Mud mound dumped outside homes in council project now causing floods, residents claim

Harrow Lodge Park Hornchurch

These images, taken in autumn 2020, show the extent to which gardens in Wallis Close, Hornchurch, were overlooked. Havering Council said it had now moved the peak further away - but residents said their gardens were still visible. - Credit: Andy Nicholson

Hornchurch residents who had tonnes of mud dumped outside their homes say it is now causing floods.

Homeowners believe the mound, a by-product of a council construction project, is preventing drainage and funnelling rainwater into their gardens.

It is the latest in a series of complaints about the mud, which is several metres high and has been deposited on a field behind Wallis Close.

Residents were told last year it would be removed – but last month the council granted itself permission to make the hill permanent, although said it would be moved further away from the homes.

Homeowners said that will still rob them of their privacy, enabling people to look into their homes and gardens.

The development

In 2017, Havering Council approved plans for a new sports centre in Harrow Lodge Park.

Hornchurch Leisure Centre, built in 1956, was deemed beyond repair and residents were promised a modern replacement with a 25-metre pool and a gym.

But neighbours soon reported problems.

First, said Linda Thurston, works disrupted natural habitats, allegedly sending vermin into gardens in Wallis Close. 

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“Myself and my neighbour had half a dozen rats running around our gardens at a time,” she said.

Pest controllers were called in and the rats disappeared – but then the mound appeared. In the summer, Linda said, it dried out.

“It was horrendous,” she said. “Our cars and our homes got covered in dust. Every single day, I had to wipe all the windows on my car.”

Wet weather has stopped the dust – but now gardens are flooding, which residents claim has never happened before.

Geoff Vorley said his garden was “becoming a mud bath”.

Havering Council said recent heavy rain had flooded "many places" but that the area had now dried out. It added that field drainage would be included in the final landscaping.

Harrow Lodge Park Mud Flood

A photograph from last week, showing water pooled at the foot of the mud pile. Residents say it is seeping into their gardens. - Credit: Geoff Vorley


Last month, Havering Council granted permission to move the mound further away and retain it at a height of up to two metres.

But residents claimed this would still leave their gardens and homes "overlooked”, affecting their privacy and security. 

“We should have complained earlier, but we thought it was temporary,” said Andy Nicholson. “We thought that if we just put up with it, the quicker it would be gone.”

In March 2019, Havering Council wrote to residents saying works had necessitated the creation of “temporary spoil mounds”. In August last year the council also confirmed the mound would be moved.

But in September 2020, council officers told residents “the earth was always planned to remain on site.”

Residents said they were sure they had been told at consultation events in 2017 that the field would be retained.

They contacted Melvin Wallace who, as lead councillor for leisure, had attended the consultations.

His recollection matched theirs: “The remaining field would be made good.”

The planning files

The 2017 planning files include a “Design and Access Statement”, in which the development site boundaries are drawn on several diagrams.

The field behind Wallis Close is outside those boundaries.

Harrow Lodge Park Hornchurch Sports Centre Plan

Planning documents filed in 2017 showed the proposed boundaries in red. The field where the mud has been deposited, highlighted in this image with a green circle, is outside those boundaries. - Credit: Havering Council

The document mentions planting “small clusters of semi-mature parkland trees” as "a buffer for the residents of Wallis Close”, but says nothing about creating mounds of earth.

When residents raised this in 2020, the council said the final landscaping had been a “reserved matter”.

This meant the council could decide what to do after planning permission was already granted.

The 2017 files included a “Planning Statement”. It said there should be “no detriment to existing residential amenity through overlooking and/or privacy loss”.

Hornchurch Mound

Havering Council supplied a recent image of the site, showing the peak of the mound had been moved further from residents' homes - but homeowners said the ground level of the field remained much higher than before and their gardens were still overlooked. - Credit: Havering Council

The council said moving the mound would prevent overlooking by “keeping the bank as long grass to deter the use of that area”.

A spokesman said: "The piles of earth during construction were temporary and have since been reduced in height and will be moved closer to the final landscaping when the weather improves. 

"The works being done will still allow plenty of space for visitors and residents to enjoy use of the park."