Report by Victoria Muno, Local Democracy Reporter
Waltham Forest Council is giving the developer behind the borough’s largest-ever housing scheme a discount of unknown size after it warned of delays to the project.
The decision was made in private during a cabinet meeting on Thursday 14th January. The council has since refused to reveal the size of the discount because it claims it is “commercially sensitive” information.
The £190million ‘Coronation Square’ redevelopment will see 750 homes and community services built on the Score Centre site in Leyton, after the scheme was granted planning permission in April last year.
But in August, developer Taylor Wimpey told the council that Covid-19, Brexit and “unforeseen costs” had decreased how much money it expected to make from the scheme. The company, which currently estimates an operating profit of £293m for 2020, said the lower forecasts for Coronation Square could “significantly” delay the work “until conditions improve”.
The council subsequently agreed to reduce the price of the land and buy all 1,762 square metres of commercial space being built, again refusing to reveal the cost of this purchase.
Explaining the decision, a council officer said “delaying the project is not an attractive or viable option” because of the housing and infrastructure it will deliver.
The project will include five blocks of flats up to 18 storeys tall, a new GP surgery, replacement leisure centre, nursery, new civic square, plus commercial spaces and a heating network for the surrounding area.
Half of the 750 homes will be designated as ‘affordable’ housing, although Labour councillor Marie Pye, who sits on the planning committee, noted in March last year that the majority of these would be more expensive shared ownership homes, rather than low-cost rent.
A report prepared for January’s cabinet meeting by officers notes that buying the commercial space “meets the council’s investment objectives, while helping to de-risk the scheme for Taylor Wimpey”.
It adds: “The council will receive a market rental income for the units, on which the value has been priced.
“It should be noted that the commercial space will be available at the end of 2023, allowing ample opportunity for pre-lets to be arranged, thereby ensuring income from future rentals.”
Construction on the site is expected to start in spring this year and is due to finish by 2027.