'Wonderful' Fairlop Waters expansion plans win universal support

Fairlop Waters Country Park December 2020

Fairlop Waters Country Park during the consultation in December - Credit: Redbridge Council

Plans to expand Fairlop Waters Country Park by the equivalent of more than 100 football pitches have united political parties and excited residents.

This year Redbridge Council aims to finish converting 250 acres of depleted gravel quarries into open space, nearly doubling the size of the park.

Labour and Conservative councillors praised the “wonderful” idea at an overview committee meeting on Wednesday, February 10 and supported a budget of £500,000 for the first stage of work.

Fairlop Waters aerial

An aerial view of the existing park from the direction of Barkingside Tube Station - Credit: Google Earth

Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal said: “This is a fantastic opportunity and we will grasp the nettle. 

“Once finished, you will be able to walk straight from Barkingside Tube station into Hainault Forest without seeing any cars.”

He reassured Cllr Howard Berlin (Con, Fairlop), who sought reassurance the land would remain open space, that it would be “protected in perpetuity”.

Councillors noted that a consultation on the plans, which ran from mid-September to the end of December last year, had been well-received by residents.

Iwitness contributor Ron Jeffries took this photo at Fairlop Waters Country Park, Barkingside, on Se

Council leader Jas Athwal says that once finished, 'you will be able to walk straight from Barkingside Tube station into Hainault Forest without seeing any cars'. - Credit: Ron Jeffries

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Cllr Roy Emmett (Lab, Hainault) said he was amazed to see a chalkboard for suggestions placed in the park untouched by the usual graffiti, while Cllr Farah Hussain (Lab, Valentines) said residents “who live nowhere near Fairlop” had told her how excited they were.

She added: “This is a piece of work that has captured the imagination of people far and wide in the borough.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring back some green space but also potential income generation. It’s right next to a Tube station so could be used for sustainable development.”

Fairlop Waters

The council is converting 250 acres of depleted gravel quarries into open space, nearly doubling the size of the park. - Credit: Ken Mears

A report on the results of the consultation notes: “Overwhelmingly our residents value the large open space of natural beauty where people and wildlife can explore and live side by side. 

“For those who have rediscovered Fairlop during the pandemic, many felt it is important to their physical and mental well-being.”

Residents supported making pathways in the park wider, so they could accommodate pedestrians and cyclists “with ease”, and adding toilets, benches, lighting and bins.

They also hoped to see the history of Fairlop celebrated in the revamped park, such as through history walks, exhibitions or even a new heritage centre.