Report by Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter
Tower block residents have won a stand-off against Waltham Forest Council over parking spaces, after barricading their car park for six days.
People living in the Fred Wigg and John Walsh tower blocks in Montague Road, Leytonstone, were told they would have to give up their car park to contractors for three years while the buildings were renovated.
They were asked to remove their cars by Wednesday 5th August, despite the fact the council had not found them an alternative place to park. However, after a group of determined residents blocked off the car park to contractors for six days, the council has agreed to consider their demands.
Residents asked the council to guarantee them 60 spaces in a “safe and secure” location, to “take action” on securing spaces for the contractors and to provide other storage, such as bike storage, for residents.
The council, which has already reduced the number of spaces from more than 80 to just 18, has agreed not to remove any further spaces until these proposals are considered.
Sonia McKenzie, chair of the Fred Wigg and John Walsh Tenants and Residents’ Association, said: “We are pleased the council has started to discuss matters with the tenants and look forward to a compromise that will allow tenants the chance to live in a reasonable way.”
Determined tenants turned away council contractors planning to paint double yellow lines in the car park in order to restrict parking. They said controlled parking zones in the surrounding areas make it almost impossible to park elsewhere as any available spaces fill up quickly.
Speaking earlier this month, Helena Asimeng, a 57-year-old who has lived in the blocks since 1995, explained she and other tenants felt left in a “deep lurch” by the decision.
She said: “We have absolutely nowhere to take our cars. Waltham Forest should really try to put themselves in our shoes, we are not asking for anything out of the ordinary.
“I use my car for everything because I have a slight health issue. For shopping, for going to church and, when I’m working, I drive to work.
“There’s a stigma that, if you are in social housing, you can be treated anyhow. We pay rent, we are secure tenants who have been here for many years. I don’t know whether that counts for anything. It looks like it does not.”
Council cabinet member for housing Louise Mitchell, speaking at the start of August, said the council hoped to be able to offer an alternative space from the end of September but that “vitally important” work on the towers could not be delayed.
She said: “The council has reviewed a number of alternative parking options to enable the full range of works required to be completed; unfortunately, none of these have yet proved viable. We have been in contact with resident representatives throughout this process.
“We are hoping to use a nearby area for vehicles that have registered owners living in the towers from the end of September, depending on the outcome of formal consultation with these residents.”
In an update this week, a council spokesperson said: “The yellow lines we were planning to install at estates across Waltham Forest earlier this month are to ensure access routes are kept clear for emergency vehicles.
“This is important work and is unrelated to the refurbishment taking place at Fred Wigg and John Walsh towers.
“It is disappointing that contractors were blocked from carrying out this work to keep residents safe. Letters were sent to residents of affected estates in February informing them that traffic management orders were being introduced that would include new yellow lines, and a follow-up letter sent to residents on Monday 27th July, letting them know that the work would be taking place.
“We met with residents last week and emergency access work has been suspended while we take on board the views of residents and review alternative parking arrangements for residents on the estate.
“We are determined to work with our residents as we strive to keep them safe.”