Hackney Marshes Users Group
|North Marsh Pavilion
|28 Sept 2014||
Proposals to rebuild the northern changing rooms and car park, 2014
Hackney Council has applied for planning permission for a cricket pavilion and sports changing rooms, with car park, on north marsh, near Cow Bridge. The new building would supersede the current north changing rooms but will be larger and sited on what is now grassland, while the car park would take up the entire footprint of the current building and its car park.
The new building is intended to serve the new cricket pitches as well as the northern section of the football pitches.
Everyone would be glad to see the back of the current changing rooms, which are ugly and out of date. But there are objections to this way of doing it.
Loss of green space
The Olympics and the sports development programme have between them covered a significant area of Hackney Marshes in hard surfaces or buildings. Arena Fields is now under the Media Centre and multi-storey car park. The Marshes Centre was built on grassland, and replaced a building with a smaller footprint. The slope of the land bridge on East Marsh is partly paved as terraces. The pavilion would be a further loss.
A few years ago the main marsh was an unbuilt green space with only trees on the south skyline: the south and north changing rooms were both well screened by trees. The Marsh Centre now dominates the view southwards, while the south skyline trees are overtopped by Olympic buildings. The pavilion at the north side would increase the enclosure of the central green space in buildings. The plans show some planting along the building's east side, but not enough to hide it from view.
Cars on the Marsh
Providing less private car parking would allow the pavilion to be built on the current changing room footprint.
How much of the common land of the marshes should be given over to car parking? It's true that there used to be a 200-space car park nearby, but that was built at a time when the private car took precedence over all other forms of urban transport. These days we view it as the last resort. At the last two censuses, car owning households have been in the minority in Hackney, and diminishing. In the council's consultation about the pavilion, less than half the respondents said they travel to the marshes by car.
The motor route to the pavilion cuts across the walkers' path around the edge of the marsh. This raises questions about the safety and amenity of people walking on the marsh at peak weekend times, especially as Cow Bridge has a hump back and a high parapet which obstruct lines of sight.
Could sports people manage without this much car parking?
That experiment has been done: Cow Bridge was closed 2004 – 2013 and during this time the north changing room continued to serve football pitches; cricket was played on the new pitches in 2012. There may be lessons to learn from that period about how to manage with less car parking, but we don't know what they are because the proposal documents don't seem to mention this period.
You might compare it to when the City of London was forced to exclude private cars after the bombing of Bishopsgate. That was such an improvement that it transformed traffic management in the City: the restriction of private cars, which had seemed out of the question, suddenly became accepted. The closure of Cow Bridge and East Marsh could have been the Bishopsgate moment for the marshes, if someone had had the courage and vision. It's not too late.
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