Former Larkswood Lido site included on list of potential development sites, reports James Cracknell
A campaign has been launched to protect a wooded area in Chingford after it was included on a list of potential redevelopment sites.
Waltham Forest Council recently published a large document containing scores of sites it deems suitable for residential development, to help meet its new target for building 27,000 homes over the next 15 years – and included a wooded area adjacent to Larks Wood, a remnant of ancient woodland.
No specific proposals have been put forward for the earmarked site, roughly a four-hectare square encompassing Chingford Leisure Centre, a nursery and “land to rear” of the leisure centre, but the council claims it is suitable for “a minimum of 310 new homes, improved public realm and provision of leisure uses and nursery”.
Although not part of Larks Wood itself, the area behind the leisure centre directly abuts the woodland and, because it has remained untouched for decades, has become overgrown with trees and shrubs. It was previously part of the site of Larkswood Lido, which closed in 1987, and technically remains designated as brownfield land.
Conservative councillors in Chingford are now teaming up with local residents’ groups – Friends of Larks and Ainslie Wood, Love South Chingford and Highams Park Planning Group – to launch a campaign to save this green space from development.
The groups are formally applying to the council asking them to protect the land as local green space. Rob Colley, from Friends of Ainslie and Larks Woods, said: “The land next to Larks Wood provides an important buffer which protects the flora and fauna of the wood.
“This open green space next to Larks Wood supports its own mature trees and wildlife. Destroying this green space is completely at odds with Waltham Forest Council’s ‘climate emergency’ declaration.
“The council, in its Local Plan, is looking to significantly increase the density of people living in the borough, so it’s even more important that we retain this green lung for the physical and mental health of residents who will live more closely together than at any previous point in this borough’s history.”
A petition has been launched by Chingford and Woodford Green Conservatives. Larkswood councillor Selina Seesunkur said: “Green spaces are fundamental not only to our environment but to the mental health of our residents.
“Covid-19 has played havoc with our daily life and our green spaces are now more important than ever. I am pleased to be supporting the Friends of Ainslie and Larks Wood and associated groups to protect this now very mature area rich in wildlife.”
Simon Miller, cabinet member for housing development, said: “The draft Local Plan on which we have recently consulted sets out the council’s strategy to bring much-needed housing, jobs and infrastructure to Waltham Forest, while at the same time safeguarding the borough’s unique neighbourhood characters.
“The Local Plan sets out the policies and parameters that will guide decisions on the locations, amounts, and types of development the borough requires to meet local needs and accommodate good growth. Any plans to develop a site listed in the document would still be subject to the same planning application process as any other site, including its own local engagement, and we will always look to retain or enhance a site’s green value. There are no current plans for the Larkswood Lido site.
“Since the Local Plan consultation closed on 14th December, officers have been working carefully to collate and consider the many responses we have received. The issues raised will be addressed in detail as the Local Plan progresses. The next step will be publishing a revised draft in 2021, taking into account community feedback.
“The council thanks the community for its invaluable input so far.”