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More 2012 Bl**ging Censorship

The 2012 blog continues to churn out the same misleading information. A recent posting by a local resident reminded me of the experience of going through the compulsory purchase inquiry and having our estate and community dismissed by the LDA. I tried to post a comment but, not for the first time, that was disallowed. Like a true colonialist operation the ODA claims to listen to ordinary people and to practise inclusion, but its own publicly funded website refuses to allow a proper debate.

The local resident was unrestrained in his praise of the Olympic project and combined this with the usual dismissal of what had been on the site before the Olympic project. He declared: “Three years ago the site in Stratford was a redundant, disused and neglected area. Today as I have seen for myself - this is no more.” Sickening and ignorant.

So I tried to send in a response:-

“The 2012 blog seeks to perpetuate its stereotypical portrayal of the Lower Lea Valley. This is becoming an almost colonial description of a piece of land on which apparently no-one lived or did anything worthwhile, which justified its takeover by those who would put it to good use. Your correspondent even considers it to be his ‘backyard’, also reminiscent of colonial ownership where inferior neighbours are expected to be quiet and grateful.

Your local explorer has seen for himself – ‘this is no more’ and can report back to civilization that the visionaries have moved in to make something of the wasteland.

So just to correct some impressions left by your correspondent:

Disused? People lived there. Our community at Clays Lane was demolished despite promises to sustain and support local communities. We lived next to the constantly used Eastway Cycle Track which included a lovely wild open space to walk over.

Neglected? What of the amazing Manor Gardens allotments, wrecked by the relocation which created a waterlogged bog at Marsh Lane Fields and decimated the allotments community? Or Arena Field, the playground of the children from Hackney Wick now concreted over for the Media Centre?

Redundant? The Lea Valley is an area famous for industrial innovation, most notably in recent times for the diode valve, essential to the development of television and computers, as well as being important for, among other things, plastics, chemicals and transport industries and even nuclear research. Stratford was at the centre of the construction of the Channel Tunnel rail link.

Your correspondent repeats the familiar ‘vision’ for the future as though there was no hope without the Olympics. Actually, jobs and businesses were and are being created regardless of the Olympics. Stratford City, not an Olympic project, was designed to create 35,000 jobs and over 5,000 homes. It is well known that development in the area would have happened whether or not the Olympic bid was won. Even Lord Coe was prepared to admit this in evidence to the compulsory purchase inquiry.

5,000 jobs were moved out of the Park for the Olympics, although some remained in the locality, meaning a net loss of permanent local jobs to date. One businessman commented about the relocation of his business “we worked so hard on relocating. It’s no thanks to the LDA or the government. The LDA were useless.” Industrial areas are often not pretty but that doesn’t mean they are unproductive or derelict. Far from providing employment the planned new jobs may well not fit local skills and, as occurred in Docklands, it is likely local unemployment will rise.

Small local companies operate below the ODA’s radar and cannot get contracts. Even large ones like Spitalfields Market, the largest vegetable market in the country literally across the road from the Park, is not included in LOCOG’s ‘sustainable’ food vision. The LDA warns that its own post-Games job predictions should be treated ‘with caution’.

Your explorer can easily see that homes were and are being built all over the Stratford area. The canals and rivers are a developer’s dream. Jason Prior, the Olympic Masterplanner, said the Olympics would actually slow up these developments by taking land out of circulation till after 2012. Gareth Blacker of the LDA said ‘we're creating a prime opportunity for the property industry’. The Olympics is certainly a prime opportunity for sponsoring multinational corporations and large construction companies.

The percentage of affordable homes will depend on future financial constraints. In fact, because land will have to be sold to recover costs the amount of affordable housing may well be lower than it would otherwise have been. The reality is that land values and rents rise following these events meaning local people find it harder to stay in the area and gentrification leads to the arrival of a new population. The statistics will change but so will the people.

There were already 92.8 hectares of open space available in the Olympic Park which will only be increased to 110 hectares in the new park, and it is not the ‘largest new park in Europe for 150 years’ contrary to what has been claimed. All the planning guidance for the area required an extension of the existing green space. The area boasted great bio-diversity precisely because it was not micro-managed.

Tourism operators disagree that there will be a tourism legacy and even the ODA agrees there is no housing legacy from the Athletes’ Village as the housing was going to be built anyway. Despite the remediation thousands of tons of low level radioactive material remain buried on the site while local residents have been badly affected by noise and dust from the site.

As for sports facilities, it remains entirely unclear whether they will be available for local people as they are designed for elite events. There is, as yet, no end use for the main stadium, plans for local sports facilities have been abandoned, the velodrome is of little use for most cyclists and other facilities will be demolished precisely because they do not have a post-Games use. There will be a cycle track but then there already was one before the Olympics came and demolished it!

Contrary to your explorer’s assertions, actors like Judi Dench disagree that the Olympics is contributing to the Arts in Britain as their funding has been cut to pay for the Games. Likewise, over £500million of Lottery funding has been taken away from children’s and community sports projects to back this elite event. There is no evidence to show that elite sports events promote sport participation or improve health.

And, of course, the project is not, as is often claimed, within budget. It is more than three times over, despite the repeated assurances of the former Mayor and the Minister in 2006 that it was on budget, and all kinds of expenditure, like the acquisition of the land or the building of the Three Mills Lock, are not even included. So whatever benefits may accrue will come at a high financial cost.

When the LDA was seeking to buy up the land it sought to justify this by describing the area as a wasteland of no interest or merit. Those of us living at Clays Lane were told our surroundings were so bad that the beautiful green space at the Eastway ‘isolated’ us.

Mr Higgins later called the Lower Lea Valley a ‘scar’. Now, in Fish Island, which was originally part of the land the LDA wished to acquire, the ODA has ‘discovered’ areas which it considers merit designation as conservation zones!

On occasion the whole project descends into farce as when, for example, on one day the LDA awards its buddies at LOCOG ‘Gold for Diversity’ only for the Equalities Commission to then criticise LOCOG for its failure to promote equality and diversity, supposedly at the heart of the Bid!

This website is publicly funded but does not allow a proper debate. Instead the ODA pursues its ‘manifest destiny’ of bringing civilization and its benefits to the benighted land east of the River Lea, backed up by the visionary experiences of its explorers as recounted on this website. At a recent meeting at UCL, Jason Prior said it wasn’t possible to carry out an Olympics style development in West London, because of resistance from better off communities. As a local resident, first of Newham and now, as a result of being forcibly removed, of Tower Hamlets, I am depressed by this relentless Olympics aggrandisement. This is truly a colonial experience for East London.”

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