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Council moves to stop overshadowed residents from delaying new Lea Bridge towers

New report reveals existing residents will be overshadowed by the new tower blocks
By Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

The Lea Bridge Road junction as it looks today (credit Google) and (inset) an artist's impression of the proposed development (credit Hawkins Brown & Exterior Architecture)
The Lea Bridge Road junction as it looks today (credit Google) and (inset) an artist’s impression of the proposed development (credit Hawkins Brown & Exterior Architecture)

Waltham Forest Council has moved to prevent its controversial Lea Bridge tower blocks development from being delayed by neighbours who face being overshadowed.

The council and its development partner London Square are planning to build 345 homes in towers of up to 26 storeys on three plots of land at the junction of Lea Bridge Road and Orient Way.

Planning powers known as ‘appropriation’ were activated by the council’s cabinet yesterday (Thursday 13th) to prevent neighbours who face a loss of light into their homes from delaying the estimated £125million regeneration project.

A confidential ‘right to light’ report is said to show that the new buildings will overshadow properties in Elm Park Road, Lea Bridge Road and flats in a recently-built development dubbed ‘Motion’.

A public report put before cabinet says that the land can be appropriated under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 to “provide certainty” to the programme. Appropriation will “remove the risk” of a neighbouring landowner using a court injunction, causing delays in construction or demanding “ransom payments”, the report says.

Although the impact of the loss of light is described as “minor”, the report estimates that eliminating any overshadowing would mean cutting the overall building sizes down by “circa 70%”.

The report adds: “This level of reduction would not only significantly reduce the public benefits of the scheme – including the level of much-needed affordable housing – but would also make the proposed development financially unviable meaning that the redevelopment could not be advanced, meaning that all the benefits of the proposed development are eroded.”

Controversy around the plans also stems from former council leader Clare Coghill taking a job as vice-chair of London’s Square’s subsidiary Square Roots in September 2021, after the council-developer partnership was approved by her cabinet the previous year.

Current council leader Grace Williams later insisted there would be “no question of any impropriety or conflict of interest” in the former leader’s new role and claimed she would not work on the Lea Bridge scheme “whilst she remains a local councillor”.

Clare stepped down from her role as a councillor during May’s local election and is understood to now live in Devon, although she has not responded to requests for comment from the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

According to the council, the benefits of the regeneration scheme include 750 square metres of “high-quality public green space”, a “plaza”, a community and cultural hub, 50% affordable housing, and 1,800sqm of children’s play space.

A new entrance will also be built for Lea Bridge Station, which was reopened in 2016 using £5m in funding raised by the council from other large developments in the area.

One of the Lea Bridge sites due to be developed, currently known as Orient Way Pocket Park, contains more than 100 trees that concerned environmentalists have vowed to protect through “non-violent action”. The council says 95 of these trees are “low quality” and twelve “cannot realistically be retained” for longer than one year, while promising to plant more than 250 new trees.

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