Controversial Barkingside housing plan to go ahead

Controversial plans to double the number of homes on a Barkingside estate will go ahead despite anger from existing residents.

Redbridge Council’s planning committee voted by nine to two last night (January 20) to approve plans to build 103 new flats on the Little Gearies estate in Ilford.

The committee received 144 objections and heard from residents who had supported original plans to add just 30 new homes but felt the new design meant losing too much green space.

However, the majority of councillors felt the benefits of providing so many homes for residents on the waiting list for social housing outweighed the negatives.

Cllr Shamshia Ali (Lab, Cranbrook) said: “I came to Redbridge homeless, I have been through the system and I know what it feels like.

“We have got a backlog of people waiting (for housing) and we can never please everybody. I think, on the grand scheme of things, this ticks more boxes than it doesn’t.”

Cllr Varinder Singh Bola (Lab, Cranbrook) added: “At the moment we have got residents living in terrible, terrible B&B accommodation, often outside the borough. This is an opportunity to give them a roof over their heads.

“I understand some of the worries raised by existing residents but I can’t see any material reasons to refuse this development.”

Cllr Paul Merry (Lab, Wanstead Park) said: “When it comes down to it, I’m personally in favour of housing homeless people, on the balance of things we have to consider.

“National Government policy basically leaves us no alternative but to consider densification and outer sub-urban development.”

There are nearly 7,500 households on the waiting list for social housing in Redbridge and the average wait for a three-bedroom home is 12 and a half years.

Redbridge Council also recently failed the Government’s Housing Delivery Test after meeting just 59 per cent of its target for new homes over the past three years.

This means planning applications are now subject to “presumption in favour of sustainable development” and the committee has fewer grounds on which it can refuse.

Conservative councillor Paul Canal (Bridge) objected strongly to what he viewed as Cllr Merry’s suggestion that the committee were “victims of Government housing targets”.

He said: “This committee has backed itself into a corner by turning down large developments in the past.

“I think the original scheme (for 30 new homes) was an excellent scheme, which had the backing of local councillors and residents.

“This looks like a series of prison camp blocks on the site. I can’t in good conscience inflict this on residents.”

The committee heard from Louisa Rodwell, a resident on the estate since the 1950s, who said it has “always been a lovely place to live”.

She said: “Residents accept there’s a need for additional housing, which is why no one had objections to the original proposal of 30 new houses.

“We are not going to have green space if this goes ahead, we are going to have blocks on every conceivable piece of land.

“I currently look out over a very large green space… in this design, you have got a couple little areas and narrow streets.”

She added she felt the council had “almost let the estate go to ruin” in the hopes that residents would welcome redevelopment because it would involve much-needed landscaping.

Concerns were also raised that the disruption to the borough’s post caused by COVID-19 may have affected the consultation process.

However, chairwoman Cllr Jyotsna Islam (Lab, Aldborough) said letters had been hand-delivered by officers where necessary to ensure residents were kept informed.

The committee voted almost unanimously to approve the development, with only the two Conservative members – Cllr Canal and Cllr Michael Duffell (South Woodford) – opposing.

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter