Chingford library decision to be reviewed

Waltham Forest Council will be forced to review its decision to add 40 new homes to a library site as part of a major revamp.

The council’s cabinet voted unanimously to approve the ‘Chingford hub’ development on June 11, despite resident concerns that it could harm the “quaint, semi-rural area”.

On June 19, Waltham Forest Conservatives announced they had “called in” the decision, a power used in exceptional circumstances that means the plans must be discussed again.

The decision will be put to one of the council’s scrutiny committees at a meeting where councillors and the public will be able to express their views.

Tory leader Cllr Alan Siggers (Valley) said: “We sought assurances from the cabinet and were told that the council wanted to work with the community to get this project right.

“However, so far there has been no progress on agreeing who would be consulted, how, when, or on what.

“We have therefore called in the decision to give more time for these details to be worked out.

“The call-in means that the decision has to go back to one of the council’s scrutiny committees and councillors and the public will be able to speak at that meeting.

“It will then go back to cabinet and I hope when it does, it will include details of how the North Chingford community will be consulted on what happens to these important buildings.”

Conservative councillors have asked the council to consider whether the existing buildings can be refurbished instead of demolished and rebuilt.

They have also asked that the community be consulted on what facilities should be included in the new development and the council consider the pressure on local infrastructure and value for taxpayer money.

Cllr Simon Miller, responsible for economic growth and high streets, said the council planned to hold “extensive engagement” in summer and autumn.

He added that the project “will be the largest investment the council has made in the area” with “significant benefits” for residents and businesses.

Cllr Miller said: “The current library and assembly hall are expensive to maintain, the heating system is inefficient and is not environmentally friendly, and the buildings do not meet accessibility standards for elderly or less mobile residents.

“We have examined our options carefully and it would not be a cost-effective use of taxpayer money to bring the existing buildings up to the required standard.

“We plan to create a space that serves the needs of the whole community including a new library with modern facilities, flexible meeting and event areas, and a place for adult learning services to run classes alongside a café and accessible facilities.

“Any development in this location must meet the strict planning regulations that apply to conservation areas.

“We will be holding extensive engagement with local residents, businesses, and councillors throughout summer and autumn to get more valuable input on this important project that will revitalise Chingford town centre and bring new opportunities for local people.”

It has not been announced which scrutiny committee will reconsider the development and when this meeting will take place.

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter