Report by James Cracknell
Plans have been submitted for a series of residential tower blocks that form one of the biggest redevelopment schemes in Walthamstow’s history.
The owners of The Mall want to build up to 500 homes as part of an extension to the shopping centre in Walthamstow. They would be housed in four tower blocks between 12 and 29 storeys – the biggest of which would be the tallest building in Waltham Forest, at double the height of the nearby Travelodge hotel.
The space provided for 12 new shops and five new restaurants would be larger than a football pitch – and achieved by building over one-third of Walthamstow Town Square and Gardens.
A complete remodelling of the town square to provide a new public space for hosting arts and cultural events is proposed as part of the scheme, having been drawn up with help from landowners Waltham Forest Council. A redesign of the town square that took place in 2004 is now described by planners as “flawed”.
The redevelopment plans also allow room for a new entrance to Walthamstow Central Underground Station, set to be built by Transport for London inside the 30-year-old shopping centre.
The Mall’s owners Capital & Regional first announced its plans for a major extension in April 2016, but has now admitted that economic uncertainty brought on by last year’s Brexit referendum vote had put the whole development in doubt. The scheme was only revived when a new housing partner was found, with details about the exact number of homes still to be finalised.
A planning application was finally submitted to the council in April this year, but only published this week after officials spent two months verifying the vast volume of documents.
Ken Ford, Capital & Regional’s executive director, said: “We are excited to unveil our plans for Walthamstow town centre, which is emerging as one of London’s most vibrant neighbourhoods.
“Following the successful refurbishment of The Mall in 2015, we see huge potential to create an integrated destination comprising an enhanced retail and leisure offer and much needed new homes, all set in a remodelled public square adjacent to Walthamstow transport hub.
“We look forward to working with Waltham Forest Council, residents, and the town’s existing retailers and business owners to bring these plans forward.”
The part of the town square to be built on if Capital & Regional wins planning permission includes the existing play area, but a brand new children’s playground would be built as part of a remodelled space. There would also be “play jets” that spout water into the air and “rain gardens” to boost flood resilience and help wildlife.
Although several trees would have to be cut down, plans include a pledge to plant more and ensure a net gain in the number of trees. Examples of events that could be held in the new town square are listed in the plans and include “outdoor cinema”, “temporary beach”, and “Santa’s grotto”.
A key part of The Mall’s extension is said to be an improved “frontage” that attracts more people to the corner with Selbourne Road and also improves its facade along the High Street. It would mean re-designing the shop formerly occupied by BHS and currently vacant, as well as demolishing the existing Costa Coffee and British Heart Foundation shops. Examples of new retailers likely to be attracted to an enlarged shopping centre in Walthamstow are said in the plans to be “large fashion operators such as Next and H&M”.
There is also an estimate in the plans of up to 300 new permanent jobs being provided at The Mall, with up to 350 temporary jobs provided during the construction phase, which is likely to take several years. In terms of the local economy, Capital & Regional suggest it would be boosted by up to £4million per year, with council coffers set to receive up to £1.75m extra in rates as a result.
When The Mall’s redevelopment scheme was first announced last year there was a public backlash over the height of the proposed towers, with a petition against them eventually signed by more than 2,000 people. But Capital & Regional claims that in its public consultation “55 percent of respondents indicated their overall support for the proposals”. It adds there would be “no negative impact on amenity value due to overshadowing”.