Olympic 2012 bid would remediate largest area of contaminated land in capital

The London 2012 Olympic bid is aiming to be the most environmentally sustainable yet, with plans to permanently remediate a vast area of contaminated land and act as a catalyst for urban and community regeneration in one of the most deprived areas of London.

Officials at the launch of the 2012 bid said it would create the largest urban park in Europe for 150 years, restore rivers, remediate land previously contaminated by industrial use, improve the air quality by creating an Olympic Park low emission zone and reduce car dependency through improving public transport links and providing safer walking and cycling access.

The bid contains plans to make the games low-carbon through the integrated use of various forms of renewable energy and the materials chosen for building, as well as aiming for zero-waste through partnerships with recycling and re-use organisations.

Speaking at an event to mark the release of London 2012’s detailed plans for the bid, Mayor Ken Livingstone said the Olympic effect was already benefiting the capital: “Government has given the go-ahead to the East London Line extension, DLR extensions, Silverlink and other major projects. If we win the Games we will see the transformation of the most neglected part of our city. The Lower Lea Valley will be revitalised, with the biggest new park for over 200 years, cleaned up waterways, reclaimed land, new walkways and land bridges linking the area into London, thousands of new affordable homes, and a legacy of facilities for the community and sport.”

He added that the Games would kick-start regeneration through creation of new jobs across the capital, from hospitality and construction to the “cutting-edge green industries that will make our Games the most environmentally sustainable yet.”

The main site for the 2012 bid, the Lower Lea Valley, is the largest area of derelict and contaminated land in the capital and part of the Thames Gateway Strategy, the largest brownfield development scheme in Europe.

David Stubbs, Environmental Project Manager for the London 2012 project said the site was mainly dominated by low-grade industry such as car breakers yards, distribution sheds, and bus yards, as well as previously being the site of Europe’s largest fridge mountain.

In addition, the Lea River running through the site was used as an industrial waterway, often had a lot of sewage pumped through it as well as filling up with waste water from storm overflows during heavy rainfall.

As a result, the whole area will require a large remediation operation, which would be funded through a central government budget of £800 million, before the Olympic park can commence. Remediation of the contaminated soil would mostly take place on site, with bioremediation playing a major part, developers anticipate.

The project also envisages a major restoration of the river and wetlands and the recreation of floodplain areas to conserve biodiversity.

All other development would be funded through a mixture of private sector investment, lottery money, and, most controversially, a levy on council tax for Londoners.

In the long term, temporary structures such as coach parks and land bridges erected to cope with the influx of visitors, all of whom would have to arrive by public transport, would be turned back to green space after the games have finished, and affordable housing areas built to a high environmental standard using the BedZed development as a model.

“We are aiming to create not just a low-carbon, environmentally sustainable games, but a low-carbon sustainable future for the whole area,” Mr Stubbs said. “We have to think of the legacy this will leave behind.”

To this end, the developers say their vision would leave behind 127 hectares of new urban parkland while restoring polluted waterways and conserving local biodiversity and wetlands, as well as creating major new sporting facilities for London.

The judging process for the Olympic bids will take place in July 2005.

By David Hopkins

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