Heritage, not high-rise

Chingford Green Conservation Area
The Chingford Green Conservation Area includes the library and assembly hall buildings, which Waltham Forest Council is proposing to redevelop

Beth Murray from community group Love North Chingford on the campaign launched to protect its conservation area

Why did you choose to live where you do? Was it the schools, being close to family, the shops? Ask a Chingford resident and they will tell you it’s how close we are to history and nature.

A threat to this, however, has driven thousands of Chingford residents to protest against proposed plans for a high-rise block in our historic conservation area. Right at the top of the borough, North Chingford is a suburban village, where the city meets the forest. You may be familiar with the railway station, where you turn right for Epping Forest, but turning left instead takes you down a busy high street clustered around the conservation area of Chingford Green.

It is here, next door to a 400-year-old cottage, that Waltham Forest Council hopes to build its six-storey block. Chingford Library and the adjacent Chingford Assembly Hall will be replaced by ‘Chingford Hub’, but to fund the new facility more than 40 flats will be built on top. No wonder our local Conservative councillors and MP, Iain Duncan Smith, are up in arms.

Perhaps the Labour-run council underestimated how invested the local community is, as we are the custodians of our area and its architectural heritage. Love North Chingford, a community interest company, is best known locally for its work planting flowers, litter picking, developing a pocket park for toddlers, and raising money for a village sign. But the recent threat to Chingford Green has seen us move swiftly to become a campaigning organisation. Thousands of residents have risen up, signing petitions, writing letters and protesting online.

Despite this, the council has pushed its proposal through to the planning stage. In the absence of local consultation, we did our own. We found that 91% of our neighbours care about protecting the conservation area, with 97% in opposition to a building of over three storeys. There’s no doubt that we need new and affordable housing in our area, but there is also no doubt that a conservation area is not the right place to build that housing at height.

We have a positive vision for what the building could be instead. Modest investment could be used to make the current building an accessible and multi-generational, multi-purpose space. We are designing an alternative, financially-sustainable hub where residents can access local charity and council services, share co-working space, entertain their children with soft play, and give older children quiet study areas.

Our real concern is not just for the conservation area. A high-rise building at Chingford Green sets a dangerous precedent for high-rise developments across all Waltham Forest’s conservation areas. We’re asking all borough residents to ask their elected representative to oppose this development.

Today Chingford Green, tomorrow Walthamstow Village?

For more information about Love North Chingford and the campaign:
Visit lovenorthchingford.co.uk/keepingchingfordgreen