Hale End Library threatened with demolition and more flats in its place

Issue number 133 of the Hale End and Highams Park ward FOCUS Newsletter leads with the news that Hale End Library is threatened with destruction by Waltham Forest’s Labour-controlled Council.

Local residents have been shocked to learn that the Council is planning to demolish Hale End library to use for housing.  The Council wants to make the library smaller by moving it to rented units from Tesco’s.

The Council’s usual response when they want to close a library is to say it is too large and is not well used by local people.  The same excuse was said when they closed the very popular Harrow Green Library in Leytonstone.  Residents are angry that their local library, the last civic building in Highams Park, is likely to be turned into a block of flats.  Residents are angry and have already set up a petition online.

Focus says:  Thousands was spent some years ago refurbishing Hale End library and to knock it down would be an act of vandalism.  If you agree with us please sign the petition. You can sign the residents’ online petition.


Anne Crook – Parliamentary candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green

Here the Liberal Democrat candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green, Anne Crook, explains why you should vote for her.

  1. I have lived in the constituency of Chingford & Woodford Green for over 30 years and I know the issues which most concern the local residents: the NHS, housing, education and transport.

The Lib Dems would increase funding for the NHS by 8bn a year in real terms by 2020 making it easier for residents to get appointments. In housing, we would help first time buyers who cannot afford a deposit by introducing a Rent to Own scheme where buyers steadily build up a share in their home.

  1. I am a local activist and campaigner for my local party, Chingford & Woodford Green Liberal Democrats. I listen to residents and take up their concerns, speaking up for them at area committees, now local forums and at planning committees and licensing hearings.
  2. I studied Law at City University, successfully completing my law degree in 2005 and I think that a sound knowledge of the Law is essential for an MP, both to understand the passing of legislation and to assist constituents with legal issues.
  3. I am passionate about the preservation of public services e.g. the NHS, police stations & public libraries. I am fully committed to an NHS which is free at the point of use.  I have campaigned to save local hospital services, the local police station and the local library.
  4. I would be a full time MP devoting all my time and energy to the job and I think that all MPs should be full time.


Bus ‘keeping kids off streets’ facing funding axe

Waltham Forest E-Guardian – 12:05pm Thursday 26th March 2015

A bus which visits deprived estates to help children learn, play and relax could be taken off the road due to council cuts.

The My Youth Bus is kitted out with game stations, cooking facilities and a sound system and used by dozens of young people every night.

The My Youth Bus project, run by charity Worth Unlimited, has been operating in Walthamstow, Leytonstone and Chingford since December 2007.

Funding of £33,000 is provided through the council’s Youth Activities Fund.

However, the cash is due to be cut from September this year.

Amber Bowden, 11, and Alex Brown, 14, from Buxton School in Leytonstone, raised the issue with Mayor of Waltham Forest Terry Wheeler.

They use the bus on the Cathall Estate in Leytonstone, an area well known for crime and deprivation.

Alex said:

This bus means a lot to both of us.

It is like a family on here. It is amazing and it means the world to us to be able to come here every week.

They are taking away money because they don’t actually understand what it is like for kids growing up – they think it is just a bus for a small group of kids and they are wrong.

There is always someone you can talk to on this bus – adults we know and trust.

Amber Bowden added:

We wouldn’t be allowed out if the bus wasn’t here.

The bus is as important to our parents as it is us because it gets us out.

The youth workers who come every week are amazing. There is nothing else like this around here.

Thomas Fether, 15, and Jahmal Burgess, 13, have been using the bus since it started operating.

Jahmal said:

This is something we really enjoy.

It is the only thing for us to do, we need that money.

Makiya Jacobs, 13, said:

It is fun so we keep coming.

When we come here we can have our own space – we always have fun.

It keeps kids off the streets. If I wasn’t here I would just stay indoors on my own.

Carl Clarke has been a youth worker on the bus for 20 months said:

The most important thing for us is that they have somewhere to go that isn’t the street, where they can get an education outside of the classroom,

We don’t want children on the streets or spending all their time at home on the internet.

It is about getting these kids to get the best out of themselves and some just don’t do that in traditional settings.

The bus is another opportunity for them to learn and excel.

Worth Unlimited said it would like to hear from any businesses interested in sponsoring the bus.

The council has been approached for comment.


Liberal Democrats are taking the fight to the Tories and Labour across Waltham Forest.  The Liberal Democrat candidates in the General Election are below.  If you would like to help the Lib Dems in the General Election then please contact any of the candidates.


Anne Crook

mobile: 079847 771 487 – email: amc59@gmail.com


Carl Quilliam

email: leytonandwansteadcarl@gmail.com


Steven Cheung

mobile: 07872 427 778 – email: steven@stevencheung.co.uk

web: www.stevencheung.co.uk – twitter: twitter@stevencheung




Re-submitted Pool & Track plan ‘would be missed opportunity’

12:33pm Wednesday 4th March 2015 – Waltham Forest E-Guardian

Re-submitted plans for a multi-million pound investment in new sporting facilities will be a ‘wasted’ opportunity, according to campaigners.

Athletes, parents, children, teachers and councillors gathered last night to urge the council to reconsider a proposal for Walthamstow Pool and Track.

The authority and contractors Greenwich Leisure Limited were criticised for deciding not to replace a 5m diving board as part of the £25million scheme in Chingford Road.

In September plans to knock down the existing building and replace it were rejected by the council’s planning committee due to loss of amenity as the diving board, which is said to be vital for training youngsters, would be replaced by a spa and an ‘extreme sports’ arena.

But an application for the same proposal has been made, with the diving board not included.

Campaigners and other clubs say young athletes will also be disadvantaged if the proposal is approved.

A petition calling for further public consultation has been signed by 2,500 people.

Speaking at the Pool & Track last night, Orion Harriers club manager, Jane Farrier, said the planned facility would kill athletics.

A ‘well-used’ strength and conditioning room will be taken away under the new plans.

We were not consulted from day one

They are not integrating this track with the new centre and there are a number of big concerns with the new proposals.

For a start we will now have a safeguarding issue with children having to go right out of our sight to use the toilets and changing rooms.

There will be no track-side first aid.

We have no trust in them whatsoever. 

We do not dispute the centre needed to be developed,  but the emphasis has been placed on making money not improving what we already have.

We have 400 junior and 350 senior members. None of them were asked. 

Is consultation asking people what they want or telling them what they are getting?

Lesley Pearce, the teacher in charge of PE at Parkside School in Chingford, said

There is a desperate need for a large sporting venue for pupils to use.

If the council had consulted primary schools they would know we spend a huge amount of money transporting children to facilities in other boroughs.

With this amount of money they are spending – they have the chance build a major sporting hub and meet the needs of thousands of children. 

These plans are not suitable.

Walthamstow resident Amanda Connolly criticised the lack of consultation.

There is no transparency in this project. It should be about investing in the future.

Nobody has a problem with development or enterprise, but we haven’t even been asked what we need.

Green Party candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green, Rebecca Tully, said the council should not expect children to travel to other boroughs for facilities.

There are children having to travel to outside boroughs and are getting home at ten o’clock on a school night. That is not what we want.

Many members of the community in Waltham Forest feel as though they have been ignored.

Jack Byrne, 11, is a member of the diving club. He said:

It’s not just about divers, it’s about swimmers too. 

With these plans we can’t use the pool at the same time.

Before I learned to dive I would try the 5m board and it was such a thrill.

I just wanted to do more. If they take it away other children won’t get to experience that.

We don’t need a spa here.

A dedicated planning meeting will be held at Walthamstow Town Hall on Tuesday (March 10).

GLL has not responded to repeated requests for interview from The Guardian.

Please sign the on-line petition below.

View the petition here


Multi-million pound plans to demolish and re-build a ‘state of the art’ sports centre have been axed from the council’s agenda for next week.

Campaigners, parents and budding sports stars had been preparing to protest at the town hall in Walthamstow, on Tuesday, as plans for the Chingford Road Pool and Track were to be debated for a second time.

A petition which has been signed by over 1,500 people was started two weeks ago, calling on the council to consult local people.

The plans, the second ones to reach the planning committee, have been slammed as the new centre will not include a 5m diving board, dive pit and will alter facilities for disabled people.

Waltham Forest council’s contractor, GLL Ltd, said the board is too expensive but are putting spa facilities and a BMX area in the plans.

In September the first plans were rejected over the proposed loss of amenity for local residents.

Today, it was revealed that the meeting has been deferred until March, where the will be a dedicated meeting over the facility.

In a letter to campaigner Ian Capes, a council officer wrote:

Due to the amount of interest in the plans it is important that we can accommodate as many members of the public as possible who wish to attend the meeting and play their part in the decision making process.

The decision comes on the same day the chairman of the planning committee was suspended from the Labour group over a Facebook rant over the words of the Prophet Mohammed.

The petition can be seen here:



Waltham Forest Guardian – 26 January 2015

Plans to remove provision for an Olympic sport from faciltiies in Waltham Forest three years after the 2012 games must be reviewed, according to London’s commmissioner for sport.

The only high diving board in the borough has been removed as Pool and Track in Chingford Road, Walthamstow, is demolished to make way for a new sports centre.

Members and supporters of the diving club based at the centre campaigned for the board to form part of the new centre, insisting it is vital to develop young talent,

Tom Daley’s diving partner Pete Waterfield, who grew up in Walthamstow, spoke out about the plans last year.

In September, the designs for the new centre were rejected by the planning committee for loss of provision, and the council’s lesiure provder GLL was urged to consider adding a 5m diving board to plans.

The company submitted new plans months later, but did not include the board.

Kate Hoey, the Boris Johnson’s commissioner for sport said the mayor was always opposed to the removal of sports.

Writing to the leader of the council, Chris Robbins, she said families cannot be expected to travel to Newham for the sport.

“The Mayor of London and I remain steadfastly opposed to the loss of any local sporting facility unless there is a compelling case otherwise, such as agreed local provision that will replace the facilities lost,” Ms Hoey added.

“I understand that the Council’s position is that those residents who wish to continue to participate in diving should in future use the facilities at the London Aquatics Centre.

“Whilst the London Aquatics Centre is an excellent community facility, with a journey between the two venues taking around an hour via public transport, this would present a significant barrier to participation in diving for local residents.

“Diving facilities in Greater London are in scarce supply, and although I recognise that the Pool and Track facilities are set for a considerable upgrade as a whole, I would encourage you to revisit plans to remove the five metre diving platform to ensure that Waltham Forest residents can continue to participate in diving activities at their local facility.”

The council will decide on new plans on February 3.

Please sign the petiton urging Waltham Forest Council to require all facilities at:




Images of housebuilding (clockwise from top left): house under construction; digger; "sold" sign; bricks; bricklayer

In 2007 the Labour government set a target for 240,000 homes to be built a year by 2016. The UK is nowhere near that. Why?

For decades after World War Two the UK used to build more than 300,000 new homes a year. Recently it’s managed about half that.

The country is facing up to a housebuilding crisis. A decade ago, the Barker Review of Housing Supply noted that about 250,000 homes needed to be built every year to prevent spiralling house prices and a shortage of affordable homes.

That target has been consistently missed – the closest the UK got was in 2006-07 when 219,000 homes were built. In 2012-13, the UK hit a post-war low of 135,500 homes, much of which was due to the financial crisis. Last year the figure recovered slightly to 141,000 homes. Labour’s 2007 target has been dropped by the coalition.

In May 2014, Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England,complained that housebuilding in the UK was half that of his native Canada, despite the UK having a population twice the size. The consequences have been rocketing prices in London, the South East and some other parts of the country.

How did it become so hard to build houses?

Planning permission

Big digger on edge of countryside

About 95% of housebuilders surveyed this year thought that the “modest” industry target to build 200,000 new homes a year by 2016 was unachievable.

The planning system and local opposition to building were two of the main reasons cited. The Home Builders Federation says that while things have improved recently the planning system is “still far too slow, bureaucratic and expensive”.

And yet the government announced recently that in the year to September 2014, the number of planning permissions for new homes reached 240,000. Housing minister Brandon Lewis says that it’s a sign the government’s planning reforms are working.

In 2012, the government attempted to simplify the planning system by introducing a slimmed-down National Planning Policy Framework. Matthew Pointon, property economist at Capital Economics, says the NPPF is working. “In the past, planning was a big part of why we didn’t hit our targets.”

The HBF says it can still be slow to get from outline to detailed planning. There are over 150,000 plots for new homes with outline planning permission that are stuck in the system waiting for detailed permission, says HBF spokesman Steve Turner. But the steady rise in detailed planning permissions being granted over the last four years – from 158,000 in 2011, 189,000 in 2012, 204,000 in 2013 and 2014’s 240,000 figure – shows that the planning system is speeding up, says the government.


Chris Walker, head of housing and planning at think tank Policy Exchange says the 240,000 is a positive step. The question is whether the upward trend will carry on. It could just be a correction after the low levels of building following the financial crisis. And not all permissions are built, many expire. “We probably won’t get to 200,000 on the back of that 240,000,” Walker says.

The government has abolished national and regional planning housebuilding targets. Leaving everything to local decision-making encourages Nimbyism, says Kate Henderson, chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association. She cites a doubling of legal challenges on local plans by planning inspectors who are picking councils up on not assessing their housing needs properly. “There’s a lot of pressure from politicians in certain areas to suppress housing figures.”

But housing minister Brandon Lewis says the rising number of permissions shows the tide is turning. And he rejects the idea that replacing regional planning targets with local decision-making has increased Nimbyism. He points to the British Social Attitudes survey, which showed a 19% rise in the number of people who support homes being built in their area.

Lack of available land

Sign reads "land reserved for future development"

For homelessness charity Shelter a shortage of available building land is the main reason for the housing shortage. “We fail to provide enough land at prices that make it possible to build decent, affordable homes,” a spokesman says. Land prices have inflated “massively”, Shelter says. Residential land prices rose 170% from 2000 to 2007 compared to house prices which rose 124%, according to the IPPR.

Land is the main long-term constraint, agree both the private sector HBF and the National Housing Federation (NHF), which represents housing associations. The NHF says that local plans drawn up by councils often fail to identify enough land to meet local housing needs.

A Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) spokeswoman says: “We’re well on track to have released enough formerly used, surplus public sector land for 100,000 homes by the end of this parliament – and the Autumn Statement included plans to identify similar land for an additional 150,000 homes in the next five years.”

This will help, says Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. But public sector land is only a small part of the picture. Private landholders needs to be encouraged to release sites for homes.

One of the most controversial areas of possible reform is around the greenbelt – the protected zones around urban areas in the UK. It would help to relax the rules, Blackburn argues. Often the greenbelt could be built on with green space released elsewhere to compensate, he says.

Councils have always been able to build on the green belt in special circumstances. In August 2014 it was reported that 15 homes are approved on the greenbelt every day. And in October communities secretary Eric Pickles responded by saying he would be tighten the government’s new planning rules on the subject of the greenbelt. While many in the planning and construction industries might like the greenbelt to be opened up to building “where appropriate”, politicians are unlikely to agree to something so controversial with voters.

Housebuilders sit on land and hold back homes

Ebbsfleet awaits development as a new garden city

Housebuilders in possession of large sites will often develop them gradually rather than build and sell the homes off quickly, says Pointon.

It’s supply and demand – release a few at a time and the price remains high. Release a lot at once and the value of the properties falls.

“By building them out more slowly it means they can maximise the value of their assets,” Pointon says.

It may be in their business interest to do this, says Henderson. But what it means for the country is that developers are sitting on land for houses that could be put on the market and relieve the housing shortage. It shows the need for the state to take charge of developing large sites so that not all the homes are under the control of the big housebuilders, she says.

The HBF says that big sites take years to develop. “Housebuilders can only build at the rate a local market will support,” says Steve Turner. “You cannot build out a site for 5,000 houses instantly or indeed put them up for sale in a local market at once. So when local authorities are drawing up their local plans it’s imperative they include more smaller sites and not just a few large ones which inevitably take years to build out.”

The State no longer builds

British Minister of Housing Aneurin Bevan (1897 - 1960) opens the 500th permanent house built since the end of World War II by Elstree Rural Council, 25th March 1949
March 1949: Aneurin Bevan opens the 500th permanent house built in Elstree since the end of WW2

Between the late 1940s and late 1950s councils built more homes than the private sector. Right up to the late 1970s local authorities were building 100,000 homes a year. But with the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 housebuilding by local authorities fell.

Private sector construction rose, but not by enough to compensate for the fall in public sector building. Housing associations were supposed to fill the gap but have come nowhere near the state’s building figures, says Glyn Robbins, a supporter of pressure group Defend Council Housing. Councils’ exit from housebuilding is “fundamental” to today’s housing shortage, he believes.

Kate Henderson, of the Town and Country Planning Association, agrees. The current failure to build anything like the numbers from the 1950s and 1960s – when councils were building as many homes as the total housebuilding figure today – shows the private sector is incapable of delivering on its own, she says.


A brief history of social housing

  • End of WW1 and the “Homes fit for heroes” campaign leads to Housing Act 1919 which requires councils to provide housing
  • Destruction of thousands of houses during WW2 sparks major boom in council housing, shaped by New Towns Act 1946 and Town and Country Planning Act 1947
  • Council tenants given the right to buy their homes by the Housing Act 1980, introduced in the early days of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats are arguing for the state to once again commission and build homes. It may not be the mass council housing of old though. Today they talk about development corporations that can buy up the land and work with other partners to build housing for different tenures – Labour calls its model New Homes Corporations. It’s rather like the New Towns, says Henderson. “Once you grant planning permission the value shoots up,” says Henderson. “So the state can capture that and deliver affordable housing.” Garden cities are ripe for this kind of development corporation approach, she says.

But Brandon Lewis says that the government’s flagship garden city of Ebbsfleet will be developed mainly by the private sector. He is cautious about the state getting involved in housebuilding – the country has to “live within its means”. But he does point to the government’s extra investment for councils to help them build new affordable homes across the country.

It is not quite right to say the private sector has never managed to build enough homes on its own. It did so, albeit in the 1930s. The number of houses built by the private sector rose from 133,000 in 1931-32 to 293,000 in 1934-35 and 279,000 in 1935-36. However it was a very different economic context – the UK was trying to stimulate its economy after the Great Depression and mortgage conditions were very different to today.

Housing associations hamstrung

Housing association-owned flats in Lewisham, south London

Since the state stopped building homes, non-profit making housing associations have been given the job of providing social housing. In 2013 housing associations built 21,600 homes. The Policy Exchange says that number could increase radically if regulation of housing associations is relaxed.

The NHF agrees that its members’ building ambitions are thwarted by unnecessary restrictions. There are rules over how they set their rents, how properties are let and how housing stock is valued for lending purposes. These all reduce housing associations’ ability to borrow money for housebuilding, says Rachel Fisher, head of policy at the NHF.

And then there’s money. The 2010 Spending Review reduced the DCLG’s annual housing spending – which supports social housing – by about 60% to £4.5bn for the four years starting 2011-12, compared with £8.4bn over the previous three years.

This is at a time when an estimated 1.7 million people are on the social housing waiting register in England. A DCLG spokeswoman says the government has provided over 200,000 affordable homes since 2010. It will deliver 275,000 more affordable homes between 2015 and 2020, leading to the fastest rate of affordable housebuilding for two decades, she adds.

Skills and materials shortages

Builders on a site in Birmingham

What is holding up building in the short term is a lack of materials and labour, says Pointon. The surge in demand in late 2013 and early 2014 led to materials such as bricks running out.

Construction workers left the industry during the financial crisis and the industry has struggled to recruit enough skilled labour to catch up with increasing demand. It will take some time before enough workers retrain to work in construction, he says. In November 2014, the government set out a range of steps to try to recruit new construction workers. One of the proposals suggested bringing former military personnel on to building sites.

Fewer small builders

Builder on site carrying hod

Today housebuilding is concentrated in fewer hands. The financial crisis hit housebuilders hard. In 2007, there were 15 firms providing more than 2,000 homes a year. The following year there were just six.

Small housebuilders – those building fewer than 100 homes a year – built just 20,000 homes in 2013, the Financial Times reported. A decade earlier it had been 51,000. A survey in 2014 by trade body the National House Building Council found that half of small builders cited banks’ reluctance to lend as a serious problem.

The government says it has put in place a range of measures to support small builders. For instance, builders of 10 or fewer homes do not have to pay costly Section 106 affordable housing and tariff style contributions. And it has offered a £525m Builders Finance Fund to get work restarted on stalled smaller sites.

Signs outside newly built homes read "Ask about our Help To Buy scheme"

Larkswood By-Election

Following the resignation of a Tory councillor for Larkswood ward, a by-election will be held on Thursday 12th July. 

Local Campaigner Chosen

Graham Woolnough - Liberal Democrat candidate in the Larkswood by-election

Former Chingford councillor Graham Woolnough has been selected as the Liberal Democrat candidate in this important by-election.  

Local man

Graham is a local man, living in Larkswood ward. Married with four grown up children, who were educated in local schools. Graham has lived in Waltham Forest for most of his life.  

Experienced local campaigner

Graham has more than 30 years experience of campaigning for local people. He is currently campaigning with residents to save the Walthamstow Greyhound Stadium from London and Quadrant’s plans to destroy this iconic leisure facility.  

Experienced councillor

Graham Woolnoughwas a Waltham Forest councillor for 16 years before standing down in 2002. He is remembered for his work on behalf of the residents as a councillor in Chapel End ward. For 6 years he successfully led the Liberal Democrat group on the Council.