Leyton News

Fury as 26-storey Leyton tower approved

The tower will become the borough’s second tallest building by just one storey
By Victoria Munro

An artist's impression of the two tallest towers in the scheme (credit: (Hawkins Brown/Exterior Architecture)
An artist’s impression of the two tallest towers in the scheme (credit: (Hawkins Brown/Exterior Architecture)

A new 26-storey tower in Leyton won planning permission last night, to cries of fury and disgust from watching residents.

The tower near Lea Bridge Station will become the borough’s second tallest building, shorter than the tallest block planned for the Walthamstow Mall development by just one storey.

The scheme consists of four buildings across three sites and will contain 345 new flats – plus “commercial and cultural spaces” – of which 160 will be “affordable” homes.

However, residents are furious at losing the Orient Way Pocket Park and its 122 trees to make way for the new buildings, while councillors questioned why none of the affordable housing will be offered at social rent prices.

The developer London Square also attracted controversy last year after it was announced in September that former council leader Clare Coghill had accepted a job at their subsidiary.

(credit: Hawkins Brown/Exterior Architecture)

A resident of Elm Park Road, who asked not to be named in the Echo due to safety concerns, was one of six objectors to urge Waltham Forest Council’s planning committee to reject the plans.

She told councillors: “Everyone should have a safe and healthy home – these flats are neither. They are built right up to the edge of the pavement on a busy crossroads and right up to the edge of train tracks, on a site that was formerly a gasworks. 

“This is marsh land, it’s a recognised flood risk, that’s why the land undulates and slopes down to the tracks. The grass and trees being removed act as natural flood prevention and a habitat for wildlife.

“[The tower will] cast a long shadow, affecting thousands of homes. It falls outside of the council’s own Local Plan, which reduced the height of the nearest tower [at the Motion development] to 17 floors. 

“I implore you to see the madness of building on these tiny plots of land.”

(Credit: Hawkins Brown/Exterior Architecture)

Regarding the council’s assurances that the 122 trees lost will be replaced with five times as many new trees, she added: “It’s going to take two generations for those new trees to do the same work these do.”

Councillors also heard from Roger Montaut, co-founder of Capital Industrial which owns a “significant” chunk of the nearby Argall Avenue Trading Estate, home to more than 200 local businesses employing around 1,500 people.

He said: “We have no objection to regeneration, in fact we encourage it and have undertaken some ourselves in the borough, but there is an issue from a congestion and accessibility viewpoint.

“The Lea Bridge Road junction is extremely busy and also the only way into and out of the Argall Avenue Estate, which is a strategic industrial location.

“Our fear is that straining the junction will make accessibility even more difficult for our tenants… and will do a great deal of damage to lots of businesses that operate from our space.”

This story is published by Waltham Forest Echo, Waltham Forest's free monthly newspaper and free news website. We are a not-for-profit publication, published by a small social enterprise. We have no rich backers and rely on the support of our readers. Donate or become a supporter.

A full council chamber debated the plans last night

Councillors also heard concerns about the overshadowing of neighbouring homes, the loss of green space offered by the pocket park and residents’ view that the two tallest towers, which the council hopes will act as a “gateway” to the south of the borough, are ugly and unimaginative in design.

The area’s Labour councillor Jennifer Whilby, speaking on behalf of residents, also pointed out that the ongoing construction of almost 600 new homes on the former Lea Bridge Gasworks will mean there are “two major building projects going on at the same time” and an eventual total of “1,220 new homes in a very small area”.

The committee then heard from the council’s principal planner Matt Duigan, who insisted that “extensive testing” by independent experts showed the height and appearance of the scheme “will be acceptable”, met by laughter and scorn from objectors watching in the council chamber.

He added: “We do have housing targets that we need to meet so we do have to make these sites work as hard as possible.

“It’s possible to model and calculate what space is needed for [flood] water and that work has been done… The Environment Agency is satisfied the scheme would be safe in the event of flooding.”

Responding to concerns about the loss of the Pocket Park, an “informal green space” created by the council itself, he insisted the sites are “not designated as open space”, provoking outrage from those watching and forcing chairwoman Cllr Jenny Gray to intervene.

Posters opposing the plans outside the meeting

He also explained that the decision to offer the scheme’s affordable housing at “affordable London rent” levels, which can be up to 80% of private market rent, was “acceptable from a policy basis”, according to policy set by the Mayor of London, meaning it could not be used by councillors as a valid reason to refuse.

A representative from London Square, asked to justify the decision not to include cheaper social rent homes, insisted this was to allow more “affordable” flats to be offered overall.

The four committee members, with the fifth and sole Conservative member Alan Siggers absent, told those watching that they regretfully felt forced to accept the plans.

Cllr Marie Pye told those present: “Our job tonight is not to decide whether we like this scheme, it’s to decide whether this scheme meets the requirements of planning policy. I can’t say it’s a scheme I particularly like.

“I’m not happy that this is not social housing and rents will be only 20% below market rent and I have a lot of concerns about the safety of pedestrians… but it is policy compliant.

“There are probably still some outstanding issues… [such as] where the extra trees will be planted but none are enough to go against what we are told by the government we have to do, which is to approve development unless there are significant planning issues.”

Chairwoman Cllr Gray added: “I know residents won’t be happy… but I would ask the applicant to continue to work with local residents.”

From the viewing gallery, from which the proceedings were regularly heckled throughout the almost three-hour meeting, one man responded: “We don’t trust them, they’re corrupt, there’s going to be a mess on the streets.”

Previously campaigners have insisted they are willing to act as personal bodyguards to prevent the Pocket Park trees from being cut down.

No news is bad news 

Independent news outlets like ours – reporting for the community without rich backers – are under threat of closure, turning British towns into news deserts. 

The audiences they serve know less, understand less, and can do less. 

If our coverage has helped you understand our community a little bit better, please consider supporting us with a monthly, yearly or one-off donation. 

Choose the news. Don’t lose the news.

Monthly direct debit 

Annual direct debit

£5 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else, £10 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else and a print copy posted to them each month.  £50 annual supporters get a digital copy of each month's paper before anyone else.

Donate now with Pay Pal

More information on supporting us monthly or annually 

More Information about donations