Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Seven storeys planned for contested Chingford Leisure Centre site

Residents have been fighting the council for two years over the site

Hero for Seven storeys planned for contested Chingford Leisure Centre site
What the finished development may look like (credit: Lindhill)

Developers hoping to build a flat block up to seven storeys high in Chingford insist the low-rise housing demanded by residents is "not financially viable". Developers hoping to build a flat block up to seven storeys high in Chingford insist the low-rise housing demanded by residents is "not financially viable". 

Developer Lindhill is currently consulting on plans to build 72 new flats on a highly contested site in New Road, next to the Chingford Leisure Centre.Developer Lindhill is currently consulting on plans to build 72 new flats on a highly contested site in New Road, next to the Chingford Leisure Centre.

Waltham Forest Council originally suggested the leisure centre site and woodland behind it could accommodate 310 new homes in an early version of the borough's draft Local Plan, published in 2020.Waltham Forest Council originally suggested the leisure centre site and woodland behind it could accommodate 310 new homes in an early version of the borough's draft Local Plan, published in 2020.

However, after resident uproar about the loss of the green space, which borders the ancient Larks Wood, council leaders agreed last year to formally protect the land behind the leisure centre from future development. However, after resident uproar about the loss of the green space, which borders the ancient Larks Wood, council leaders agreed last year to formally protect the land behind the leisure centre from future development. 

The Chingford Leisure Centre area is now only earmarked in the draft Local Plan as a possible site for 280 new homes and this is the first scheme to come forward.The Chingford Leisure Centre area is now only earmarked in the draft Local Plan as a possible site for 280 new homes and this is the first scheme to come forward.

An illustrative view of the council's "masterplan" for the site (credit: WF Council)An illustrative view of the council's "masterplan" for the site (credit: WF Council)

During an online presentation, a member of public asked why “family homes with gardens” are not being proposed for the site, in keeping with the surrounding low-rise buildings.During an online presentation, a member of public asked why “family homes with gardens” are not being proposed for the site, in keeping with the surrounding low-rise buildings.

Lindhill managing director Lee Fitzpatrick responded: “As much as everyone would like to see two-storey houses with gardens, it’s not financially viable to deliver this.”Lindhill managing director Lee Fitzpatrick responded: “As much as everyone would like to see two-storey houses with gardens, it’s not financially viable to deliver this.”

He added that development costs are “rapidly going up” but that Lindhill hopes to have between a fifth and a quarter of the flats available at "affordable" rates.  He added that development costs are “rapidly going up” but that Lindhill hopes to have between a fifth and a quarter of the flats available at "affordable" rates.  

In response to concerns over whether the height would “block the view” of the nearby woods for existing residents, Lee accepted it would do so “from certain locations”.In response to concerns over whether the height would “block the view” of the nearby woods for existing residents, Lee accepted it would do so “from certain locations”.

He added: “The height and massing is in line with the [council's] masterplan... we can only go with how we're guided by the planning department.”He added: “The height and massing is in line with the [council's] masterplan... we can only go with how we're guided by the planning department.”

He later said Lindhill was told by the council to “maximise” the number of flats on the site.He later said Lindhill was told by the council to “maximise” the number of flats on the site.

Sections of the masterplan shown during the presentation suggest this scheme is expected to be the tallest part of the Chingford Leisure Centre site as a whole, with the surrounding blocks built three to five storeys high.Sections of the masterplan shown during the presentation suggest this scheme is expected to be the tallest part of the Chingford Leisure Centre site as a whole, with the surrounding blocks built three to five storeys high.

Local Conservative councillor Catherine Suamarez also raised concerns at the presentation about the planned scheme being "car-free", with 150 cycle parking spaces instead.Local Conservative councillor Catherine Suamarez also raised concerns at the presentation about the planned scheme being "car-free", with 150 cycle parking spaces instead.

Lee explained: “The council are looking to promote a policy of car-free schemes moving forward and it will be advertised as-car free. Lee explained: “The council are looking to promote a policy of car-free schemes moving forward and it will be advertised as-car free. 

"If people don't want to live here because they can’t park here, that’s absolutely their choice. There are bus routes outside and it’s a little way to the station but it is walkable.”"If people don't want to live here because they can’t park here, that’s absolutely their choice. There are bus routes outside and it’s a little way to the station but it is walkable.”

Members of public are invited to answer a survey on the proposal through the consultation website.Members of public are invited to answer a survey on the proposal through the consultation website.