Key target on housing set to be missed, reports James Cracknell
Only 20 percent of the 502 homes proposed to be built at a huge new development in Walthamstow town centre will be designated as ‘affordable housing’.
This number is less than half of Waltham Forest Council’s target for providing affordable homes in the borough, but has not prevented the authority’s planning department from recommending the scheme be approved next week.
The figure was revealed in a council report on The Mall’s extension plans published this week, prior to a meeting at Walthamstow Assembly Hall on Wednesday at which councillors will vote to grant or deny planning permission for what will be one of the biggest redevelopment schemes in the borough’s history.
Developers Capital & Regional want to construct four tower blocks of up to 29 storeys above The Mall shopping centre and reduce the size of Walthamstow Town Square and Gardens by one-third.
The council report also revealed that 948 people had written objection letters against the scheme, in addition to 2,015 people who had signed a petition.
However, in its conclusion, the report states: “It is considered any local impacts would be outweighed by the significant public benefits of the scheme and are capable of mitigation where necessary by the imposition of conditions and a wide range of S106 obligations, securing benefits for the wider Walthamstow community as well as the borough as a whole.”
Such benefits are set to include a payment by Capital & Regional of £500,000 toward maintaining a smaller town square, £50,000 toward monitoring air quality, a contribution of £688,000 towards the council’s carbon offset fund, and up to £1.5m towards improvement works at Walthamstow Central Station.
On the matter of affordable housing, the report states: “There are exceptional costs relating to the need for complex foundation works to avoid potential impacts on London Underground infrastructure and the requirement for the development to make a proportionate contribution to the safeguarding of future underground station enhancement at Walthamstow Central.
“The delivery of the scheme is also made more complex by the commercial and economic requirement to keep most of the shopping centre open during the construction period and the fact that the site is situated within the heart of the town centre. These factors have been verified and accepted through the viability appraisal process as presenting genuine constraints on overall scheme viability.”
The report noted that in a consultation with stakeholders, the Greater London Authority (GLA) had told council planning officers the 20 percent figure for affordable homes “would typically be considered wholly unacceptable” but that the “baseline viability” of the scheme warranted an exception being made.
It concluded: “The 20 percent affordable housing offer with this development is considered by the GLA and by Waltham Forest officers as the maximum achievable.”
Affordable housing is subsidised from market rates, although such homes can still cost up to 80 percent of market value. They include social rent, intermediate rent, and shared ownership homes, although the affordable housing at The Mall is set to include only the latter.
Wednesday’s meeting at Walthamstow Assembly Hall begins at 7pm. A protest prior to the meeting has been organised by objectors, including Waltham Forest Trades Council. David Gardiner, a leading campaigner against the development, said: “The council clearly expects large numbers to come – that’s why they’ve booked the Assembly Hall. Let’s not disappoint them.”
For more details of the meeting on Wednesday 13th December and to read the council report on The Mall redevelopment: