Report by Judith Burnett
Highams Park residents have published a plan – more than four years in the making – to help improve their local area.
The Highams Park Neighbourhood Plan has been drawn up by Highams Park Planning Group (HPPG) and is now open for public consultation. If agreed, it will be adopted as planning policy by Waltham Forest Council.
Setting out the group’s vision, the plan states Highams Park should “continue to be an area of beautiful, well-maintained green spaces, characterful high-quality homes with a thriving commercial centre and a vibrant community at its heart”.
Gordon Turpin, chair of HPPG, said: “There could be some [other] good ideas which could improve the draft plan. We don’t have closed minds.”
HPPG has 1,200 members and is the largest group of its kind in London. A launch meeting held at All Saints Hall in November 2014 brought together the Highams Park Forum, Highams Park Society, and other interested people from the community. Ten working groups, covering everything from art, cafés, and the local street scene, got to work in drawing up the plan.
Gordon attributes the success of the group to Highams Park’s strong community spirit. He said: “People are more important than property.”
As well as the neighbourhood plan, there have been a number of other successful projects launched by HPPG. They include opening a café; securing a City Hall grant of £100,000 for investment in Winchester Road’s shops; setting up the Little Free Library Project, which allows local people to donate and exchange books; and erecting a sculpture by acclaimed artist Barnaby Barford on the site of a former factory in Signal Walk – said to have been the world’s biggest supplier of ping-pong balls.
A sub-group called ‘The Snedders’ – named after a tree maintenance technique – also worked with the Corporation of the City of London to improve footpaths and wildlife habitats around the Highams Park forest and lake area.
Last year HPPG launched Humphry’s, a vibrant park café named after Humphry Repton, whose Highams House is now occupied by Woodford County High School. Volunteers gave thousands of hours of their time while local firms donated building supplies, fixtures and fittings.
A consultation on the Highams Park Neighbourhood Plan runs until Monday 18th February. To take part: