Council ready to talk after Leytonstone tower block residents stage parking protest

Tower block residents have won a stand-off against Waltham Forest Council over parking spaces after barricading their car park for six days.

People living in the Fred Wigg and John Walsh tower blocks in Montague Road, Leytonstone, were told they would have to give up their car park to contractors for three years while the buildings were renovated.

They were asked to remove their cars by August 5, despite the fact the council had not found them an alternative place to park.

However, after a group of determined residents blocked off the car park to contractors for six days, the council has agreed to consider their demands.

Residents have asked the council to guarantee them 60 spaces in a “safe and secure” location, to “take action” on securing spaces for the contractors and to provide other storage, such as bike storage, for residents.

The council, which has already reduced the number of spaces from more than 80 to just 18, has agreed not to remove any further spaces until these proposals are considered.

Sonia McKenzie, chair of the Fred Wigg & John Walsh Tenants & Residents Association, said: “We are pleased the council has started to discuss matters with the tenants and look forward to a compromise that will allow tenants the chance to live in a reasonable way.”

Determined tenants turned away council contractors planning to paint double yellow lines in the car park in order to restrict parking.

They say controlled parking zones in the surrounding areas make it almost impossible to park elsewhere as any available spaces fill up quickly

Speaking earlier this month, Helena Asimeng, a 57-year-old who has lived in the blocks since 1995, explained she and other tenants felt left in a “deep lurch” by the decision.

She said: “We have absolutely nowhere to take our cars. Waltham Forest should really try to put themselves in our shoes, we are not asking for anything out of the ordinary.

“I use my car for everything because I have a slight health issue. For shopping, for going to church and, when I’m working, I drive to work.

“There’s a stigma that, if you are in social housing, you can be treated anyhow. We pay rent, we are secure tenants who have been here for many years. I don’t know whether that counts for anything. It looks like it does not.”

Speaking at the start of August, Cllr Louise Mitchell, who is responsible for housing and homelessness prevention, said the council hoped to be able to offer an alternative space from the end of September but that “vitally important” work on the towers could not be delayed.

She said: “The council has reviewed a number of alternative parking options to enable the full range of works required to be completed; unfortunately, none of these have yet proved viable. We have been in contact with resident representatives throughout this process.

“We are hoping to use a nearby area for vehicles that have registered owners living in the towers from the end of September, depending on the outcome of formal consultation with these residents.”

The council did not provide further comment following their agreement to consider residents’ proposals.

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter