Report by James Cracknell
The Score Centre housing development won planning permission at Waltham Forest Council’s first live-streamed meeting.
The £190million scheme opposite Coronation Gardens and Leyton Orient’s Breyer Group Stadium will include 750 new homes in tower blocks up to 18 storeys high. Half of the new homes will be designated ‘affordable’ but the majority of these will be let at intermediate rather than social rent levels.
While the Score Centre leisure facility, owned and run by the council, is being demolished to make way for the new homes, alternative sports facilities were opened at nearby Ive Farm in 2018. The new development itself will include five courts for basketball, badminton, volleyball, netball, gymnastics and five-a-side football.
Permission was granted at a planning committee last week that was live-streamed to the public. Four councillors were at the town hall, while many more people took part using Microsoft Teams software. While other meetings in recent weeks have been postponed, the council was keen to go ahead with the planning committee to avoid delays with the Score Centre development. The four councillors physically present were a legal necessity until this week, when rules were revised to allow fully remote council meetings.
Simon Miller, cabinet member for economic growth and housing development, said: “This meeting was due to discuss the largest home-building scheme in the council’s programme and we were keen to make sure that it stayed on schedule.
“Government regulations meant we would not be able to hold a normal meeting due to social distancing, so our officers used Microsoft Teams to allow the committee members to be in one room with officers, applicants, objectors and other observers using the video conferencing facility.
“At one time around 60 people were taking part and the meeting was a great success, showing the ingenuity of council staff to use technology to deliver democracy during the current Covid-19 emergency.”
The plans also include a new health hub, pre-school nursery, district heating centre and civic square. The affordable homes allocation had previously been criticised as “clearly not policy compliant” by a Labour councillor, Marie Pye, who expressed concern about the ratio of tenures, but had been told that increasing the number of social rent homes by 10% would cost £5.5m and affect the scheme’s financial viability. She was told it could only be done if other proposed community benefits, such as the nursery, were axed. Conditions have been placed on the project, however, to restrict the sale of the last 50 private units until all ‘affordable’ housing is completed.
An objection to the scheme was officially made by Natural England, amid concerns over the impact of the development on the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC), but another condition was added to the planning permission which requires the council “to resolve the outstanding suitable alternative natural green space strategy… in consultation with Natural England”.
Taylor Wimpey had already won a council bidding process to become the developer for the Score Centre scheme.