Features Walthamstow

Blackhorse Lane’s final furlong

James Cracknell examines progress at the borough’s biggest building site for new homes Tower blocks that will define the future of a once-neglected […]By Waltham Forest Echo

James Cracknell examines progress at the borough’s biggest building site for new homes

Four residential towers being erected at the former Ferry Lane Industrial Estate will provide 479 new homes once complete

Tower blocks that will define the future of a once-neglected part of Walthamstow – and a ‘gateway’ to Waltham Forest – are rapidly rising.

On the edge of the borough, overlooking the newly-opened Walthamstow Wetlands nature reserve, four towers of up to 17 storeys – set to contain 479 homes – are are now being built on the site of the former Ferry Lane Industrial Estate.

Behind these towers currently stand a car park and a row of industrial units most recently occupied by a manufacturer of luxury desserts. These two sites represent the last pieces of the Blackhorse Lane puzzle – with nearly 700 homes planned.

By the time all these developments have been completed, the character of the area will have changed forever, with around 3,000 homes built in total. Already, hundreds of university students occupy Mannequin House, which last year became the first scheme to be completed.

It was back in 2006 that Blackhorse Lane was earmarked by Waltham Forest Council as having “the potential to be transformed from an area in need of renewal and modernisation to an area in which people and businesses choose to live and invest”.

Warehouses and factories dominated this neighbourhood for over a century; producing buses, light bulbs, mannequins and motoring components. But with the decline of London’s manufacturing industries, and an increasing demand for housing, the priorities for Blackhorse Lane were changed.

How the view along Forest Road might look if plans for a 21st-storey tower opposite Blackhorse Road Station are granted planning permission by Waltham Forest Council (credit RMA Architects)

After several years an ‘area action plan’ for the area was created by the council in 2013. Planning applications for hundreds of new homes were submitted and the first demolitions of the old abandoned factories began soon afterwards.

In 2015, the burgeoning Blackhorse Lane redevelopment plans were given a significant boost. Former mayor Boris Johnson declared the area as one of London’s first ‘housing zones‘ that would benefit from extra funding – along with a slice of Leyton dubbed the ‘Northern Olympic Park’ – and was allocated £45million from the Greater London Authority (GLA).

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London’s housing zones were soon criticised, however, for missing affordability targets. The first three major schemes granted permission at Blackhorse Lane provided an average of just 12 percent of homes designated ‘affordable’. The initial target for the housing zone was 24 percent.

Then, last year, came an announcement from Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. The GLA had bought Webbs Industrial Estate, a site previously slated by developer Lee Valley Estates to provide just 11 percent ‘affordable’ housing. The Mayor’s new proposal, however, would see 330 new homes built there – with all of them sold as shared ownership homes.

“This site in Walthamstow shows the benefit of City Hall taking a greater role unlocking and bringing forward land for development,” the Mayor proclaimed, “to deliver a scheme that is 100 percent affordable for Londoners.”

This news was swiftly followed by another mayoral announcement; the car park opposite Blackhorse Road Station, owned by Transport for London, would be developed as part of a joint venture between Barratt London and London and Quadrant (L&Q). The 350 homes proposed, in towers up to 21 storeys tall, would provide 50 percent ‘affordable’ housing.

Developers are keen to engender a sense of “community” in the new housing zone

Planning permission for these two major schemes is now being sought, but if granted by the council would more than double the number of ‘affordable’ homes being built in Blackhorse Lane and take the overall share from 20 percent to 37 percent.

Should all go to plan the last of the major schemes being built in the housing zone will be finished by the end of 2020 – providing a quarter of the borough’s target of 12,000 new homes.

This progress comes despite the GLA’s investment support for the Blackhorse Lane and Northern Olympic Park Housing Zone being slashed from the original £45m to only £15m – revealed in a council report from June 2018. The council has not explained how this loss of funding will affect the housing zone, despite repeated requests from the Echo.

Blackhorse Lane redevelopment sites

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