Hackney Lib Dem campaigner, Ben Mathis has criticised Labour mayor, Jules Pipe after disparaging comments made about so-called "tree huggers" during a debate at the Town Hall in January.
Mayor Pipe was responding to a deputation by football club Sporting Hackney FC, who raised the issue of sports facilities for young people in the borough. The mayor suggested fencing off part of Hackney Marsh for the use of the team, before departing on a curious tirade against those who would object and defend public access on the marsh.
"There would be a howl of protest by a bunch of tree-huggers..." said Pipe "...they think it should be reserved for a couple of dozen dog-walkers. Because apparently it’s the middle of the countryside!"
Responding to reports in the Hackney Citizen, Lib Dem chair, Ben said,
"Given the distance by which Jules Pipe misses the point, I hope for his sake the next mayoral election doesn’t have to be decided by penalty shootout.
"He is of course correct that Hackney is not in the middle of the countryside, but an inner London borough. That should make him and anyone who loves Hackney all the more keen to preserve and enhance the small slices of open land we have access to in the form of Hackney Marsh, the River Lea and our other smaller open spaces.
"Hackney Marshes are a vital resource for London wildlife, form part of the flood-plain that protects our low-lying areas and most of all, are a wonderful haven for local people. With ever more of us suffering from stress and poor mental health, children growing up in crowded flats unable to run and play outside and our often toxic urban air, the benefits of having this open space in our borough are absolutely incalculable and ought to be celebrated, not disparaged.
"If Mr Pipe cannot appreciate that, it saddens me greatly and suggests that our mayor really doesn't “get” Hackney at all."