David Gardiner on the latest development proposal for Walthamstow town centre
Walthamstow Town Square is a pleasant open space with a relatively unbroken skyline – but maybe not for long.
Capital and Regional, the company that owns The Mall shopping centre, has now held a second public exhibition regarding plans for the future development of the site.
The original proposals presented one year ago were to extend The Mall into the adjoining public open space and build four blocks of flats above. One was to be 27 storeys high, making it by far the tallest building in the borough and approximately twice the height of the nearby Travelodge hotel. The plan also envisaged the loss of about one-third of the town square and redesign of the remaining space, including the removal of trees and replacement of the existing children’s playground with a smaller one near Walthamstow Library.
My partner Jean and I strongly opposed the plans on the grounds that the tiny amount of open public space in central Walthamstow would be further reduced and the proposed 27-storey tower would be completely out-of-keeping with the area. Lying almost due south, the tower would put the town square in shadow for a substantial part of the year. The new housing would likely be ‘luxury’ and, far from reducing the housing crisis, would promote the gentrification of Walthamstow by pricing traditional residents out of the market.
With help from others, we set up a Facebook page called ‘Save Walthamstow’s Town Centre’ and, using a cardboard model of a 27-storey tower block to attract attention, collected more than 2,000 petition signatures opposing Capital and Regional’s plans.
That was last year. Now, the newly amended (or ‘evolved’) plans seem to differ in only one significant respect from the original; the heights of the proposed blocks are no longer specified but will instead lie ‘within the range of nine and 29 storeys’.
The reason for this new approach is that Capital and Regional intend to delegate responsibility for the design and construction of the residential blocks to ‘residential partners’ who are not yet chosen.
Our objections remain unaltered. We are determined to prevent the loss of any more open public space in central Walthamstow and to minimise any alteration to the pleasant skyline of the existing town square, especially which throw it into shadow.
Leaving aside those proposals for landscaping of the open space or the addition of new facilities, which are issues to be considered at separately, any new tower blocks should be limited to the same height as the tallest building in the area now, namely the 14-storey high Travelodge hotel, and the housing provided should meet the mayor of London’s target for a minimum of 50 percent ‘affordable’ units.
A perfectly workable compromise would be to extend The Mall upwards instead of outwards. There is already some limited commercial development at first floor level and no reason why a complete upper deck of shops could not be added, which would have very little effect on the existing town centre skyline and require no encroachment on to public open space. With a little imagination I am certain a compromise is within reach.
To find out more: