River row over Olympic security fears

Opponents say Met going too far with plans to close River Lea.

PLANS to close a three-mile stretch of the River Lea during London 2012 because of terrorism fears have been described as “overkill” by residents.

The move by the Met would mean scrapping plans to use the river to transport visitors to the Olympic Park, as well as closure of the canal towpath.

Sona Abantu-Choudhury, spokesman for the Leabank Residents Association, said: “This is totally unnecessary and overkill.

“We already have electric fencing and CCTV on the towpath.

“We have just lost the marathon and now we are losing another beautiful part of the East End that is used by dogs walkers, ramblers, cyclists and gardeners.”

Mr Abantu-Choudhury said that the Leabank residents, who use the towpath to grow fruit and vegetables, would write to their

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councillors and government ministers to express their opposition to the plans.

The move was also criticised during a London Assembly meeting, which discussed London 2012 transport plans, by British Waterways head of regeneration, Richard Rutter.

Mr Rutter argued that the river could be policed during the Games to ensure that it posed no security threat.

A Met spokesman confirmed that talks were being held with the Home Office over regulation of the canal due to its proximity to the Olympic Park but that no decision had yet been made on whether to close the river and towpath.

During the London Assembly meeting, councillors and business representatives also raised concerns over plans for road restrictions and special traffic lanes across the capital to transport athletes, officials and journalists during the Games as part of the Olympic Route Network (ORN).

Questions were raised about the number of people who will be able to use the lanes.

Current proposals say that 82,000 people will be given access to the ORN, of which only 18,000 will be athletes and officials.

Fears were also expressed about possible congestion and disruption to businesses and residents caused by the plans.