Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/634/10074
Save Wanstead Flats
The Metropolitan Police intend to have a police station on Wanstead Flats, a large area of common land touching three east London boroughs.
Use of the flats was fought for and won by working-class people and is enshrined in the Epping Forest Act of 1878.
Campaigns by local residents have maintained its status. Now the Met plans what it calls a 'temporary' police base for around four months during the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.
The strength of local opposition was demonstrated at a recent public meeting. Largely promoted by word of mouth, over 250 people packed the community hall to voice anger at the plan.
The area occupies an important place in local history. One resident recollected that the flats were known as the 'playground of the East End'. Busloads of people from choked up industrial areas and cramped streets would escape to the flats to eat some bread and jam and relax when they had a day off.
Today, local youth play cricket, families picnic, kites are flown, ducks are fed. The flats host local football games on weekends, involving hundreds of people of all ages. There has been a total lack of consultation - the first time we heard about the plan was when it was reported in the London Evening Standard.
Why, just two years away from the games, is this only being raised now? And, if the police need more room - there are several large police stations in east London - why is there no provision on the vast Olympics site itself?
To build on the flats, the Epping Forest Act must be amended. That would make it easier for future encroachments onto this common land - a right fought for and won more than a century ago would have been seriously eroded.
But now the campaign to save Wanstead Flats has begun. Leaflets and a petition are being drawn up. A website is being designed. September will see the campaign get moving with a mass community picnic at the site of the proposed police station on Sunday 5 September.
This will be followed by a public meeting towards the end of the month - with many other initiatives to follow.
In The Socialist 4 August 2010:
War and occupation
Workplace news and analysis
Youth fight for jobs
Environment and socialism
Socialist Party LGBT
Socialist Party events
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Review & Comment