Council set to approve plan for 27,000 new homes by 2035

Tomorrow afternoon cabinet will approve the council’s Local Plan, reports Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

Waltham Forest Council’s plan to build at least 27,000 new homes in the borough by 2035 is set to be approved this week.

Last March, the local plan – which will guide the developments of Waltham Forest over 15 years – was subject to a planning inspector-led public inquiry at the town hall.

Before the hearings planning inspectors had expressed “significant concerns” about the council’s controversial target of building at least 27,000 new homes from 2020 to 2035.

However, they have now ruled that the local plan provides an “appropriate basis” for developments, including the high housing target, after the council agreed to several changes.

These include the council limiting where tall buildings can be built, new homes in flood zones and protection of industrial land.

The local plan will be approved by cabinet tomorrow afternoon (22nd February),  before a vote by all 60 council members on Thursday 29th February.

The council’s spokesperson did not respond when asked why the updated local plan will not be debated by one of its scrutiny committees.

In 2022, the inspectors’ key concern about Waltham Forest’s high housing target was “insufficient” evidence showing the borough had the need or space for so many homes.

Since then, the inspectors said the council provided updated evidence including a housing trajectory, five-year land supply, timescales, evidence of consultation with developers and more localised plans such as “area frameworks”.

This now “satisfactorily demonstrates” that the local plan would be “effective”, they have ruled.

A map shows where developments will be concentrated. Image: Waltham Forest Council

Although the target appeared high and has prompted concern from some residents, it is less than targets set by the Mayor of London for several other boroughs over a shorter time period.

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The Mayor, who had set a city-wide target of 649,000 new homes in the ten years up to 2028/29, has told eight other boroughs they needed to build at least 27,000 new homes.

In the three years up to 2023/24, the council has hit the Mayor’s target of about 1,200 new homes being completed per year.

Approving this plan is not the end of the council’s new planning policies, as the council has chosen to separate the local plan into two parts.

Part one, which is due to be approved tomorrow at 2pm (22nd February) is described as a “strategic” overview of development, while part two – which is now significantly out of date – will look at specific sites.

Delays to the plan’s approval have not prevented permission for major developments, with several large schemes gaining planning committee approval in areas that Waltham Forest says are suitable under its “emerging local plan”.

Other aspects of the plan inspectors pushed the council to change included a “clear definition” of a tall building as at least 10 storeys or 30metres high and confirmation that the “appropriate range” will be between 10 and 17 storeys.

A map showing what sites are appropriate for tall buildings has also been created – showing most are in Walthamstow, Leyton or Leytonstone.

The council’s more vague previous definition of a tall building was “taller than their prevailing context”.

Tall buildings should only be permitted outside of these specific sites in “very limited circumstances,” following an assessment showing that the proposal meets a number of requirements including “good local public transport connectivity” and “exemplar design”.

Similarly, residential developments should only be allowed in higher risk flood zones following a “sequential test,” and possibly an “exception test,” that should steer new developments to lower risk areas.

Full details of the plan can be found in the cabinet papers on the council’s website

To watch the cabinet or full council meeting, go here

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