closed from Friday 22nd to the 25th June. To reach the Tree Nursery, people will have to have a “band” to permit them to pass through the security cordon. There will be no public use of the car park for the whole four weeks.


9 May: the chief officer of the council's Olympics unit writes to Cllr Ian Rathbone giving reasons for the closures and damage.

'The area along the eastern fringe ... needs to be closed ... as effectively this becomes a construction site'

'Two trees were removed ... to allow ... vehicular access'

'We also had to remove some shrubs along Homerton Road and they will be replanted after this event.' [The 'shrubs' were a long hawthorn hedge and they have not been replanted.]

'We ... secured permission to stage this event from the Planning Inspectorate'  [On the basis of quite different information]


Sat 9, 9 am: fences start to go up.

  • Inner mesh fence encloses the east side of the marsh from Friends Bridge to Homerton Road. Closed to local people for the next 4 weeks of the summer are the Old River Lea walk, a major part of the Metropolitan Site of Interest for Nature Conservation (SINC); the exercise trail; wildflower meadows only recently planted by Hackney council; the best birdwatching on the marsh (herons, cormorants, kingfishers). Council information to local people had promised that the river walk would remain open. The enclosed area is significantly different from that shown in LBH's application to the Planning Inspectorate for the festival.
  • Green wall erection begins and is complete in 2-3 days. Most of marsh walled off with just 4 entrance/exits. New cricket pitches are inside. No entrance at the north west corner where many users enter the marsh via Millfields park and the Middlesex Filter Beds bird reserve..
  • Security pass system imposed on volunteers and visitors at Community Tree Nursery. Off-road access to the Tree Nursery closed by inner fence.

Sat 16: Hackney Cyclists on their annual 'Bike the Bounds' ride are shut out of their usual route along the riverside path (as described by Oliver in a recent comment below)

Fri 22:  Lee Navigation towpath (west side of marsh) closed to local people, including National Cycle Network Route 1

Sat-Sun 23-24: the concert

Mon 25: navigation towpath should be open by end of day

Tue 26: navigation towpath still closed, local people push fence aside on Millfields footbridge


Fri 6: deadline for removing all fences

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This is a rough dump of our photos of the marsh during and since R1HW. We'll be captioning & sorting them. If you took or know of photos please let us know. If you have registered on the sustainablehackney website you can upload your own photos - let us know so we can link to them. Dated & timed photos, showing what happened when, are especially useful.

Other photos:

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Stoke Newington Cricket Club abandons season on the marsh (Hackney Gazette 2 August 2012)


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Comments by local people

I go running in the marshes and couldn't believe that the site was blocked off for so long... To my mind 2 days event shouldn't block such a large area for that amount of time.


I was appalled by the whole thing. I didn't realise how big the whole festival was going to be or what was entailed. When I did find out, I couldn't bear to go the Hackney Marsh as I knew it would be too upsetting. I finally visited around 3rd July when the festival was long over, but was shocked at the extent of the fencing still left. I imagined that you could still walk along the river's edge on the north side of the marsh, but was appalled at the sheet size and reach of the fence - right down to the waters' edge!
I was also dismayed at the irony of the workers being allowed to camp on the Marsh, when campaigners trying to save the green space of Leyton Marsh have not only been denied permission to do the very same thing but injuncted against it. Goes to show that it's one rule for one...
Regarding the weekend itself, I was lucky enough to be away for the Saturday night. However, I travelled on the Saturday morning and even at 10.30am I had to battle along Homerton High St against the flow of hordes of festival-goers. I dread to think what it was like later in the day - it was hard to even cross the High st at times. Similarly, I returned about 7pm on Sunday evening just as they were putting out barriers in Barnabas Road (where Homerton Station is) and again, there were so many people about it was really unpleasant. Homerton does not have the infrastructure for such large events, and local people (apart from the few shopkeepers) don't see any benefits from them at all.

My concern is the state of the marsh after the concert, to see all those lorries and forklift trucks driving all over the marsh, even driving through the new cricket pitches was unbelievable.

Over the years we have seen loads of work being carried out on the marsh -- the master plan, the renewal of Cow bridge to name just two -- that have meant heavy lorries and plant coming onto the marsh. Quite often they just drive straight across the marsh compacting the earth and causing muddy areas. You can see this all over the marsh, even around the paths where the lorries go round the corners there are massive mud puddles, these areas never seem to be repaired, just left.
Just look at the edge of the cricket pitch by cow bridge, it now has its own pond.

Are the people who do this damage responsible for putting it right? What will the marsh look like with 3 large events a year?

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To Ian Holland (Head of Parks) and Cllr Ian Rathbone, 13 May 2012

I am writing to object strongly to the proposed closure of a section of Hackney Marshes for about a month in June.

Regular users of the area use interconnected routes in and around Hackney Marshes and crossing into the borough of Walthamstow. These include walkers, dog people, cyclists and joggers. Many of these groups cover several miles a day and rely on these route connections, often early and late in the day. At present the East Marsh is out of bounds, Cow Bridge's closure has restricted access routes on to the marshes for months. One of the main thoroughfares through Leyton Marsh is also now unusable as open space. With a section of the marsh proposed for closure for a month, it will add a very serious impediment to using the marshes as open space at all.

In the run up to the Games, LB Hackney was supposed to encourage and promote the health and fitness of its residents. The proposed closure will if anything discourage use of the area. To local residents it feels as though the increasing grab for land on the fringes of the 'green lung' created by the Lea Valley, prioritises development and commercial interests over valuable open space and access to common land.

I seriously question the need to block off an entire section of the marshes, particularly the route along the Old River Lea for more than the two days duration of the event.

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As a resident of the Wick ward and a user of the Hackney Marshes I am concern about the rumour that the Hackney Marshes will be closed for 1 whole month in preparation for the BBC free festival.

Firstly is the closure of the Marshes allowed? I though Common Land could not be closed off to the public.

Secondly are they closing the parking lot for the whole month? With parking enforcement if the parking lot closes so many footballers, joggers and dog walkers who arrive by car from all areas of Hackney will not be able to use the marshes anymore. No matter if the top part of it is open or not.

Thirdly why are so many people whispering of a whole summer of festivals, what are really the plan for the Marshes this summer?

I’d be grateful if the process would be a little more transparent and not last minute.

 more to come ...

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Comment by Oliver Schick on March 12, 2013 at 17:21

We went on our annual Bike the Bounds of Hackney (as a Bike Week event organised by the London Cycling Campaign in Hackney) ride on Saturday the 16th June, 2012 and to our annoyance found the riverside path, which is always one of the highlights of the ride, completely closed. The detour we had to take around the other side of the Marshes, which was still semi-open (i.e., they had already set up barriers ready to close it off completely), was possible but not appreciated. It felt as if the Marshes, one of Hackney's treasures, had been taken over by sudden development. Seeing all those barriers gave it the ambience of a construction site, and it was glaringly apparent that the Marshes would not come out of it unscathed. In my opinion (not the opinion of LCCiH), the Marshes are completely unsuitable for festivals. I thought that back in 2002 when the Mardi Gras ended there (we ran a bike park at the festival site) and while I didn't go to the R1 thing, it certainly felt even less suitable looking on from the outside than the Mardi Gras. I would join calls not to repeat this over-use.

Comment by Damian Rafferty on March 11, 2013 at 16:15

Damning indictments on this page. I would also add that the Lee Navigation was afterwards choked with thousands of plastic bottles that a sponsor was giving away to people as they queued to get in. Smaller events, an absolute minimum restriction of Common Land access and a green fund that benefits biodiversity on the Marsh and can hold funds that are withheld if the green is not returned to its original state and we might be talking...

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