Hackney Marshes Users Group

Dance event next door?
Issues BackgroundIssues Archive
March 2020

Is the Waterworks meadow a good place for max-volume music?

[Update. This event was turned down by the licensing authority, LBWF]

There's an application to license a 2-3 day maximum volume dance music event on the Waterworks meadow. (The former pitch+putt course abandoned after the Olympics.) This is just the other side of the Lea from the north-east edge of the marsh - the quietest stretch of the old river, where we think there may be a regular kingfisher nest.

It would be in August 2020 (still officially the bird nesting season) and again in 2021 & 2022.

The organisers think this is a great place to make a really loud noise. We're not so sure.

The Save Lea Marshes group have blogged and tweeted (@SaveLeaMarshes) about this & submitted very detailed objections - see their pages to know more.

This is what we're sending to the licensing authority. It's Waltham Forest council, but you don't have to live in WF to comment.

Make it quick and simple - just tell them you support HMUG's comments. Add something if you have time, but we need numbers of objections not lots of detailed ones - SLM and others have already covered that very well.

Email licensing@walthamforest.gov.uk

It's essential to include your name and full address

(Sorry about the horrible formatting - the site software has a bit of a mind of its own, and life is short)


1. A pdf copy of our comments is here.

2. There are now Little Owls nesting in the black poplars on this stretch of the river! A first & another reason to preserve its tranquillity.

Comments on application for Premises Licence WAT1613773

Lammas Road, Leyton, London, E10 7NU, by Waterworks Event Ltd

by Hackney Marshes User Group (HMUG)

Hackney Marshes and the User Group

HMUG is a community group which aims to provide a voice for local people using Hackney Marshes. It is recognised by Hackney Council.

HMUG’s interest arises because the proposed event site is immediately opposite the north-east edge of the marshes, across the river Lea. This part of Hackney Marshes is part of a Metropolitan Site of Interest for Nature Conservation (SINC). The river Lea at this point is not canalised but runs in its natural banks, unusually for the lower Lea, and the river is also designated part of the Lea Valley Metropolitan SINC. ‘Metropolitan’ is the highest category of SINC and means that the site is of London-wide importance. The river banks are well-wooded and provide exceptional biodiversity habitat for inner London, and the normally unlit riverside woods give good conditions for bats. From late summer this area becomes an important bird migration route (many or most birds migrate at night). The path through the woods above the riverbank is well-used and enjoyed for quiet walks, birdwatching and fishing by local people especially at weekends.

HMUG’s concerns under licensing objectives

As far as we can see, the applicant has submitted little or no substantive information under application section 18, the four licensing objectives (prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, prevention of public nuisance, protection of children from harm). A simple web search shows that they seem to have pasted in text wholesale from the conditions required by the licensing authority, either LBWF or other councils. The attendance numbers and perhaps a few other details have been adjusted, but they have not addressed at all the question of how in practice to satisfy the four objectives in the particular circumstances of the waterworks field, which is far from a normal venue.

We suggest that the lack of this information should trigger the rejection of the application out of hand, but we give our detailed concerns below.

The applicant asks for a licence for three years, not specifying the month in 2021 or 2022. What if the 2020 event is found to be as damaging as objectors fear: will the council be able to withdraw the licence? The vagueness of the application makes the repetition of the licence a worrying prospect.

Crime and disorder

Environmental crime

The event is proposed during the bird nesting season as defined by Natural England, lasting to the end of August. The river Lea at this location supports a resident kingfisher (kingfishers inhabit individual territories) and the most suitable nesting site is the steep river banks along the south edge of the event site. This is normally the most secluded and tranquil reach of the river Lea east of Hackney Marshes. We do not know yet whether there will be a nest there this year, but it is perfectly possible.

Kingfishers are a protected species under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It’s a punishable offence to disturb them during the nesting season. Disturbances are defined as including noise and lighting, according to Defra and Natural England.

Encouragement of illegal raves

There have been a growing number of illegal raves in the SINC-designated parts of Hackney Marshes in the past few years. This has been a significant concern for the local police and other marsh users. It has proved hard to combat, but last summer there was some success in deterring them through better enforcement. But there is more work to be done in getting across the message that this is a bad use for vulnerable biodiversity habitat. We fear that this event would set an example leading to more people seeing the marshes SINC as an attractive rave site.

There is also the possibility that event goers on the night will move onto Hackney Marshes to continue partying.

Crime at the Event

The submission you have from Save Lea Marshes cites the levels of organised theft and drug dealing at a Victoria Park event organised by one of the applicants, “an unacceptable level of crime” according to the police. The application doesn’t seem to describe exactly how matters would improve in 2020-22: as we have said, they merely quote the regulatory requirements. We are concerned that criminal activities may extend beyond the site onto Hackney Marshes. There have unfortunately been violent crimes on the marshes, particularly affecting women. Such crimes are not only serious and perhaps life-changing for the victim, but discourage use and enjoyment of the marshes for many more people.

Public Nuisance

Clearly there will be noise nuisance to people expecting to enjoy the quiet of the Marshes’ riverside walk, and possibly further across the marshes. The river is a legal and popular fishing site in summer and the noise, and vibration through the ground, may affect fishing.

We fear that a good deal of litter will escape the site or be left by event-goers outside the site boundary, finding its way into the marshes woods and especially into the river. Our experience with the 2012 Radio 2 event on the marshes was that a great deal of plastic ended up in the waterways. This section of the Lea is comparatively litter-free thanks to the Lea Bridge weir upstream with its associated booms. Enormous efforts are made by local volunteers up and down the Lee Valley to keep the river clean in the face of constant carelessness and abuse. Once in, rubbish is hard to retrieve (the large-scale mechanical methods used on most of the river and the Lee Navigation canal can’t be used in this natural riverbed) and may lodge in the natural banks and tree roots for years. We fear a lasting effect on fish which breed here and waterbirds for which this is an important winter site, as well as on amenity and enjoyment for Londoners.

HMUG urges that the licence not be granted.

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