Hundreds demonstrate against Mall redevelopment

A rally held at Walthamstow Town Square against The Mall's redevelopment (credit Mark Murphy)

A rally held at Walthamstow Town Square against The Mall’s redevelopment (credit Mark Murphy)

Opponents of a high-rise redevelopment in Walthamstow town centre are calling on Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to reject the scheme.

Last Saturday hundreds of people demonstrated against the plans by Capital & Regional for 502 homes to be built over The Mall, reducing the size of Walthamstow Town Square and Gardens by one-third.

Placards emblazoned with ‘save our square’ were brandished by people concerned over the loss of green space in the town centre and the redevelopment’s lack of affordable housing.

A line was formed by demonstrators to show how much open space will be lost when the 29-storey scheme is built. They then marched around the square before holding a two-hour rally. Estimates for the number attending ranged between 300 and 600.

Curtis Thompson, a 24-year-old from Walthamstow, was one of those taking part. He told the Echo: “The provision of affordable housing is poor. I grew up here. Some of the regeneration in the area has been good, but schemes like this are causing gentrification. I am living at home [with family] and I cannot envisage being able to buy somewhere in Walthamstow.”

Curtis Thompson

Curtis Thompson, from Walthamstow, says he cannot afford to buy a house in the area he grew up (credit Lily Beale)

Madeleine Munday, from Waltham Forest Civic Society, was also protesting. She said: “The council is between a rock and a hard place [on housing] but they shouldn’t be rolling over to developers.”

Rezia Wahid MBE, a local artist and teacher, attended Saturday’s demo with her young family. She told the Echo: “I have taught children for 17 years around here, and they don’t have much chance to get out of Walthamstow, so open spaces like this are a good thing for them. It is our green heritage. Development needs to happen, but it needs to be better informed.”

Waltham Forest Council granted planning permission to the development at a meeting in December, however the Mayor of London has powers which allow him to overrule decisions on large applications if he thinks they contradict the London Plan.

The Echo was today informed that the council has yet to submit the necessary planning documents to the Greater London Authority for examination, although this will likely happen later in March. There will then follow a two-week period during which the Mayor can decide whether or not to ‘call in’ the planning decision.

Since his election in 2016, Sadiq Khan has used his powers to intervene in council planning decisions on five occasions, with affordable housing being the main factor each time. David Gardiner, who started a petition that gained more than 2,000 signatures in opposition to The Mall’s redevelopment, has already written an open letter asking the Mayor to overturn its planning permission.

Councillor Simon Miller, cabinet member for economic growth and high streets, said: “The redevelopment will bring £200million of investment to the area, 8,000 square meters of new retail space, 350 new permanent retail and restaurant jobs, 590 construction jobs, new children’s play area, and radically improved town square, replacing the existing square and shopping centre which is tired, underused, and not good enough for our residents.”

Capital & Regional estimates its scheme could boost the local economy by up to £4m a year. As part of its planning permission, the company will be making a contribution of £1.5m towards an upgrade of Walthamstow Central Underground Station.