Council approves demolition of Victorian house in Wanstead to build block of flats

Councillors have defied the wishes of conservationists and almost 200 people to replace an “attractive” Victorian home with a three-storey block of flats.

Redbridge Council’s planning committee gave permission on March 22 for the construction of nine flats in Sylvan Road, Wanstead, despite an objection from the council’s own conservation officer.

The officer argued the existing house is “a good example” of Victorian architecture and “could be considered a non-designated heritage asset”.

However, a report prepared for the committee by planning officers argued the building’s demolition would be “a low level of loss” as it is not listed or in a conservation area.

The report states: “There is an impact on the street scene from the loss of this non-designated heritage asset, but this is considered to be a low level of loss and acceptable.”

It also notes that Redbridge Council is currently expected to grant permission for all housing schemes unless their adverse impacts “significantly and demonstrably” outweigh their benefits.

This is because the borough failed the Government’s Housing Delivery Test earlier this year, after building less than two thirds of its housing target.

A total of 181 objections were sent to the planning committee, including 22 from Sylvan Road residents, with the remainder from across the borough and London.

Anna Kulakiewicz, 62, who spoke at the meeting, said she was concerned the plans were only debated for 20 minutes, following a two-hour discussion on the Mont Rose College development.

She said: “We thought we had quite a compelling case. (The planned block is) so huge that it’s kind of overwhelming and there’s nothing like it in the street.

“There’s not going to be any green space at all, what they are doing instead is creating a big roof terrace, but do not want to be overlooked.”

She argued the restriction placed on the council after failing the Housing Delivery Test made the entire debate “pointless”, adding that she had “lost faith in local democracy”.

The Victorian Society, a London-based charity that aims to protect Victorian and Edwardian architecture, also objected to the plans.

Conservation adviser Olivia Stockdale said the demolition would not only destroy an attractive building but also “contribute towards the erosion” of the whole street’s character.

She said: “As a large house with sizable rooms, (it) appears eminently suitable for refurbishment, and conversion if necessary.

“Demolition should not be seen as a reasonable solution, especially in light of Redbridge’s deceleration of a climate emergency in 2019.”

A majority of councillors voted to approve the plans, while Cllr Paul Canal (Con, Bridge) and Cllr Michael Duffell (Con, South Woodford) voted against.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter