Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Highams Park flats rejected for fear of 'overwhelming' neighbourhood

Councillors defied planning officers to reject the flats

Hero for Highams Park flats rejected for fear of 'overwhelming' neighbourhood
An artist's impression of the proposed development (Credit: Stephen Davy Peter Smith Architects)

Plans for new flats were rejected last week, defying advice from council officers, after residents argued they would "totally overwhelm" their neighbourhood. Plans for new flats were rejected last week, defying advice from council officers, after residents argued they would "totally overwhelm" their neighbourhood. 

Developer Morris Nourani applied to build 68 flats in two seven-storey blocks on a plot of land between Highams Park Station and Larkshall Road.Developer Morris Nourani applied to build 68 flats in two seven-storey blocks on a plot of land between Highams Park Station and Larkshall Road.

At a planning committee meeting on 1st March, objectors argued the scheme would threaten the area's “village-like” heritage, while councillors questioned the lack of affordable housing.At a planning committee meeting on 1st March, objectors argued the scheme would threaten the area's “village-like” heritage, while councillors questioned the lack of affordable housing.

The developer proposed either selling just seven of the flats through the shared ownership scheme or paying the council £850,000 to help build affordable homes elsewhere.  The developer proposed either selling just seven of the flats through the shared ownership scheme or paying the council £850,000 to help build affordable homes elsewhere.  

Chair of the Highams Park Planning Group, Gordon Turpin, told councillors the flats would “decimate” the area and failed to comply with the Highams Park Development Plan, approved in a referendum two years ago.Chair of the Highams Park Planning Group, Gordon Turpin, told councillors the flats would “decimate” the area and failed to comply with the Highams Park Development Plan, approved in a referendum two years ago.

He said: “The main feature of the area is the railway station and that is what Highams Park was developed around... The station will be totally overwhelmed by a seven storey building over it."He said: “The main feature of the area is the railway station and that is what Highams Park was developed around... The station will be totally overwhelmed by a seven storey building over it."

He added that more than two thirds of consulted residents objected to the scheme, claiming: "They thought over-urbanisation is not a price worth paying.”He added that more than two thirds of consulted residents objected to the scheme, claiming: "They thought over-urbanisation is not a price worth paying.”

The proposed flats viewed from the station (Credit: Stephen Davy Peter Smith Architects)The proposed flats viewed from the station (Credit: Stephen Davy Peter Smith Architects)

The council's planning officer Pedro Rizo nonetheless “very much supported” the scheme, telling councillors it was “in line with the aspirations” of the area.The council's planning officer Pedro Rizo nonetheless “very much supported” the scheme, telling councillors it was “in line with the aspirations” of the area.

He said: “It would provide... community facilities and commercial floorspace to activate the street space around the new station [and] a new and good living environment for future residents.”He said: “It would provide... community facilities and commercial floorspace to activate the street space around the new station [and] a new and good living environment for future residents.”

He added that the developer had committed £125,000 to “safeguarding” a new station entrance, as well as £100,000 towards walking and cycling improvements and £25,000 for a controlled parking zone consultation.He added that the developer had committed £125,000 to “safeguarding” a new station entrance, as well as £100,000 towards walking and cycling improvements and £25,000 for a controlled parking zone consultation.

The council’s assistant director of development management Justin Carr said: “Because of the existing use as offices, our independent review determined that the scheme wasn’t viable to provide any affordable housing, but the applicant accepted there is a need for some.”The council’s assistant director of development management Justin Carr said: “Because of the existing use as offices, our independent review determined that the scheme wasn’t viable to provide any affordable housing, but the applicant accepted there is a need for some.”

At a late stage in the development, he said, the profit margins would be reassessed to see if the council could “recover” more affordable homes.At a late stage in the development, he said, the profit margins would be reassessed to see if the council could “recover” more affordable homes.

An artist's impression of the proposed development (Credit: Stephen Davy Peter Smith Architects)An artist's impression of the proposed development (Credit: Stephen Davy Peter Smith Architects)

Planning officer Sarah Parsons also encouraged committee members to be “pragmatic”, as the station building is not listed or a protected asset.Planning officer Sarah Parsons also encouraged committee members to be “pragmatic”, as the station building is not listed or a protected asset.

She added: “Just because a new development is visible behind a building it doesn't necessarily mean it's harmful.She added: “Just because a new development is visible behind a building it doesn't necessarily mean it's harmful.

“[If the] buildings behind that station are of high quality, what they’re providing is a backdrop to the building rather than an overwhelmingly harmful impact.”“[If the] buildings behind that station are of high quality, what they’re providing is a backdrop to the building rather than an overwhelmingly harmful impact.”

However, four of the committee’s five members defied officers' advice and rejected the scheme, questioning its design, the lack of affordable housing and the need for a new station entrance. However, four of the committee’s five members defied officers' advice and rejected the scheme, questioning its design, the lack of affordable housing and the need for a new station entrance. 

Committee member Alan Siggers said he was “gob smacked” by the scheme’s height and lack of affordable housing, arguing the developer shouldn't have bought the land if they could not afford to build affordable homes on it.Committee member Alan Siggers said he was “gob smacked” by the scheme’s height and lack of affordable housing, arguing the developer shouldn't have bought the land if they could not afford to build affordable homes on it.

He said: “There's no light in here, it’s surrounded by tall buildings, if you look at the elevation it's a lot of height and dark spots.He said: “There's no light in here, it’s surrounded by tall buildings, if you look at the elevation it's a lot of height and dark spots.

“With the lack of affordable housing, we're getting shafted again. The Highams Park Development Plan requires good quality developments - this isn’t it.”“With the lack of affordable housing, we're getting shafted again. The Highams Park Development Plan requires good quality developments - this isn’t it.”