Chingford Library development plans passed for a second time

Waltham Forest Council was accused of shoving plans to redevelop Chingford Library “down residents’ throats” as the plans were given the go ahead for the second time last night.

The redevelopment, which would add around 40 homes to the site, was approved by cabinet on June 11 but the decision was “called in” by all 13 Conservative councillors, forcing it to be reconsidered.

A virtual meeting of the Growth Scrutiny committee heard concerns about the number of new homes, the character of Chingford Green, financial viability and the lack of prior consultation before voting to confirm the cabinet’s decision.

Cllr Simon Miller, responsible for economic growth and housing development, insisted approval was just “the start of the process” and that there would be a further decision following consultation and design work.

Cllr Kay Isa (Con, Chingford Green) told the committee: “This proposal plucks a 40-unit building out of thin air and it seems that the people responsible want to shove it down residents’ throats.

“There is a general feeling amongst residents that they have been forgotten by the council and most are upset they were not informed earlier.

“Anyone who actually lives in Chingford will know its history and culture as a rural area. Conservation and history has always been important to local residents.

“This Chingford Hub project goes against all of this and does not go far enough to actually bring real long-term benefits for the area.

“The report is short and basic, it does not consider the impact the development will have on the community.”

She said she “personally received hundreds of complaints” about the plans.

Cllr John Moss (Con, Larkswood) added: “Some of the information against which the cabinet made its decision was either incomplete, inadequate or inaccurate – possibly all three.

“There seems to be a requirement for the project to be self-financing, why? Is the EMD cinema project in Walthamstow self-financing?

“The estimated value of these homes exceeds that of the most recent flats sold in Forest View, overlooking the golf course and with parking, by a substantial margin.”

He also suggested the cost of building the homes would leave only £560,000 for the community facilities, which he said was “barely a lick of paint”.

He added that consultation “should have been the start of the decision-making process, not something grudgingly conceded at the end of it”.

Cllr Simon Miller (Lab, Leyton) insisted that confirming the cabinet’s decision was “reasonable and the right thing”.

He said: “Let’s be clear on this, this is the start of the process and we are following the process. Consultation would be central to this development.

“This is subject to a further decision after consultation and detailed design work to create a new hub for Chingford with best in class library facilities, which is fully accessible for all residents.

“A key part of this is the provision of urgently needed affordable flats, including at social rents.

“Given the constraints of the site and the inflexible nature of it, refurbishment is not really an option. The sum available would do little more than provide a superficial uplift.”

He added that it was “wrong to say we have not spoken to the community”, although the tail end of his statement was disrupted by technical issues with the livestream.

All but two members of the committee – Cllr Selina Seesunkur (Con, Larkswood) and Cllr Emma Best (Con, Endlebury) – voted to confirm the cabinet’s decision.

Four recommendations proposed by Cllr Seesunkur, which included deferring the decision until after a consultation with residents, were rejected by the committee.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter