Saving the Moselle Brook – if there’s one thing we must do for future generations

The Moselle under the railway embankment

Daylight and nature for the first time - the Moselle emerges from under the railway embankment

It would be so easy to restore Hornsey’s only river as its wends its way through the eastern most reaches of N8 into Wood Green. Its course is recorded in the layout of our streets and their names. It’s been the policy of the Environment Agency, the Mayor for London and Haringey Council itself for years and yet, at the very moment that the opportunity presents its itself and there is the money and expertise to do it, Haringey Council is joining with developers to scuppe the plan.

Read our alternative Feasibility Report on how to recover the Moselle Brook

The facts:
* The Moselle Brook is a main river and part of the Thames river basin, flowing into the River Lea and on to the Thames
* As it reaches Wood Green, the river is in a culvert just below the surface – probably only 25cm either side of Mary Neuner Road
* The river has good flow and quality as it sees daylight for the first time next to the railway embankment
* With a little contouring and imagination, the Moselle Brook could easily be opened through Heartlands and Iceland sites
* West of the proposed ‘pocket park’ (off Hornsey Park Road), the river is at its closest to the ‘surface’ after demolition and soil removal undertaken as part of the decontamination: here, the ‘surface’ is close to that of the original fields through which the river flowed
* The concepts of ‘surface’ and ‘depth’ are a bit of a misnomer: the former changes across the Heartlands site and is determined by man (or woman): for example, to bridge across the culvert in 2008, Haringey raised the ‘surface’ of the new ‘Mary Neuner Road’ by one metre to avoid its foundations breaking into the culvert. Other areas of the site have been raised in the past to create artificially raised ‘surface’
* The Moselle Brook is not a drain: Haringey has the legal duty to deal with the few illegal ‘misconnections’ and has been making excellent progress on addressing them with its partners in Thames Water
* The culvert is over 100 years old and in poor condition: it would be better to spend the money needed to repair or rebuild it on restoring it to be a natural water course that the community can manage
* A river healthy river can tolerate and heal itself of some level of pollution: at the last count there were 61 ‘misconnections’ upstream of Heartlands: some are from washing machines and sinks – a few are worse. extraordinarily, some may be from Haringey’s own properties.

What we know:
* All policy is for restoration of the river through Heartlands
* The river is healthy enough now to restore now but in less than two years should be free of all misconnections, including those from Haringey’s property
* The developers have asked that Haringey allow some of the £30m Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) to be applied to restoring the river: this seems reasonable when it will be a borough wide resource to have a clean and healthy river and a new Riverside Quarter to Wood Green as well as a new ‘natural’ open space of borough wide importance
* Alexandra Palace Trustees (a close relative of Haringey) have made it clear that they expect some CIL to be given to them for Alexandra Park: it would be better to use this money on a new park where it is needed – in Wood Green
* The river needs space – no more than the mandatory 8m ‘no build’ zone each side required by the Environment Agency to manage the river (regardless of whether it is open). This space belongs to the river and its natural ecology: Haringey should safeguard it for the river and its ecology and then plan open space for the occupiers of the thousands of new homes they want built in the area
* The borough needs an ‘east-west link’: the area of intensification needs nature and its occupants need open space and nature for their physical and mental well-being: the borough needs a clean and healthy Moselle Brook because for so long as its remains hidden, it will be at risk of neglect and illegal misconnections.

Haringey must not deny its responsibility to champion the restoration of the Moselle Brook at the first real opportunity and worse, to actively develop plans to make it impossible. This would be a serious neglect of duty and trust.