Report by James Cracknell and Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter
New plans to demolish part of The Mall in Walthamstow and build two tower blocks containing more than 500 homes have been submitted to Waltham Forest Council.
The £200million redevelopment originally won planning permission nearly three years ago, but site owners Capital & Regional have now revised their scheme – adding more homes, making the tower blocks taller, and including a new tube station entrance for Walthamstow Central.
Following significant public pressure, the council and developers have also now agreed to retain the avenue of lime trees in Walthamstow Town Square, although the amount of public open space in the square will still be reduced by one third and 50 mature trees chopped down. At least as many new trees will be planted in their place and a new children’s play area provided.
The number of proposed homes is increasing from 502 to 538, of which the vast majority will be for rent, with just 43 for private sale. The so-called ‘build to rent’ scheme will now include 30% ‘affordable’ homes, discounted from market rent levels. This is below the council’s 50% target. First priority for these homes will go to existing borough residents.
The project will also improve and extend Walthamstow Central Underground Station, which lies directly underneath the scheme. A new step-free entrance will be built, accessible from the town square. It will be part-funded by a £15m contribution from Transport for London (TfL).
If approved, building work is planned to begin next year. Both The Mall and the tube station would remain open throughout.
Councillor Simon Miller, responsible for economic growth and housing development, said the redevelopment was “an exciting project at the heart of our borough”. He added: “At a time when town centres across the country are seeing shopping centres and businesses closing, following the impact of Covid-19, Capital & Regional has demonstrated its continued commitment to invest in major improvements in Waltham Forest.”
The height of the development is again causing concern among residents, with some describing it as “out of keeping” and saying it would “spoil the unique ambience” of Walthamstow.
In addition to extra housing, the scheme will add 8,000 square metres of retail space for The Mall, in an attempt to compete with Westfield Stratford. It will create 350 jobs. However, it is proposed that 100 car parking spaces will be removed.
Lawrence Hutchings from Capital & Regional said: “We have been working with the council and TfL to find ways to provide more benefits for the town centre. We are delighted to be submitting these plans which will strengthen The Mall as a community-based shopping centre for Walthamstow and provide more jobs and better shops.
“I would like to thank all residents who participated in our consultation last year. The updated proposals reflect their feedback.”
In July 2019, a serious fire led to the destruction of a significant section of the existing shopping centre. Planning permission has already been granted to repair this damage, which was concentrated in the first floor of the south-west section of The Mall, away from where the new development is planned. The replacement of the fire-damaged area includes a new enlarged food court and “refreshed” southern elevation fronting Selborne Road.