MP Comment: 'Save our suburbs'Chingford MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith as part of our MP column series
Many of my constituents have told me they're very concerned about the developments planned all over Chingford, with "out-of-character for the area" being the most common complaint about these proposals. The residents I represent are not blind to the need for more homes in London but they deserve to be listened to when it comes to decisions that will impact the communities they call home.
It's clear the current Labour vision for Waltham Forest entails large buildings springing up all over the borough, even in more rural areas like Chingford. For example, early-stage plans suggest hundreds of homes may be built at the Larkswood Leisure Centre, putting established trees and wildlife in harm's way, and the approved addition of new flats on top of the North Chingford Assembly Hall and neighbouring library will create a structure that looms over the surrounding area, including the historic Carbis Cottage just next door.
While this trend is concerning enough, what makes matters worse is the lack of any parking for the future residents of these new homes. Inevitably, the wider community will bear the consequences of this shortage, in the form of congested streets and Controlled Parking Zones, not to mention the additional pressure of extra neighbours on their schools and GP services.
I have spoken to my colleagues in the national government to make it clear that changes to planning laws must not empower local councils like ours to ignore public opinion. Specific and community-led Local Neighbourhood Plans, like the one created for Highams Park, should form the basis of future development, allowing areas with different characters and needs to avoid being lumped together. These documents, once agreed, should not be overriden, as I feel happens too often at present.
For far too long, local people have had their voices ridden roughshod over by those who are meant to speak for them. This is why I am working closely with local councillors in the hopes of opposing developments that fundamentally change the nature of our area. Our neighbourhoods matter, their characters should be preserved and most importantly their residents should be heard.