Parking costs deter helpers at East Ham nature reserve, volunteers say
PUBLISHED: 07:00 17 October 2017
Volunteers who maintain one of the largest churchyards in London say council parking costs have hindered their activities.
Approximately half of the nine-and-a-half acre site of East Ham Nature reserve, attached to St Mary Magdalene Church in Norman Road, East Ham, is tended to by up to 15 pensioners.
The group says Newham Council’s decision to introduce a residential parking zone (RPZ) outside the church - one of London’s oldest - in early summer has discouraged new helpers.
Volunteer Penny Evans, 67, said: “We do have a big problem attracting new people and of course the parking [restrictions] has made it worse.”
She added: “People who used to drive now come by bus and instead of it taking 10 minutes, it takes 45 minutes.”
A council spokeswoman said its leisure trust, activeNewham - which organises the volunteers - has been contacted and “we understand that they have now come up with a solution to help members to continue their work”.
Ordinarily, the volunteers from Newham Green Gym meet every Wednesday for three hours, plus three hours one Saturday a month.
They carry out “macho gardening” tasks including tree cutting, hedge laying and ivy clearing, often bringing in specialist gardening equipment such as loppers and scythes.
“A lot of these are quite dangerous to take on the bus,” Penny said.
Their work supports the area’s diverse ecology, including a large population of protected slow worms.
Fellow volunteer Frances Ostroff said: “If we had not been working at the nature reserve for all these years, people wouldn’t be able to walk around,” she said.
“We are doing work that contributes to the borough, to people’s mental health and physical health.”
Retired pensioner James Green, who regularly looks after his sister’s grave at the church, says the RPZ has also detered him from visiting as he cannot carry the necessary two gallons of water, tools and flowers on the bus.
A Newham Council spokeswoman said Norman Road is part of the East Ham South RPZ.
She said: “The whole of the south side of the road is available for shared-use parking, that is either residential permit parking, or pay and display with a maximum two-hour stay.
“It is in operation from 8am to 6:30pm, and the fees are £2 for one hour or £3 for two hours.”
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