Backlash as Fairlop Waters meadow turned into overflow parking

A group of local councillors and activists angry about a new overflow car park at Fairlop Waters

Cllr Howard Berlin; Cllr Ruth Clark; Chris Gannaway, a representative of the London Wildlife Trust; Glen Haywood; Jenny Chalmers, ADHA; Vanessa Cole, ADHA. - Credit: Daniel Gayne

Environmental advocates in Redbridge have been left “devastated” after a patch of meadow at Fairlop Waters was torn up by a contractor. 

Vision RCL, which manages Fairlop Waters Country Park on behalf of Redbridge Council, converted the land on the former Fairlop Golf Course into overflow parking on Tuesday (July 20) morning. 

Redbridge Council said it was necessary to create capacity on busy days and improves accessibility for disabled and older visitors.

On Thursday, members of the Aldborough Hatch Defence Association (ADHA), the London Wildlife Trust and Redbridge Conservatives gathered at the site - which is designated of importance for nature conservation - to survey the work. 

Turf pulled up as part of work to make an overflow car park at Fairlop Waters

The meadow, on what had previously been the fairway of Fairlop Golf Course, was pulled up and resurfaced by Vision RCL on Tuesday morning. - Credit: Jenny Chalmers

A number of those gathered have been engaged with Our Future Fairlop Waters, a consultation on the future of the country park, and claimed they were not informed of the plans despite having attended a meeting the evening before. 

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Vision RCL has since apologised for the lack of prior information.

Glen Haywood was among those engaged with the 10-week consultation – the second phase of the park's regeneration project – which came to an end on Monday. 

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He said many community members had been "in high spirits” about the process, having agreed on a vision statement prioritising biodiversity in the park. 

“From a personal point of view, I’m feeling very let down," he said.   

The site is part of an area designated by the local authority as a site of importance for nature conservation

The site is part of an area designated by the local authority as a site of importance for nature conservation - Credit: Kevin Grieve

“The very last consultation finished at half-past seven and first thing in the morning the diggers are moving in and not one single member of that consultation was informed that this was going to be happening.  

“Someone at that meeting definitely would have been aware that this was happening.

“To walk across here and find this the very next day is devastating.” 

Vanessa Cole, acting chair of ADHA, said: “What does that do for trust?”

She added: “Is it any wonder the public thinks there’s no point in doing a consultation because you will just do what you want?” 

Jenny Chalmers, also from the ADHA, said: “Really the consultation is useless, because we were not informed.  

A need for new parking space had not been raised during the consultation process, she alleged.

Cllr Ruth Clark, a Conservative representing Fairlop ward, said local councillors had not been informed of the plans and that she believed the overflow parking would be used to service a wedding venue at the park. 

Chris Gannaway, from the London Wildlife Trust, said the area was a biodiverse meadow with “uncommon” flowers such as bee orchids and pyramidal orchids. 

Tree roots uncovered by construction work at Fairlop Waters

Some tree roots were uncovered during the creation of the overflow car park. Redbridge Council said that the roots have been re-covered without damage. - Credit: Jenny Chalmers

A spokesperson for Redbridge Council said: “Vision RLC, the company which operates Fairlop Waters on behalf of Redbridge Council, recently added some overflow car parking spaces to ensure there is additional capacity available on busy days.  

“This is for peak seasonal use only, for up to 26 days per year between June to September and improves accessibility for disabled and older visitors.  

“However, Vision RLC should have consulted local residents before starting work on access points to the old golf course to create the additional parking.  

“The council has asked Vision RLC to ensure that it fully engages with local residents about the works to explain what is happening and address any questions or concerns people may have.” 

In a statement on their website, Vision RCL apologised for not consulting their users and the wider community on the overflow car park.

They said: “Fairlop Waters is one of the busiest green spaces in the borough and very popular with the local community who wish to visit the country park and enjoy some of the activities on site. 

“Unfortunately, during the summer months, the car parking facilities on site are not sufficient for the number of users and stakeholders on site and we regularly have to close the car parks as they reach capacity.”

They further apologised for installing an imported topsoil bund around the site and said that work will commence today (Mon) to remove this soil.

Vision RCL said that the temporary car park will be used only at weekends from June to September.

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