Lib Dem Councillors Mahmood Hussain and Bob Sullivan with local residents at the Planning Meeting

Liberal Democrat councillor Mahmood Hussain on Wednnesday 18 May told Waltham Forest’s Planning Committee that the council should refuse the planning application submitted by UKCG to turn the EMD Cinema into a religious assembly hall.

Councillor Hussain, who represents High Street ward which includes the EMD Cinema site, said:

“The key questions can be summarised very simply. Does the proposed development respect the building’s heritage and listed building status? Is the impact on the area and particularly on nearby residents acceptable? Does the proposed development contribute satisfactorily to the regeneration of Walthamstow Town Centre? On all three counts I believe the answer is no.

“This view is shared by an enormous number of local residents. Our borough has hundreds of places of worship of all types and sizes. But it does not have a single cinema. We have clear evidence that the building is potentially viable as a cinema, arts and entertainment venue.

“This would bring new life to the area and stimulate the local economy – unlike the proposal before you. The proposed changes to the building would destroy much of what is special about this unique building, which is one of the oldest, largest and best preserved cinema buildings in the country.

“Residents would suffer from the absence of a proper noise management scheme and from parking problems generated by cars descending on the area from miles away.

“For the sake of Walthamstow please listen to local people, weigh up the planning merits of the case and refuse the application.”

Speaking after the decision to refuse the planning application Councillor Hussain said he was delighted that the Planning Committee had listened to the arguments put forward by objectors.

“This is good and important news for Walthamstow Town Centre but it is only one step forward. Following two planning refusals and endless discussion I hope UKCG will now abandon their plan. We must allow those who are able to bring the cinema back into use the chance to realise the cinema’s true potential.”

Lib Dems welcome High Street ward recount result

Four months after the residents of Walthamstow went to the polls, the courts today declared the correct election result. Liberal Democrat candidate Mahmood Hussain is the new councillor for High Street ward.

The court confirmed that the council made a serious mistake at the election count on 7th May and 1,000 votes were wrongly added to the Labour’ candidates’ total.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Bob Sullivan, said:

“I am delighted to welcome Mahmood Hussain to the Liberal Democrat Group on the council. At last the people of High Street ward have the councillors that they voted for. The council’s mistake at the count should never have happened. It cost local taxpayers thousands of pounds in legal fees and deprived local residents of the representatives they voted for.”

Mahmood Hussain said:

“It is an honour to be elected to serve the residents of High Street ward. I will do all I can to stand up for the interests of local people and make sure that their needs are not ignored by the Labour council.

There are lots of issues to take up, including the future of the EMD cinema, looking after Walthamstow market and local services and pressing Labour to come clean on its plans for the Arcade site. I will work with residents to improve safety and security in the area and to protect and improve the local environment.”

Mahmood Hussain has lived in Walthamstow for the past 27 years and has always taken a keen interest in the local community. He works locally and is a trustee of a Walthamstow based charity.

EMD Cinema report: a positive step forward

EMD Cinema, WalthamstowLocal Liberal Democrats have welcomed the publication of Locum Consulting’s report about the EMD Cinema in Walthamstow.

Mahmood Hussain, who was Liberal Democrat candidate for High Street ward in May’s council election, said:

“The publication of this report definitely moves the debate forward. Locum Consulting has set out a realistic vision of a cinema orientated multi-use venue which would help regenerate Walthamstow Town Centre and improve the cultural life of the area. It is extremely disappointing that the comments made by the Labour leader of the council are so dismissive.”

Liberal Democrat Group Leader Bob Sullivan added:

“Of course there are many obstacles ahead and much depends on the attitude of the UCKG which owns the cinema. We urge the church to respond positively. The council does not have the money to fund the project on its own. But it should be prepared to work closely in partnership with any Trust or Community Interest Company that emerges, and provide practical support to kick-start the process.

“Waltham Forest council must also take full account of the EMD cinema’s potential when it makes decisions about the neighbouring Arcade site. The Lib Dems will be pressing hard for the council to adopt a more constructive attitude.”

You can download a copy of the report from the McGuffin Film Society website [PDF].

Waltham Forest Labour off to bad start spending thousands to get rid of Chief Executive

Lib Dem Leader Bob Sullivan has responded to the need to find savings at Waltham Forest council and Labour councillors’ decision to get rid of the council’s Chief Executive. He said:

Gordon Brown’s economic legacy means that all levels of government have to make tough choices. Labour in Waltham Forest has got off to a bad start by seeking to get rid of the serving Chief Executive at enormous cost to the local taxpayer.

The Liberal Democrats will campaign to protect crucial services that affect people’s lives. We will support measures to improve efficiency and cut out waste, bureaucracy and unnecessary spending.

The council spends hundreds of thousands of pounds each year on marketing and communications and could save more if it employed fewer interim staff and consultants. It must make progress on the Arcade site and other projects where every delay costs local taxpayers money.

It is vital that the measures announced by the council are considered properly by councillors and I will ask for full details to be submitted to the relevant scrutiny committee.

Labour councillors vote to avoid scrutiny of their policies

Labour councillors last night voted to duck close examination of their policies by excluding Liberal Democrat councillors from six key council committees.

In a cynical move the Labour Party voted to reduce the size of each scrutiny sub-committee to just five members, each consisting of three Labour councillors and two Conservative councillors but no Liberal Democrats.

“Labour is running scared of proper scrutiny,” said Liberal Democrat Group Leader Bob Sullivan, who also used the meeting to raise questions about primary school places, the EMD cinema and the Arcade site.

“It is a bad sign that the first act of the Labour administration is to close down debate and discussion. They don’t seem to realise that residents expect councillors to work together on the many difficult challenges facing our area. Despite the problems caused by Labour’s actions the Lib Dem group will continue to speak up for local residents and fight for their interests.”

Until last night’s Annual Council Meeting seven councillors served on each scrutiny sub-committee. This would have given the Liberal Democrats one seat on each committee. A Liberal Democrat attempt to halt the change was defeated by the Labour majority.

The six scrutiny sub-committees deal with:

  • Children and Young People
  • Health, Adults and Older People
  • Performance Improvement
  • Community Safety and Housing
  • Environment
  • Finance

Lib Dems urge Labour to drop pool and Track threat / “There is no confusion” (pt 2!)

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg meets stallholders in walthamstow on his recent visit.Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr John Macklin has told fellow Cabinet members that money is available to pay for a proposed Walthamstow Arcade redevelopment project – and urged Labour members to scrap plans that could see the sale of the Walthamstow Pool and Track facility.

Cllr Macklin, who was presenting an update on the Council’s capital spending programme  as the cabinet member for Finance, told councillors that money to pay for redevelopment of the Arcade is already contained within Council expenditure plans.

Liberal Democrats previously voted against Labour cabinet members who forced through a report recommending the sale of “land at the Pool and Track site or alternative assets…that have not yet been identified”.  This was a climbdown from an original draft of the report that explicitly cited “the Pool and Track site” for disposal. 

In trying to defend the proposals, though, Labour Leader Chris Robbins apparently confirmed that at least part of the Pool and Track facility would eventually be closed.  Labour cabinet member responsible for Sport, Geraldine Reardon, told councillors that there was “no confusion”

Cllr Robbins again attempted to distance himself from the threat to the Pool and Track at the cabinet meeting, claiming that “there never was a link between the pool and the property on the Arcade

However, the relevant report outlining the threat has now been cited by the Waltham Forest Guardian here.

Cllr Macklin believes that the report on Council expenditure will allow Labour members to drop their threat to the Pool and Track site.

The Lib Dem Leader said:

“The report confirms that money would already be in place to pay for any redevelopment of the Walthamstow Arcade site.

“In plain financial terms, it seems to make absolutely no sense to constantly be looking to sell Council land and property at the bottom of the market.  First it was the plan to sell the former St James St library building and now the proposal to sell at least part of the Pool and Track.

“But on a practical level, we don’t believe that a leisure pool on the Arcade site will act as an appropriate replacement. 

“From the continuing discussions we are having with those who use the facility, we have enormous concerns about what splitting up the Pool and Track facility would mean for the future of the borough’s only athletics track.  We also don’t believe that the Arcade site has anywhere near enough accessibility or parking for the schools and competitors who travel to use the Pool and Track. 

“The Liberal Democrats believe that the Pool and Track facility in Walthamstow needs investment, not demolition.”

Labour say of Pool and track threat: “There is no confusion”

Labour Report No 1:            

Pool and Track site to be sold to fund leisure  centre at Arcade site.

Labour Report No 2  (Just days later…)

Now land at Pool and Track or  other “unidentified assets” to be sold

Labour Leader says:   

Pool will be closed but not track

Labour councillor responsible for sport says:                                  

We never suggested the track would close

…and that:  

“There is no confusion”.

* * * * *

Users of local sports facilities have been left anxious about the future of the Pool and Track in Walthamstow after Labour Leader Chris Robbins appeared to confirm that at least part of the facility will be shut down.

Liberal Democrat councillors are fighting Labour plans to rescue the Arcade site development by borrowing millions of pounds and selling off land and council assets. 

Labour’s proposals — which were published on the Council website – involved the “disposal of the Pool and Track site for a replacement facility with the Arcade development”, including a Leisure Centre “to replace the current indoor facilities at the Pool and Track”.

However after protests from Liberal Democrat councillors and residents, definitive references to the sale of the Pool and Track were quickly removed from the final Cabinet report, with mention only being made of the sale of “either land at the Pool and Track site or alternative assets to the same value that have not yet been identified”.  Labour councillors forced through the report despite Liberal Democrat opposition in the Cabinet meeting.

Hopes for the future of the Pool and Track seem, however, to have been dashed after comments from Labour Leader Chris Robbins suggested that at least part of the facility will still be closed.

In trying to quell public protests at the handling of the closure, Cllr Robbins confirmed to the local press that the pool will be closed once a “replacement” leisure facility has been built.  This would seem to leave the borough’s athletics track as a stand-alone facility.

Lib Dem Cllr Bob Carey, a member of the affected Chapel End ward, has now raised the issue with Cllr Geraldine Reardon, the Labour councillor responsible for sport in the borough, at a Full Council meeting.  He sought clarification over the future of the pool facility, investment in the track and raised resident concerns about accessibility to a pool facility at the Arcade.

Cllr Reardon told councillors that there was “no confusion” over the future of the facility, but refused to confirm the Labour leader’s comment that the pool would be closed once a replacement was built, claiming that no decision had been made.

Local Liberal Democrat councillors will continue to seek answers over Labour’s handling of our Pool and Track.

RECKLESS..with YOUR money!

Labour councillors have forced through a proposal to build a swimming pool and leisure centre on the Walthamstow Arcade site by borrowing £35 million and selling off the Pool Money Down the Drainand Track site in Walthamstow.

Labour councillors ignored the recommendation from the all party Scrutiny committee which said that, before any decisions were made, the Council should obtain a financial appraisal to see if the proposal was affordable and a study as to whether the High Street was the right place for a swimming pool.

Lib Dem Cllr James O’Rourke, who sits on the Scrutiny committee, said:

“I’m amazed that anyone could make a decision costing residents millions without any financial appraisal. I agree totally with my Lib dem colleague and chair of the scrutiny commitee, Cllr Bob Sullivan, when he says that anyone doing this is “Damn reckless” with ratepayers’ money.”

High Street Focus Team says:

· Why does Labour refuse to allow a proper financial check of the plans to borrow £35 million to fund the proposal?

· Why haven’t local people been asked whether they want a swimming pool on the Arcade site?

· What does this plan mean for the future of our competition pool and the Borough’s only athletic track in the run-up to the Olympics?


Labour ‘trying to rush through St James St library sale’

The local Waltham Forest Guardian is reporting that Labour councillors tried unsuccessfully “to force the sale of the fomer St James St library building on to a Cabinet agenda”.

The Guardian reports that the attempt to push through the sale of the former St James St library building was stopped when Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr John Macklin refused the request and withdrew the report from the agenda.  The move came at the same Cabinet meeting as the controversial decision to go ahead with plans for an Arcade site development which raises doubts over the future of the Pool and Track facility.

Click here to see what the local press are reporting.

Lib Dems opposed to new attempts to close Pool and Track

Cllr John Macklin vists the under-threat Pool and Track facilityLocal Liberal Democrats have confirmed their opposition to plans to close the Pool and Track in order to fund the long-awaited Arcade development before a consultation on the area has been completed.

A new report, which will go to Cabinet on the 15th September, asks senior councillors to agree to authorise officers to find a developer for a “mixed use scheme” on the vacant Arcade site, using £10million from the disposal of the Pool and Track, plus an option of Council borrowing, for a replacement facility on the site at the top of Walthamstow High Street.

And despite forcing last-minute changes to the report – which had already been published for consideration by the Council’s Scrutiny panel – Local Lib Dem Leader Cllr John Macklin has again expressed his concerns that the plans for the Arcade site will have serious knock on effects for a series of redevelopment projects in the area that are not sufficiently covered in the plans.

In March this year Liberal Democrat cabinet members voted against an earlier report laying the groundwork for the plan, with Cllr Macklin telling a cabinet meeting that the Council had  “a history of knocking things down and leaving them derelict and I am worried about swapping one piece of derelict land in Walthamstow for another near the town hall”.

Outlining his concerns, Cllr Macklin claimed that the report would have serious knock-on effects both for the future of the Pool and Track facility and the planning application recently submitted for development of the former EMD cinema.  Cllr Macklin added that, despite last-ditch efforts within the Town Hall to urge Labour cabinet members to postpone the plans, the report will go forward.

Cllr Macklin said:

“I just cannot see the logic in bringing these proposals forward at this time.

“The report regarding the future of the Pool and Track site has not even been completed and an outstanding planning application for the former EMD is yet to be heard.  The approval we are being asked to give in this report will obviously have massive implications for both these developments.

“First and foremost, as a Chapel End ward councillor I am really unhappy with the lack of clear proposals for the area behind the Town hall, including the Pool and Track, the allotments and the playing fields.

“It seems obvious to me that any decision to shut any of the Pool and Track facilities as part of the Arcade development should only be taken when we know what alternatives are being proposed for the Pool and Track site.  I have already met with allotment holders and other site users who are really worried about development on the site. 

“What effects will the closure of the leisure centre have on the athletics track?  The plans for that area currently laid out in the report seem almost laughably vague”.

The report suggests that the land “could become more fully utilised and provide an important resource for residents, and provide a wide range of facilities”.  It also claims that the decision whether to agree to the funding of a leisure centre on the Arcade may be influential to the likelihood of a new cinema being built on the site, a proposal that could have an impact on the outstanding planning application to renovate the former EMD cinema.

Cllr Macklin added:

“I would love to be reassured that the pieces of these various development plans fit together, and that this report isn’t simply part of a financial gamble to get a development of any sort built on the Arcade site, but that is increasingly what this looks like.  The goalposts appear to keep shifting and the reassurances we have repeatedly asked for have not been forthcoming.

“The development of these various sites needs to be part of a clear overall plan for our area, not simply piecemeal building projects that give the impression that the Council is simply chasing its own tail.”

What do you think of the plans to close the Pool and Track?  Do you think the Arcade proposals will have an impact on the EMD planning application?

Below is the original report published on the Council website.  Let us know your views!