Petition to salvage plans for wild swimming park in East London reaches 10,000 signatures

The disused depot that campaigners are hoping to purchase. Photograph: ELWP

Plans for a wild swimming pond in East London have received “overwhelming” public backing – with a petition opposing an alternative use hitting 10,000 signatures.

Campaign group East London Waterworks Park (ELWP) wants to create a “brownfield rainforest” on a disused Thames Water depot off Lea Bridge Road.

It has already raised £500,000 in an effort to purchase the land, with thousands of supporters contributing to a crowdfunder.

But the dream was put at risk in March when London boroughs confirmed their intention to build a “secure children’s home” on the site.

That sparked ELWP into action and its team of volunteers quickly set up a petition, which has now passed the 10,000-signature milestone.

A spokesperson for ELWP said: “This level of support underscores the overwhelming public interest in the future of this land and the ongoing, widespread backing across the capital for creating East London Waterworks Park.

“It was announced this week that the number of visitors to Walthamstow Wetlands has surpassed three million. With the creation of brand-new wetlands in an important heritage setting, our park could also benefit millions of Londoners.

“We remain hopeful that we can deliver opportunities for inclusive open-water swimming, a provision that Waltham Forest Council promised local people but has failed to deliver, restore listed heritage buildings from the East London Waterworks Company era, and provide a forest school to educate a new generation of children about living in harmony with nature.”

Campaigners also launched a separate petition for Waltham Forest residents and are waiting to hear if it has reached the 3,000 signatures necessary to trigger a full council debate on the site’s future.

A spokesperson for London Councils, acting on behalf of London boroughs, said in March: “London boroughs are taking forward proposals to deliver a much-needed secure children’s home that will provide specialist care for London’s most vulnerable children. There is currently no facility of this kind in London.

“As part of the site selection process for the proposed development, around 450 sites were identified initially, of which 70 were longlisted for further consideration and assessment.

“In addition to the site selection process, a sequential assessment is being developed – this is a requirement for the planning application for this site.

“The final sequential assessment will contain details about the other sites that were reviewed as part of the site selection process and will further confirm the Thames Water Depot on Lea Bridge Road as the only suitable site for this facility.”

Last year, while in her previous role as parks chief, Hackney Mayor Caroline Woodley said of ELWP’s plans: “We warmly welcome this vision of sustainability, decarbonisation and nature recovery.”

She continued: “Bringing back open water and returning this site to nature would offer Hackney and Waltham Forest residents greater access to green and blue infrastructure.

“We know we need community partnership across London to become green and resilient, and this project sets a truly inspiring precedent.”