Homebase is not where the heart is

Max Carter (left) protesting in Walthamstow against the Fulbourne Road scheme (credit Caroline Carter)
Max Carter (left) protesting in Walthamstow against the Fulbourne Road scheme (credit Caroline Carter)

Residents form campaign group to oppose high-rise plans for Homebase in Walthamstow, writes Max Carter

Back in June, a few like-minded residents became aware of a seemingly ‘under the radar’ proposal to build a large development at Homebase in Fulbourne Road, Walthamstow.

Our first real sight of this proposal was in July when a glossy newsletter-style flyer with very little detail landed on our doormats. This was followed by a Zoom broadcast by the architect, JTP, also attended by the developer, Inland Homes.

Shocked into action, a Facebook group was set up the next day, catchily called Fulbourne Road Development Community Group. It now has more than 370 members and continues to grow by the day, as word spreads.

It is fair to say that most residents acknowledge there is a shortage of well-designed, affordable housing in Waltham Forest, and would welcome new homes that blend well with the surrounding area. However, the scale and height of the proposed development has horrified many local residents.

There is little consideration of surrounding residents’ right to light and the privacy of those in properties that would be overlooked. It is also unclear why the development can’t be more in keeping with the neighbouring Hawker Siddeley site where buildings are four or five storeys tall.

Few design cues have been absorbed from the surrounding area, particularly the area to the east where there is a large proportion of Victorian and Edwardian terraced houses. There doesn’t seem to be any rationale for the proposed positioning of the tower blocks, either. Surely the tallest block should be located where it would be least obtrusive?

The original Environmental Impact Assessment submitted by the developers to Waltham Forest Council quoted buildings of up to 18 storeys. At the beginning of the developer’s engagement with the community, buildings of up to 20 storeys were quoted. This was then reduced back to 18 storeys.

It could be argued that the developer had a clear plan that was inflated during pre-application consultation, only to return to their original plans for the actual application, which was then dressed up as a ‘concession’ following community engagement.

The council’s strategy is to encourage and enable large-scale housing developments on or near transport hubs such as Blackhorse Road, where there is now a cluster of tall buildings. But the pandemic has changed people’s working and living needs. It is now less likely that residents will be commuting everyday into central London to work, and less likely that people will want to live in a small garden-less home in a high-rise building. This should now be considered by developers.

Most significantly for residents living in the Fulbourne Road area, this development is just one of many at the eastern end of Forest Road that are either in planning or in progress, including Hylands, Willow House, the former Wood Street Library site, and the town hall campus.

Ultimately, residents may well vote with their feet and decide to abandon the green borough where they have lived happily for years before it becomes a vast construction site for the next five years and beyond.

A planning application for 2C Fulbourne Road has now been submitted by Inland Homes and includes 583 homes. For more information:
Visit fulbourneroadregen.co.uk