Estate redevelopment postponed

Council will await Grenfell Tower Inquiry outcome before continuing plans for Fred Wigg and John Walsh towers

Fred Wigg and John Walsh towers

The Fred Wigg and John Walsh towers in Montague Road, Leytonstone

A major estate redevelopment in Leytonstone has been put on hold after the cost of the work rose beyond Waltham Forest Council’s £20million budget.

The revamp of John Walsh and Fred Wigg towers in Montague Road was announced four years ago, with potential developers invited to bid for a contract to carry out the work. But the council has admitted the bids received were above the sum it was willing to pay. It will now wait until after the Grenfell Tower Inquiry before revisiting options for redevelopment.

All residents were issued a demolition notice in March 2015 and offered the chance to move to alternative council homes ahead of the work, with more than 100 households doing so. Construction of a new housing block between the towers was originally scheduled to start in 2016, with the towers set to be vacated from 2018. But as the projected costs of the redevelopment rose, residents waited three years before being told in February it was being postponed.

According to a council report, the amount spent on the aborted project was around £1.1m – a sum that will now be “written off to the housing revenue account”. Had it gone ahead, the scheme would have reduced the number of social homes on the estate from 234 to 160, with scores of new homes built for private sale.

Councillor Clare Coghill, the council leader, said: “We are committed to ensuring all of our residents have a decent roof over their heads and that they have the support to succeed and make the most of their life chances.

“As we have been unable to find a partner who is able to deliver the homes we demand for our residents within the budget we have set, it is right that we pause and work with the community to identify the best way forward to deliver the changes they deserve and we aim to deliver.”

Another factor in the future redevelopment of the estate is Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s recent publication of a ‘Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration’, which includes a proposal for mandatory ballots of residents to ensure they support any plans put forward.

Sonia McKenzie, chair of Fred Wigg and John Walsh Towers Tenants and Residents’ Association, said: “It is great news for tower residents, homeless people and our neighbours who may be spared years of disruption. To have any credibility the council must guarantee tower residents a ballot on the revised options.”

Despite the postponement, Fred Wigg and John Walsh towers will still have sprinklers installed as part of the council’s commitment to spend £5million on improving fire safety across 61 of its housing blocks in the borough.