Waltham Forest 2021 Year in Review: January-MarchThe biggest local stories from the first three months of this year
As we approach the beginning of a new year in the borough, it’s a good time to look back at everything that’s happened in the last twelve months.
This is the first of a four-part series reflecting on the biggest local stories of 2021.
Due to our unique position as the only independent paper dedicated to the borough, many of these stories weren’t covered anywhere else and would have gone unnoticed without us.
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Founder Steve Barnabis
Project Zero - an organisation that hopes to end young people dying from violent crime by providing them a safe and fun place to hang out after school and during the holidays - had just moved into their new home in the Outset Centre in Walthamstow. Residents can expect big things from the youth centre next year, one of which they can read about in our January edition next month. While the centre itself could be converted into flats, Waltham Forest Council has committed to keeping this vital project alive.
An artist's impression of the planned Mall towers (credit: C&R)
Revised plans for the housing development being built on the shopping centre formerly known as the Mall were approved by councillors. The scheme will see 538 new homes built in two towers, standing 34 and 26 storeys high over the town square. Plans to build a new entrance for Walthamstow Central Underground Station, providing step-free access, were also approved. Back then, there were already concerns about whether cash-trapped TfL could afford to spend an estimated £15million on the entrance, which have only grown since the Government refused to pitch in earlier this month.
The historic Antelope pub in Leyton (credit: Elizabeth Atkin)
The owner of historic Leyton pub The Antelope, which shut down six years ago after over a century in business, lost a legal battle with the council and was ordered to reverse work done to convert the building into flats. Local residents determined to see the pub trade again insisted it was a “huge win” and adverts looking for a new landlord appeared outside in October.
And finally, the council was accused of “misleading” residents over the safety of hundreds of fire doors after tests showed they failed to withstand flames for as long as advertised. https://walthamforestecho.co.uk/tower-block-residents-misled-over-fire-safety/ The council has stated that it is in the process of suing the company which sold them these doors, which meet current legal requirements but are only about half as effective as promised.
The number of residents relying on the borough’s food banks more than doubled as the economic effects of the pandemic hit hard. The Rukhsana Khan Foundation revealed it was supporting more than 12,000 people, compared to just 5,100 pre-pandemic, while other organisations reported similar increases.
The Stansted 15
Walthamstow resident Melanie Strickland, one of the “Stansted 15”, a group who peacefully prevented a deportation flight from taking off, escaped a probable life sentence after her terror convictions were quashed. Writing in the Echo, she said: “The judgment welcome, but we are outraged that we were ever prosecuted with this offence in the first place. It was totally disproportionate and I believe our prosecution was intended to intimidate us and other protestors.”
The planned flat block (credit: Haworth Tompkins)
The council got in hot water - both in the national press and from one of its own Labour councillors - after designing a scheme with “poor floors” for social housing tenants on the site of the former Wood Street library. Councillors on the planning committee were told that placing these cheaper flats near those being sold or rented for market prices could “impact values”. Cllr Marie Pye, who raised the objection, has been absent from every planning meeting since May, despite still attending other committees. The scheme was approved during a meeting in June.
Hardworking law student Hussain (credit: Met)
Walthamstow law student Hussain Chaudhry was stabbed to death just outside his home, after arranging to sell a designer jacket via social media. The shocking attack, which also saw his mother and one of his two brothers injured by his killers, was carried out by two 18-year-olds from Ilford, who were finally convicted earlier this month.
Secret Cinema were given permission to take over Low Hall sports grounds during the summer, a decision that attracted a significant amount of controversy. Despite a furious campaign to prevent the park being taken over, what actually ended up putting a stop to it was Covid, although the company have plans to return next year.
The Oliver Road site (credit: Elizabeth Atkin)
There were significant concerns about the rollout of the Covid vaccine in the borough, particularly after the council decided to close a site operating out of the Oliver Road Medical Centre in Leyton. Residents in the south of the borough insisted they were being neglected, while staff who had been vaccinating people at the centre said they feared elderly and more vulnerable residents would be unwilling to travel to Walthamstow or further for their second dose.
The planned towers (credit: Inland Homes)
Plans to build almost 600 flats on the Homebase site in Walthamstow were approved, despite objectors insisting it was “badly designed”. While the Wood Street library scheme was criticised for placing cheaper flats on their own floors, developer Inland Homes went one further - segregating them into their own block. However, committee chair Jenny Gray told her fellow councillors: “We can’t sacrifice what’s good because we are just waiting for a day when we can have perfect.”
Tomorrow, we’ll publish the next part of this series, focusing on the months of April, May and June.