An open letter to David Burrowes MP
Cheyne Walk Open Space Amenity Reinstated?
I hope you don't mind us writing this open letter to thank you again for your supportive words at the "handover ceremony" on February 16th and your commitment to do all you can to ensure that Cheyne Walk Open Space is reinstated as close as possible to its previous condition, minus a substantial number of mature trees of course. The Independent has it that the ceremony was to hand back CWOS but the "newspaper" obviously wasn't there because the site was a total mess and the open space was still almost entirely fenced off, with debris and Portaloos for decoration, and with much work to be done before it can be reopened, which is really the point of this letter.
As you know there are many long running and ongoing Salmons Brook FAS issues requiring investigation/ resolution but the most pressing is to ensure that the Environment Agency fulfils as quickly as possible what I presume is its contractual responsibility to restore CWOS, after having so substantially damaged it. I think the following is a fair list of the issues which the EA will need to address in order to do that:-
1. Soil compaction – the weight and intensity of movement of heavy plant in the large works compound area (covering most of the open space) has compacted the ground, so that a "lake" forms when it rains. On being questioned about this at the "handover ceremony" with the consequences clearly visible, the EA reaction was to undertake to ask the contractors 'to take a look at it and possibly spike it to improve drainage'. That may work on a small lawn but is ridiculous on a drainage problem of this scale. The question of increased drainage was raised but ignored.
2. Ground and surface water problems have tended to make CWOS a bit boggy during very wet weather and the new soil compaction will compound that effect significantly.
3. Doubts were expressed but no assurances offered about the proper sealing of local sewage pipes – this needs to be properly investigated and urgently before the bund is called into action.
4. The nature of much of the substantial environmental changes at CWOS has obviously changed the local wildlife habitat. What's done is done but what is being done to ensure that as much as possible is now done to restore the "old" wildlife environment?
5. Doubts were expressed about the extent of tree planting on CWOS to compensate for the substantial destruction of mature trees: two saplings were visible at the site entrance but they didn't look like Monty Don had planted them. Questioned about tree planting plans, the EA offered nothing. To avoid a Network Rail situation (this must be very fresh in your mind), there must be some ongoing monitoring and maintenance of the trees until they are well established. Network Rail paid the price for not doing this in Grange Park. We believe that the Tree Council took on the job of managing the planting second time round which gave some assurance that it would then be done properly. Perhaps their services could be used at CWOS.
6. Here is what we have been left with, how much longer before CWOS can truly be returned to the community? No one seems prepared or able to give a date.
7. Despite each of us receiving individually, advice from the EA at the "handover ceremony" about where ongoing responsibilities lie for the efficacy of the bund and the maintenance thereof, there are still some discrepancies in our understanding of the overall position. Given these discrepancies, and the volume and longevity of doubts and concerns expressed about these matters, it would surely be sensible for the division of the efficacy and maintenance responsibilities to be set out in writing, to include the provision of contact phone numbers. This information should be kept current by notes on-line and on site. Local residents and users of CWOS could then form an early warning system in case of any mishap. I recollect this matter as being of particular concern to you too. You advised that the EA had responsibility for the bund in perpetuity but, with my conservative hat on, I think prudence dictates that all aspects of efficacy and maintenance should be drawn together in writing under the "signature" of those entities responsible.
I'm sure the Environment Agency wants to get out of CWOS asap and we have to make sure that they don't go leaving it in a mess and quite possibly ruined as an amenity. We have to do this as, based on its past performance, the Council has clearly demonstrated that it is either not capable of doing it or not prepared to do it. As always, we'll do the heavy lifting, but we need and welcome the help of all of our political representatives.
I hope you don't mind us writing this open letter to thank you again for your supportive words at the "handover ceremony" on 16th and your commitment to do all you can to ensure that Cheyne Walk Open Space is reinstated as close as possible to its previous condition.