HOW HIGH CAN WE ALLOW DEVELOPERS TO BUILD?

Focus has previously reported on the massive high rise flat developments in Waltham Forest.

Forest Ward Focus Team members were with residents at the Planning Committee when the Council agreed the over development of buildings, of up to 18 storeys, in Lea Bridge Road.

Only recently Leyton Focus Team member Bob Sullivan and residents spoke against the 16 storey block at the end of Dunedin Road.

It appears that developers are having a field day as the Council continually agree the building of unaffordable multi high rise flats in the borough.

The latest plan submitted by the owners of the Mall shopping centre in Walthamstow is to build four blocks including one of 27 storeys!  Currently local residents have presented a 2,000 plus petition to the Council in protest against the plans. If you would like to support the local residents then contact ‘Save Walthamstow Town Centre’ on line: SAVE OUR TOWN CENTRE

Focus says:  In our experience the Labour Council never listens to residents and carries on agreeing the over development of every bit of land for multi high rise unaffordable flats.

LEA BRIDGE ROAD CONSULTATION

LEA BRIDGE ROAD CONSULTATION

Transport for London (TfL) is working in partnership with the London Borough of Waltham Forest and would like your views on a number of proposed changes to Lea Bridge Road. These changes would alter some bus stops and the road layout to provide segregated cycle tracks.

For full details, and to share your views, please click here to visit the London Borough of Waltham Forest’s website.

This consultation will run until Wednesday 2 December.

RESIDENTS’ PROTEST IGNORED

Residents outside the Town Hall protesting at the road closures introduced as part of the ‘Mini Holland’ scheme

The recent protest by over 1,200 residents against the road closures in Walthamstow and Leyton showed that the Council’s Mini Holland plans, including closing local roads, does not have the support of all residents despite the Council saying that they had.

Protesters not against the scheme or cyclists, but against road closures

The protesters went out of their way to say that they were not against the scheme or cyclists, but against the road closures. The Council’s plans have succeeded in causing division and anger across the Borough. The closing of roads has forced vehicles onto the already congested main roads like Lea Bridge, Hoe Street, and Leyton High Road and has resulted in a massive slow down of traffic, increased congestion and increased pollution.

Bob Sullivan addressing protesters outside the Town Hall

Congestion and pollution bad for all

All of this is detrimental to residents, cyclists, pedestrians and bus users. Focus Team member Bob Sullivan, who was in the Town Hall listening to the Mini Holland debate, was appalled by the Labour Council restricting residents from hearing the debate, as they only allowed 12 protesters in, although the chamber can hold over a hundred. He was shocked by the arrogant, illiberal attitude with which Labour Councillors treated residents’ concerns. They were not prepared to review the Mini Holland plans despite residents’ requests and their own Labour MP’s request.

Council continues to ignore residents

They are, in fact, going to ignore residents and continue to put in similar divisive plans across Leyton, Leytonstone and Chingford!

POOL AND TRACK PLANS VOTED THROUGH DESPITE STRONG OPPOSITION

Controversial sports centre plan approved over loss of funding fear

8:18am Wednesday 11th March 2015 – Waltham Forest E Guardian

Plans for new £23million sports facilities in Walthamstow were controversially approved last night after thousands called for further public consultation.

Campaigners packed into council chamber last night heard as the planning committee heard impassioned speeches pleading for further dialogue over plans for the Pool and Track site in Chingford Road.

The proposal from council contractor Greenwich Leisure Limited would see the loss of a 5m diving board, a dedicated diving pool and other facilities for athletes, prompting a campaign backed by coaches, parents and young people.

Veteran diver Jonathon Fox, who travels to the borough from Stansted every week, said the plans have been put forward on a “like it or lump it” basis.

Many of us hoped this council would enter into a meaningful dialogue with the users of the Pool and Track,” he said.

Instead, it’s like going into a restaurant, being given a menu and being told you will have something completely different.

Diver and coach Michael Allen questioned the council’s commitment to the Olympic legacy.
He said:

Last year, I had to console young divers who have had to give up the sport because of lack of transport and additional costs for their parents.

I find it amazing that anybody could argue this is not a loss of amenity.

Mr Allen told the committee a lack of a dedicated diving area would mean swimmers and divers could not train at the same time, which would restrict hours.

Manager of the Waltham Forest Disability Resource Centre, Peri Stanley, said no disability groups were contacted over the project and said the plans undermined access.

She said:

Sport England says portable steps can be used, but this isn’t an existing pool, it is a brand new development and I can see no reason for such a makeshift compromise.

People have to wait and ask for steps is an unnecessary barrier to inclusion.

At the very least disabled users should have been consulted.

Head coach of the Orion Harriers Juniors athletics team, Jane Farrier, who carried the Olympic torch into the borough, said athletes would lose a “vital” stretch room under the plans.

She said:

For months council officers claimed no such stretch room existed. We have pictures of it being used by (Olympic gold medallist) Sally Gunnell.

I urge this committee to reject these plans so that proper and full consultation and designs can be accommodated.

Alistair Gibb, a BMX enthusiast, spoke in favour of the plans.

Chris Simons from Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) told the committee an extra 400,000 people are expected to use the new facility, but drew criticism when he dismissed the 5m diving board as ‘unnecessary’ when a 3m board would be in place.

He said:

This is about creating a five star facility for an affordable price.

We are trying to make this the best facility in London.

I don’t believe the 5m board is an issue.

Having had a 5m diving platform previously hasn’t actually produced any 5m divers at competition standard.

Chapel End ward councillor Steve Terry said it is with a “heavy heart” that he and his colleagues approved the plans, through fear of losing funding.

The plans were voted through by three to one.

Chingford councillor Alan Siggers ensured conditions were imposed to give the Harriers use of a room for stretching and ensure the re-location of toilets to eliminate safeguarding concerns.

‘MINI-HOLLAND’ CYCLE SCHEME GOES TO CABINET ON 10 FEBRUARY

Mini-Holland cycling scheme in the Walthamstow Village area will go to Cabinet next week

First published Thursday 5 February 2015 in Waltham Forest E Guardian
Last updated 13:33 Thursday 5 February

 
The final plans for a controversial multi-million pound ‘mini-Holland’ cycling scheme have been revealed, ahead of cabinet decision next week.

Last year the community was at loggerheads during a trial run of a proposal to improve road safety in the Walthamstow Village area.

The original plans included a stretch of Orford Road being blocked-off to vehicles, while others converted from two-way to one-way and vice versa. Supporters claimed it was necessary to improve safety, while some businesses and residents claimed it would hit trade, cause congestion in nearby roads and had not been properly consulted on.

Further council consultation followed, with more than 1,200 people responding.

A report, which will be considered by the cabinet on February 10, outlines the trial results.

Council surveys showed rat runs were quickly created by the road changes, with drivers finding alternative routes to avoid queues.

Traffic in Beulah Road increased by 158 per cent and 127 per cent in Eden Road during the trial in September and October.

Increases were also experienced in Livingstone Road, Clarendon Road, Granville Road, Fraser Road and Merton Road.

But, the report states there was a decrease in overall traffic from 25,000 to 20,000 vehicles per day in the area.

On average, traffic speed reduced from 22.3mph to 21mph during the trial.

Changes made following public consultation include a no entry sign at Wingfield Road and closures to two stretches of Eden Road.

Beulah Road would also be made one-way northbound, from Grosvenor Rise East to Addison Road.

Copeland Road will be closed at the junction with Lea Bridge Road.

The closure on Grove Road has been moved to a position outside the Registry Office to allow better access to businesses.

Waltham Forest council was one of only three London councils to win the £30m funding from Transport for London and the Mayor’s Office for the scheme.

The final plans

– Orford Road will be closed to vehicles between Wingfield Road and Eden Road (except buses)

– Close Eden Road junction with Orford Road

– Close Eden Road just south of its junction with Grosvenor Rise East

– Close Grosvenor Rise East, east of Eden Road

– No entry to southbound vehicles on Wingfield Road south of Arden Mews

– Second Avenue – one-way westbound and Third Avenue – one-way eastbound

– Close East Avenue and West Avenue bridges at the junction with St Mary’s Road

– Introduction of a right turn ban from Shernhall Street into Church Lane between 8am to 9:30am

– Introduction of further traffic calming on Vestry Road and improvements to its junction with East Avenue

Changes to traffic direction

– Orford Road – one-way eastbound between Wingfield Road and Eden Road

– Beulah Road – one-way northbound between Grosvenor Rise East and Addison Road and two-way between Addison Road and Orford Road

– Addison Road – two-way between Comely Bank Road and Beulah Road

– Eden Road – two-way for its entire length

– Grosvenor Rise East – two-way between Eden Road and Beulah Road

The cabinet will discuss the findings at Walthamstow Town Hall on February 10 at 2pm.

FAMILIES CHEATED OUT OF THEIR HOMES

Fred Wigg and Joihn Walsh Towers, Montague Road

In November a packed meeting of tenants voted for the option of refurbishment of kitchens and bathrooms for John Walsh and Fred Wigg tower blocks in Leytonstone. 
Tenants Ignored
However, the Labour Council over-ruled the tenants, agreeing a plan to strip back the towers to the core, completely refurbish the flats and build a smaller block between them.
Labour Selling Off Flats
Brand new flats for the tenants?  No! The Council wants to sell off one of the blocks to the private sector, thus reducing the number of Council flats from 232 to 160!  Waltham Forest has thousands of families on the waiting list, so a further reduction of affordable homes will dash the hopes of many people.  In effect Labour is getting rid of tenants who are, in the main, less well-off and inviting wealthy people to buy up the flats.
Labour MP and councillors ignore cries for help
The residents have asked their Labour MP and Labour councillors for help but they stay quiet.  They have even been ignored by one of their Labour councillors who was once a tenant in one of the blocks!

Focus says:

The Council has said tenants can go back once the refurbishment is complete.  This is rubbish as there will not be enough flats to house all of them!  One of the tenants has said “The Council is treating us worse than something stuck on their shoe”.

Focus will keep you informed of the tenants’ campaign to save their homes.

ASBESTOS DANGER AT WALTHAM FOREST TOWN HALL – LATEST ON COURT CASE

Waltham Forest Town Hall

Waltham Forest E Guardian 30 January 2015

A date has been set for the sentencing of Waltham Forest council for putting employees’ lives at risk by failing to deal with deadly asbestos in the basement of its town hall.

Despite being warned about the presence of asbestos in the basement of the Forest Road building in 2002, the matter was not dealt with and no workers warned of the potential danger.

Earlier this month at Westminster Magistrates Court, the council admitted four counts of failing to keep employees and visitors safe.

Sentence will take place at Southwark Crown Court on February 16.

The offences can to light when Leytonstone resident, Nick Tiratsoo, submitted a Freedom of Information request in 2012 and was told all documents requested were contaminated with asbestos, which can cause lung cancer.

Mr Tiratsoo alerted the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which launched an investigation.

The court heard workers were based in the print room, one of many contaminated rooms, for up to 36 hours a week at one stage.

Kenneth Moore, who worked there for three years, said he will now worry about his health for the rest of his life and is focused on trying to keep fit.

He also said that employees were not told for ‘quite some time’ why they had been banned from entering the basement.

All three kinds of asbestos, including the most dangerous, were found in the basement, although it is not clear when it was disturbed.

District Judge Grant said the authority’s offences were too serious for sentence to pass immediately and referred the case to crown court.

POOL AND TRACK PETITION UPDATE

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:

https://www.change.org/p/london-borough-of-waltham-forest-lbwf-greenwich-leisure-limited-gll-aka-better-withdraw-planning-application-2014-2399-23m-pool-track-rebuild-and-consult-with-all-local-user-groups-about-the-design-specification

RESIDENTS CALL FOR REBUILT POOL AND TRACK TO INCLUDE ALL FACILITIES

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:

https://www.change.org/p/london-borough-of-waltham-forest-lbwf-greenwich-leisure-limited-gll-aka-better-withdraw-planning-application-2014-2399-23m-pool-track-rebuild-and-consult-with-all-local-user-groups-about-the-design-specification

 

WHAT WALTHAM FOREST LABOUR PARTY DOES WHEN IT GETS FULL CONTROL OF THE COUNCIL

Illustration by Eva Bee
Illustration by Eva Bee

What is powerlessness? Try this for a definition: you stand to lose the home where you’ve lived for more than 20 years and raised two boys. And all your neighbours stand to lose theirs. None of you have any say in the matter. Play whatever card you like – loud protest, sound reason, an artillery of facts – you can’t change what will happen to your own lives.

Imagine that, and you have some idea of what Sonia Mckenzie is going through. In one of the most powerful societies in human history – armed to the teeth and richer than ever before – she apparently counts for nothing. No one will listen to her, or the 230-odd neighbouring households who face being wrenched from their families and friends. All their arguments are swallowed up by silence. And the only reason I can come up with for why that might be is that they’ve committed the cardinal sin of being poor in a rich city.

Sonia lives in one of the most famous landmarks in east London. The Fred Wigg and John Walsh towers are the first things you see getting off the train at Leytonstone High Road station; they hulk over every conversation on the surrounding streets and the football matches on Wanstead Flats. Since completion in the 1960s, they’ve provided affordable council homes with secure tenancies to thousands of families. Named after two local councillors, they are a testament in bricks and mortar to a time when the public sector felt more of a responsibility to the people it was meant to protect, and exercised it too.

And so they must go. Last month, Waltham Forest council agreed on a plan to strip back the two high-rises to their concrete shells, rebuild the flats, and in effect flog off one of the towers to the private sector. In between Fred and John, it will put up a third block.

What’s this long and costly job (£44m is the starting estimate) in aid of? Not to build more council homes. Amid London’s worst housing crisis since the aftermath of the second world war, local politicians plan to cut the number of council flats on the site from 225 to 160. You can guess what the rest will be: luxury flats sold as investments to foreign investors and buy-to-letters for half a million pounds a pop, and some “affordable” units to serve as PR mitigation. This is in a borough where 20,000 households are waiting for a council property.

Nor is this a choice being forced on the Labour-run council because of spending cuts and tough choices, and all that blah. By its own estimates, the project will blow about £14m of public money. Councillors admit it would be far easier and cheaper to repair and refurbish the blocks. It would also leave the borough with more social housing, and Sonia and her neighbours in peace.

Here, then, is a scheme that is expensive, illogical and unpopular. How does a local government push it through? By cheating. A strong term, but I challenge you to follow the sequence and not use it too.

First, council staff outlined the options to a few handfuls of households, without giving any detailed written explanations. Sonia remembers how one of the meetings was combined with a mini-funfair, where children from the estate were given candy floss. Then last summer officials produced a scientific-looking survey of residents, to capture how they felt about the proposed “improvements”, though there were still no details.

When residents finally found out what the council’s proposals would mean for them, they kicked off. A petition went round the estate, rejecting the grand scheme and calling for cheaper and less intrusive rebuilding: 60% of the residents signed up. Then came a November public meeting attended by more than a hundred angry people, at which council representatives were shouted down, and residents organised an impromptu vote against the council proposals. They begged for assistance from their Labour MP and their Labour councillors. No one helped.

So: a council decides to play at speculative property development (and local council taxpayers should pray that London’s housing bubble doesn’t pop over the next five years). It keeps residents in the dark over what its plans mean. And in the face of the eventual and inevitable protest, it pretends they aren’t happening, referring to “a handful” of malcontents. The easiest way to prove that is by offering residents a vote, as Westminster council did recently with one of its schemes. Fat chance of that happening here.

Just underneath the municipal formalities runs a thick vein of contempt from the representatives for the people they are meant to represent – and from a Labour party machine to what was once its core vote.

“The council is treating us worse than something stuck on their shoe,” says Sonia. And although she’s lived in the area her entire life, she knows that she and her son – now finishing off his A-levels – have become second-class citizens. They are reminders of Waltham Forest’s past as one of the most deprived boroughs in all of England.

Thanks to the inflation in the capital’s house prices, the area has recently become home to a new group of the relatively well-to-do. Having tasted gentrification, local politicians want more. “The Council wants to make the borough a place where high- and middle-income people choose to live and can afford,” reads Waltham Forest’s core strategy.

What they want to do with low-income people doesn’t need mission statements. Earlier this year the council tried to shift a soup kitchen run by a Christian charity out of the town centre, where it had been for 25 years, to an industrial estate in a layby off a dual carriageway. The soup kitchen and the poor people it attracted got in the way of the council’s “growth strategy”. Only the intervention of a judge forced a retreat.

In the run-up to what’s likely to be the tightest general election in years, both politicians and commentators are already bemoaning British voters: they don’t know what they want, they’re incoherent, they’re apathetic. But Sonia in Waltham Forest can tell you what a nonsense those charges are. If politicians can strip a part of the electorate of its voice, pretend to consult when really they mean boss about, and then ignore the comeback, they really mustn’t be surprised when voters forgo the ballot box for simmering resentment.