Council to add 144 homes to estate in ‘sneaky’ plans

Move made to ensure developer Countryside can still make a big enough profit
By Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

Some of the housing already built at Marlowe Road Estate (credit Penny Dampier)
Some of the housing already built at Marlowe Road Estate (credit Penny Dampier)

Wood Street residents are furious about the “sneaky” way proposals to “cram more people into taller blocks” at Marlowe Road Estate have been announced.

Waltham Forest Council recently agreed to draw up a new planning application for 144 extra homes in the final phases of the estate regeneration, of which 39% would be designated affordable.

The new plans, which are yet to be submitted, would see more than 30 terraced properties swapped for three blocks between six and eight storeys high.

According to the council, “all local residents” were sent two leaflets advertising consultation sessions, with a webinar on 9th July and a drop-in session later that month.

In a recorded constulation webinar, available online, the only named resident was Wood Street ward councillor Vicky te Velde, who asked questions about the proposed play area.

But Andrew Jazaerli, who lives in nearby Turner Road, said he had not heard about the webinar or seen any leaflets, and didn’t know anyone who was consulted about the changes.

Speaking for 80 residents living around Marlowe Road, Andrew told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he understood the need for affordable housing and supported the original development “in good faith”.

He added: “I knocked on doors and some people didn’t even have a clue this was happeening, it just seems really underhand and sneaky.

“This is about developers ripping up well-intentioned plans mid-build – replacing proposed family homes and gardens with new high-rise blocks, cramming more flats into a small space, and going against plans to position taller blocks around the Wood Street plaza near the library and Co-op [supermarket].  

“At its highest point, the revised building elevations are around 16 metres taller than existing plans – the majority of the new homes would be private and shared ownership, rather than social rent.  

“Once again, it feels like developer profits are more important than local people. It’s hard not to feel cynical that this wasn’t the intention all along.”  

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An email from residents opposed to the proposals, sent to the council, complained the letter they received in December 2021 directs them to view the full plans on the council’s planning website, without explaining the changes.

They add that they are “deeply concerned” about the additional homes and the dramatic change to the skyline caused by the development.

First announcing the redesign in November last year, cabinet member for housing Louise Mitchell emphasised only the increased number of homes and “enhanced landscaping” of the new designs.

A surveyor appointed to re-evaluate the profitablity of the whole estate last year concluded that without the changes there would be a financial “viability deficit” of £10.5million.

The council’s own surveyor’s report, which it has not been published, agrees with developer Countryside and concludes that without changes the company would not make “an enhanced profit”.

Cabinet member for growth Simon Miller argues the new proposals will add 13 social rent and 43 shared-ownership flats to the original plans.

He added: “It will deliver a better mix of units, with more homes for larger families. It will also result in more homes being connected to the Marlowe Road heating network, a key element to support the council’s commitment to tackle the climate emergency through locally-produced low-carbon energy.

“The new buildings will be no higher than any of the blocks built as part of the redevelopment of the area to date, which are already providing much-needed high-quality new homes to local families.

“The proposals are currently in the pre-application stage and will need to be approved by both the council and the GLA [Greater London Authority], at which point residents will be invited to share their views in a consultation.

“If the council did not consider the option to increase the density there may have been a risk of delay.

“The council therefore worked with Countryside to revise the scheme to enable an increase in the affordable housing supply in the borough, which is the only way we can begin to tackle the housing crisis that causes hardship for so many.”

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