Chingford Highams Park

Chingford and Highams Park win £8m in government funding

The government initially rejected a bid for public space improvements in both areas but changed its mind yesterday

By Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

Plans for Albert Crescent revealed last year (credit: WF Council)

Chingford and Highams Park will receive £8million for their public spaces after the government changed its mind about a rejected funding bid yesterday.

In January, Waltham Forest Council’s bid for £8.4m from the government’s Levelling Up Fund – for “child friendly” changes in Chingford, a new “social heart” at Highams Park Station and improvements to the areas’ parks – was rejected.

A total of 111 public infrastructure projects around the country won money from the £2.1billion national fund, including a £17m cash injection for Walthamstow’s emerging “cultural quarter” and £14m to upgrade Leyton Station.

However, during yesterday’s budget announcement, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt revealed that a number of “shortlisted” but unsuccessful bids, including the works in the north of the borough, will now be funded after all.

In a statement, council leader Grace Williams said she was “delighted” to have won the funding, adding: “We are as ambitious for residents in Chingford as the rest of the borough and we have used every tool at our disposal to secure investment.

“Our officers deserve a special thanks for their hard work on this project and persistence in securing this money for our residents. I’d also like to thank Sir Iain Duncan Smith for his letter of support for our bid.

“We will now work with residents and local stakeholders to make this a success, using our new 15-minute neighbourhoods approach.”

A presentation obtained by the Local Democracy Reporting Service sets out plans to spend £3.9m in Chingford Mount on two “child-friendly” structures in Albert Crescent, improved crossings at the junction, new trees, seating areas, lighting and granite kerbs.

While plans for Chingford Mount town centre previously appeared to hinge around the pedestrianisation of Albert Crescent, the powerpoint states this is no longer the case.

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The presentation also outlines a £1.15m project to “repurpose” Highams Park Station car park to create a “social heart” for the town centre, with similar street improvements and a new pedestrian route leading west to the Aldriche Estate. Four shipping containers offering new “community space – eco pods” are proposed on part of the station car park.

Plans for both town centres were developed with the help of money from the Greater London Authority’s Covid Recovery Fund and unveiled last year.

Improvements planned for both area’s green spaces – namely Memorial Park, Chase Lane Park and Rolls Sports ground – include a refurbished pavilion, a new skate park and scooter play area and “bubble” covered tennis courts.

The council believes the improvements will help to address residents’ views that the north of the borough lacks a “strong sense of identity” and is unsafe.

Their presentation added: “There is a need for investment that enhances the safety and attractiveness of high streets and public spaces – enabling people to be brought together in the interest of building trust and cohesion in local communities.”

In January last year, Chingford Mount residents criticised the council’s “digital-first approach” to consulting them on potential large developments and other improvements to their area as “underhand”.

Announcing the new funding yesterday, Conservative MP for Chingford and Woodford Green Sir Iain Duncan Smith suggested Waltham Forest Council’s original bid had failed because it did not contain “necessary detail or engagement from the community”.

A statement posted on the government’s website yesterday said the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which funds local authorities, has “identified just over £200m of unallocated departmental funding”.

It added that a third round of Levelling Up bidding would be “disproportionately burdensome” so it has instead chosen to fund shortlisted projects that it has already “rigorously assessed”.

The latest Levelling Up Fund announcement means Waltham Forest will benefit from a total of three Levelling Up grants, totalling almost £39m.

Newham Council is the only East London authority to secure more funding overall, after winning £40m for two projects. Hackney secured £19m, Barking £10m and Tower Hamlets £9m.

Leader of neighbouring Redbridge Council, Jas Athwal, has called the government’s funding selection process “grossly unfair” after failing to win bids in both rounds.

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