Plans to expand a country park by the equivalent of more than 100 football pitches have united political parties and excited residents.
By “mid-late” this year, Redbridge Council aims to have finished converting 250 acres of depleted gravel quarries next to Fairlop Waters Country Park into open space, nearly doubling the size of the existing park.
Labour and Conservative councillors praised the “wonderful” idea and supported a budget of half a million pounds for the first stage of work at an overview committee meeting last night.
Conversations at the meeting revealed the council hopes to boost income from the park, with one councillor suggesting it “could be used for sustainable development”.
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 said the plan was “wonderful” but 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 incredibly well-received by residents.
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.”
From 2007: Fairlop Waters ‘draining’ council due to ‘serious dilapidation’
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.
“Whilst the park already offers many well-used and treasured components, it currently feels fragmented with some uncertainties about who it is for and what is on offer there.”
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.
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