Report by Judith Burnett
Proposals for a major redevelopment in Highams Park town centre is sparking controversy – and opposition from the local MP.
The nine-storey scheme proposed for James Yard in Larkshall Road abuts Highams Park Station and would contain around 90 homes, shops, community facilities, and a new station entrance. Low-rise office buildings would be demolished to make way for the scheme, should it go ahead.
Chingford and Woodford Green MP Iain Duncan Smith wrote to local residents to express his concerns after he said discussions with development company Atlantis Real Estate didn’t reassure him of the scheme’s impact on the area.
The Conservative MP wrote: “I am even more concerned that the current proposals will fundamentally change the very nature of Highams Park. I am opposed to this development.
“What was also made clear to me during the meeting was that the developers were encouraged to build larger buildings than their initial design by the local planning department.”
Highams Park Planning Group has also slammed the proposals, after they were revealed at a public consultation held online in May. In a statement the group said: “We believe these proposals are a huge over-development of the site. Nine storeys is too high and will completely dominate the town centre and the existing characterful station building.
“The other buildings in the immediate vicinity of the site are a maximum of four storeys. The development does not respect the scale, height, mass or design of the surrounding streets or spaces and does not complement the distinct character and appearance of the area.”
Waltham Forest Council has denied the claim from Iain Duncan Smith that developer Atlantis has been encouraged to submit plans for a taller building. Councillor Simon Miller, cabinet member for economic growth and housing delivery, said: “The council has not been involved in pre-application meetings about this development and has certainly not suggested the building should be taller.”
On its promotional website for the scheme, Atlantis say: “We are excited by the opportunity to provide brand new and much needed housing on Larkshall Road. Our proposals would demolish the existing building and replace it with 90 purpose-built new homes. There will be shops on the ground floor.
“We explored the potential to redevelop the existing building, but this would mean losing an opportunity to create a new public link to Highams Park Station. It also meant we wouldn’t be able to provide as much public space as we would like.”
A spokesperson for BECG, a consultancy firm which ran the consultation, said there have been 5,000 visits to the website. They added: “Feedback demonstrates a recognition of the need for more homes in the area. We are now reviewing all of the feedback received and this will help us develop the proposals as they move forwards.”
Cllr Miller added: “There has been consultation with residents on this site run by the developer. The council is not involved in that consultation. We have a legal duty to consider any planning application we receive and if one for this site is received, we will run our statutory consultation when residents will be able to make their views known.”
For more information about the James Yard plans: