Tower blocks for Homebase site approved

Aerial view of how the Inland Homes development in Fulbourne Road is set to look
Aerial view of how the Inland Homes development in Fulbourne Road is set to look

Walthamstow scheme had attracted significant opposition, reports Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter

Controversial plans to build almost 600 flats on the site of a DIY superstore were given the green light.

Developer Inland Homes was granted permission last week by the council’s planning committee to build 583 flats in eight blocks on the Homebase site, ranging from four to 18 storeys tall.

While the council’s Wood Street development was recently criticised for placing cheaper flats on separate floors, this scheme in Fulbourne Road houses all 103 London ‘affordable’ rent flats and most of the shared ownership homes in one block.

A number of residents spoke at the meeting to urge the committee to reject the plans, insisting they supported much-need housing but the scheme was badly designed.

Benjamin Wickham said objectors were not “looking to deny” people hoping to move to the “wonderful borough” of Waltham Forest. He insisted: “This is not nimbyism, we just want to ensure the character of the area is preserved.”

However, council planning officer Scott Hackner responded that residents’ concerns about the scale and density of the development were “clearly a matter of judgement”.

He said: “In actual fact, I think the betterment of the site and development would be an improvement to the townscape.”

Justifying the separation of richer and poorer tenants, he said: “Actually [Block C’s] location is advantageous on the site, as it has landscape all around.”

The council’s assistant director of development management Justin Carr added: “All the blocks look the same visually, it’s very different to schemes of old, where you could spot the affordable block a mile off.

“Having separate entrances or circulation spaces may allow affordable housing provision that would otherwise be unviable or have high service charges.

“[Affordable housing] providers are very resistant to taking on the burden of high service charges because they can’t easily pass them on to the residents and have to absorb them themselves.”

After committee member Sally Littlejohn pointed out that the “play area is segregated as well”, as some space is accessible only to residents of the attached block, councillors added a condition that these restricted-access areas must be of “equivalent” quality.

Conservative councillor Alan Siggers, the only committee member to vote against the plans, argued that the council seemed to be “providing the absolute minimum” on the development.

He said: “The development is reliant on other infrastructure already being used by other buildings we have consented to. Do we keep on saying to each doctor’s surgery and school, you can take a bit more?

“This feels like a very rushed, almost premature, application that does not really consider all the potential impacts on neighbours.”

He also argued the surrounding area will be so overshadowed by the towers that there will be “potential for cases of rickets because nobody’s going to get any sunlight”.

According to standards set by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), almost 200 windows in neighbouring properties would lose at least one fifth of their natural light.

Within the development itself, one block, which would be all market-rent flats, would see less than two thirds of its windows receive sufficient light, according to BRE.

Despite this, the report by council officers insists that “generally daylighting levels to the flats would be reasonable for occupiers to enjoy”, noting that “BRE is guidance only and not policy.”  

Committee chair Jenny Gray said that, while the change involved such a large development would be “very difficult”, the current site was “a waste of space”. She said: “We can’t sacrifice what’s good because we are just waiting for a day when we can have perfect.

“We do need these homes.”