Garage staff losing jobs to make way for unaffordable flatsThe developer will pay the council a one-off sum instead of building affordable homes
Staff at an independent Walthamstow garage, including some employed for decades, are losing their jobs to make way for seventeen new flats.
None of the flats replacing Wood Street Autos in Vallentin Road will be "affordable" after the developer argued this would cause it to lose money on the scheme.
Despite expressing reservations, members of Waltham Forest Council's planning committee unanimously approved the plans on 7th December.
Planning officers previously agreed the developer will pay the council £398,000 instead of selling or renting any of the flats at an affordable price.
Wood Street Autos in Vallentin Road (Google Streetview)
Speaking at the meeting, Wood Street Autos employee Mark Brewer told councillors: “I’m one of seven employed at Wood Street Autos, a few of us worked there for thirty years.
“If this planning application goes through it will mean seven local people will be without a job, seven people with famlies to feed.”
Planning officer Eshan Hussain told the committee Wood Street Autos could have chosen to move at any point and this was not a point they could take into account.
He added that the site had been earmarked for residential development on the draft Wood Street Action Plan, published in 2013.
Officers explained they have had “lengthy discussions” with Essex-based developer Regenta Ltd in order to arrive at the figure of £398,000 to make up for the lack of affordable homes.
Committee member Alan Siggers, who later voted in favour of the scheme, said: “Look it’s supposed to have 35% affordable housing, the amount they're offering in this case does not even come close.
"£390,000 would do one property, and here we’ve got 17, I'm not sure what we’re doing with affordable housing in this borough."
Councillor Siggers accepted it is not the planning committee’s job to debate a development’s profitability but called the agreed contribution “really, fairly low” and “an awkward one”.
Councillor Sally Littlejohn, who also later voted in favour, pointed out that the planned flats lack amenity space and suggested the developer was aiming for "maximum density" on the site.
Surveyors commissioned by the developer and council disagreed over several costs, including whether the value of the land is £1.4million or £946,000 and whether the total value of the flats will be £7.1million or £7.6million.
They also disagreed whether residents will be charged £83,000 a year in ground rents.
At a late stage in construction the costs will be evaluated again to see if the developer should pay even more money, commitee members were told.