Council approves ‘car free’ Chingford development

The approval was criticised by Conservative councillors who pointed to its poor public transport links, reports Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

Credit: Lindhill

Plans for a “car-free” development in Chingford have been approved despite the nearest train station being more than a 20 minute walk away.

The development of the site in New Road, between Larks Wood and Tesco Express, will contain 72 flats in a building reaching up to seven storeys tall.

To discourage car use, there will be almost no parking spaces on the site and the developer, Lindhill, will pay for a public consultation on introducing parking restrictions in nearby roads.

However, a travel plan prepared for the developer claims the site benefits from a “well-connected multi-modal transport network” despite its “poor” public transport rating and a 1.2mile walk to Highams Park station.

Speaking against the plans, local Conservative councillor Catherine Suamarez said the development would “never” be car free as residents are likely to reject any proposal for restrictions.

She added: “Bad luck if you live here and work in Enfield, because the bus takes over an hour.“

Waltham Forest Planning officer Scott Hackner replied that the Mayor and the council both promote car-free developments to “ensure step change” towards sustainable transport.

Hackner added: “Not only will parking be restricted but quality cycle parking is provided [in the development].”

“I duly note that this car free scheme is not yet in a [controlled parking zone], however we feel that given the major drive of promoting mini-Holland and active travel, that this is a scheme that will work.

“It is a difficult situation but we feel that this will work car-free, effectively.”

To compensate for the lack of parking the developer will pay £120,000 for local walking and cycling infrastructure and each household will have free membership of a nearby car club for two years.

Cllr Suamarez, fellow Larkswood ward councillor John Moss and three local residents all railed against the height of the buildings in the “suburban” area next to the neighbouring woods.

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They pointed out that the draft local plan that had earmarked the New Road and neighbouring Chingford Leisure Centre sites for hundreds of homes has not been approved by planning inspectors.

However, Hackner’s report said the council sees the site as suitable for “transitional” and “character-led” developments.

Hackner wrote: “Overall, the proposed scheme represents a significant opportunity to contribute to the borough’s housing targets and make more effective use of the site.

“Officers recognise this opportunity to suitably intensify the land with a strong architectural approach that harnesses its unique site characteristics adjacent to the [ancient semi-natural woodland].”

Conservative committee member Afzal Akram suggested his colleagues reject the application as it is “too soon”, but he was not supported by the three Labour members, who voted to approve the scheme on Tuesday (4th July).

Only 27% of the homes in the scheme will be classed as “affordable”, below the Mayor of London’s 35% target, due to Lindhill’s claim that it is £1.7million below “expected net profit values”.

However, the council has not published its own report reviewing that claim.

As a result of failing to meet the 35% affordable threshold, the developer’s profit margin will be reviewed during the build to assess whether more affordable housing can be included.

Following the meeting, the local Conservative councillors for the area issued a joint statement on Facebook saying they are “devastated” by the decision and are considering asking for a government review.

They added: “This development is predicated almost entirely on being part of a wider development of the adjoining leisure centre site, for which there appears to be no evidence that its owners intend to bring the site forward for development.

“The master plan for the development of the whole area has been roundly rejected by thousands of local residents but our Labour council is not listening.”

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