Police plans for Wanstead Flats spark fury

EMOTIONS ran high during a meeting to discuss proposals for a Metropolitan Police briefing centre on Wanstead Flats.

Up to 250 people crammed into Durning Hall in Newham last week to hear representatives from the Corporation of London, who own the green space, and the police put the case for the centre.

Residents fear a required change in the law to allow the station to go up for 90 days during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games could set a precedent that would allow building on the historic space.

A banner declaring “open spaces are children’s places” hung from a rail around the hall, demonstrating opposition to the plans.

A vote showed an overwhelming number of those present opposed the proposals.

The Home Office are consulting to amend the Epping Forest Act 1878 so the structure can be built on the fairground area of the Flats.

A young mother at the meeting told the Recorder: “I do worry that they will have to dig up a lot of the Flats if they decide to put down permanent cables, and I do worry that it would open the Flats up to be used for many other events.”

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Beate Hohman, of the Save Wanstead Flats campaign, accused the Corporation of letting the police ride roughshod over the Flats with their plans and setting a legal precedent that could leave green spaces all over the country at the mercy of developers.

She said: “The City of London, who are supposed to protect the land, have just rolled over and said ‘let us get some money out of this.’”

The Met are paying �170,000 for hire of the land, which Superintendent of Epping Forest Paul Thomson, who is employed by the Corporation of London, says would be invested in one of three projects on the Flats and it would remain illegal to build on land once the centre was taken down.

He said: “We always knew it was something that was going to be a concern in the local community.

“All we ask is that people judge us by our past record. We have steadfastly defended that land for 130 years and plan to do the same.”

A Met Police spokesman said: “Met representatives were invited to attend the meeting. Representatives went because we want to address concerns and respond to them.

“Wanstead Flats is our preferred option for this site, based on a number of factors, not cost.”