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Olympic Games 2012: Hackney Marshes

Volume 691: debated on Monday 23 April 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they still intend to use Hackney Marshes as a VIP car park during the 2012 London Olympic Games; and, if so, what proportion of the football pitches will be affected and what alternative facilities will be provided for the youth of Hackney.

My Lords, East Marsh, part of Hackney Marshes, will provide disabled parking and a coach drop-off facility during the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. The 13 football pitches on that site will be required for two football seasons from May 2011 to August 2013. During that period, the London Development Agency plans to provide an equivalent facility elsewhere on the main part of Hackney Marshes through upgrading currently disused pitches.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Can he assure me that the Government at the time will cover the cost of relocating the pitches and properly equipping them in replacement?

My Lords, is it right that the London Borough of Hackney is unconcerned about the point raised by the noble Lord? Is it also right that the borough is only too anxious to protect the rights of Hackney citizens wherever they may be adversely affected?

My Lords, the London Borough of Hackney has long experience of running the pitches in Hackney Marshes but it is unconcerned because it stands to benefit significantly from the legacy of the Olympic Games.

My Lords, would it not be rather strange to attack Hackney, one of the few places to have a direct and guaranteed benefit through facilities as a result of the Olympic Games? Is it also not a fact that the Hackney Marshes football pitches have long been in need of tremendous renovation?

My Lords, they certainly have, and I speak from bitter experience 45 years ago. If ever a group of football pitches needed improvement, it is certainly those on Hackney Marshes, of which there are very many. Some of them will benefit significantly from the Olympic legacy.

My Lords, is it true that part of the arena facilities at Hackney Marshes, taking in not only pitches but also important dressing room facilities, is earmarked by the Olympic planners for a big media centre that, it is thought, will be a permanent fixture? Is there a prospect of getting compensatory land so that the pitches and dressing room facilities can be replaced?

My Lords, as ever, the noble Baroness is well informed. One of the main media centres will be located in this area, and its legacy will be that afterwards it will be a prime business site of high rentable value. Resources from that can be put into—I nearly said “ploughed into”—football pitches that need vast improvement.

My Lords, bearing in mind the Government’s policy on global warming, instead of providing car parks for VIPs would it not be preferable to encourage them to travel by public transport and set an example to everyone else?

My Lords, this facility will be of significant use for disabled visitors to the Games. We expect a high percentage of those attending the Games to use the excellent public transport infrastructure that will be in place by then.

My Lords, will the Minister comment on reports that natural gas has been discovered under Hackney Marshes and the whole of the Lea Valley? Will he give noble Lords an estimate of the cost properly to remedy the problem?

My Lords, I thought that even more noisome substances than natural gas had been found under Hackney Marshes. Part of the work on preparing the sites is proving costly and laborious because of certain inert gases found under the surface and the problem of site clearance. However, those problems are being overcome.

My Lords, does my noble friend know whether the Olympic design in Stratford includes a car park with a second deck? When I met the people involved in that a couple of years ago, they said that they would have to flatten the site, which had been used by Tarmac and concreting batching plants, for a VIP car park through which Her Majesty the Queen would drive. I suggested that a second deck could halve the area required, but they looked at me as though it was an idea from Mars. Have they moved on and is not a second deck on the car park a good idea to reduce the land take?

My Lords, I have not been briefed on the car parks for the Olympic Games, save that the facility referred to is for the disabled. My noble friend finds many opportunities to present excellent ideas and I can hope only that many people take them up with the same alacrity as do Her Majesty's Government.

My Lords, the Minister mentioned ploughing up. Is he aware of the plight of the allotment owners who are being asked to give up their long-tended allotments and who are not certain that they will be replaced with allotments of equal quality, if any?

My Lords, allotment owners have important interests that are being looked into and they will receive compensation or other land on which to develop allotments. As the noble Baroness indicated, as far as possible all users of the site on which the Olympic Games are to take place should have facilities restored to them or replaced once the Games are completed. That may not be possible in every case, but it is the intention.