East London neighbourhood could be turned into a massive rainforest

A neighbourhood in Waltham Forest, East London, could be transformed into a rainforest under plans presented by the local community. Under the community plan, th e 5.68-hectare ex-Thames Water Depot on Lea Bridge Road would be turned into a brownfield rainforest. The plans date back to 2019, originating from a meeting involving Waltham Forest locals discussing the ‘Save Lea Marshes’ campaign.

The intention is to offer locals the opportunity to spend more time in nature, with several activities on offer under the plans. That ranges from wild swimming in Victorian filter beds to conservation volunteering. The hope is that it will improve the physical and mental health of local people, as well as promote environmentally friendly lifestyles.

When the campaign first went public in 2019, Campaigner Harry Hewat said: “I’ve always been shocked by how dislocated this landscape is, with so many barriers and fences that detract from the natural beauty of the area and the ability to roam. This site is the missing piece of the jigsaw.”

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He continued: “Opening it up will stitch together Leyton and Walthamstow Marshes to the north, the Waterworks Centre Nature Reserve to the east, Hackney Marshes and Middlesex Filter Beds to the south and the river and towpath to the west to create a huge urban park. We’re calling it the East London Waterworks Park!”

The site is currently a concrete depot in the middle of a big, open green space. The hope is that opening the massive rainforest – named the East London Waterworks Park – will reconnect the lower Lea Valley.

Also speaking after the campaign’s launch, architect Kirsty Badenoch said: “In our time of environmental crisis, chances to protect and reclaim areas of inner-city Metropolitan Open Land have never been more important. This currently under-utilised site has a strategic position within the Lea Valley Regional Park and this is a rare opportunity to reconnect the wider ecologies and provide valuable community green space.”

Since then, several reports have been drawn up by the campaign, including an engineering pre-feasibility report, as well as a a phase two report describing the project’s inclusivity listening plans – both of which were published this month. The latter report was drawn up to make sure everyone feels welcome in the project and to ensure that the park is designed to meet a diverse range of needs.

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