Developer claims Waltham tower block plans will make a loss

A developer hoping to break Waltham Forest’s record for tall buildings has claimed to councillors that its plans are “loss-making” despite forecasting a profit of about £66million.

NEAT Developments and the world’s largest investment manager BlackRock have submitted a planning application to build eight towers of between 18 to 38 storeys in Uplands Business Park, Blackhorse Lane. The towers are set to contain a total of 1,800 homes between them.

The developer originally proposed that 35 per cent of the homes would meet Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s affordable housing targets, but it is now proposing to cut this down to “at least 20 per cent”.

At a briefing to members of Waltham Forest Council’s planning committee last week, representatives from NEAT told members that new fire safety rules requiring a second staircase have added about £25m to the project’s costs.

NEAT’s director of public sector partnerships Brian Reynolds said: “I think it’s worth saying the scheme at the moment doesn’t make any money at all – in fact it’s loss-making.

“But that’s because we’re in quite extraordinary times and over a long period we don’t expect that to carry on, so we take the commercial view that things will improve.”

A breakdown of the development’s costs and profit recently submitted to the council claims the scheme would lose about £84m from overall construction costs of £936m.

However, the total costs include an assumption that the developer should make a profit of £150m – about 16 per cent more than the cost of building.

This suggests that the development is forecast to make a profit of about £66m.

NEAT and Blackrock have not responded to repeated requests for comment from the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

During the briefing, the council’s planning committee members did not scrutinise figures behind the “loss-making” claim but expressed concern about the affordability of the proposed homes.

Chair Jenny Gray said: “I’m sure everybody is excited about the industrial strategy with creative makers and creators, but everybody is concerned about affordable housing, which I know you have taken on board.

“We recognise that we are a local authority and we have to work in partnership with developers or we wouldn’t get any affordable housing at all.”

Reynolds said: “Our target was 35 per cent, we’re quite happy to do that if it works financially, but at the moment we have no plans to come back with a different offer.”

He added that another challenge to including affordable housing is the “window” for the Mayor’s affordable housing grant funding, which closes in 2026.

The council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for housing and regeneration Ahsan Khan said: “The planning assessment of the application is currently ongoing and has not yet been completed – when this process has been completed it will be carefully considered the same as any other application.”

Cllr Khan claimed he was “unable” to comment further due to the council’s role as a planning authority.

NEAT and Blackrock have submitted an application to replace the existing Uplands Business Park buildings with a new industrial space and a collection of residential buildings.

This includes five residential towers reaching 30 to 38 storeys, three towers at 18 storeys. Six smaller towers up to eleven storeys tall have also been proposed.

A new industrial space would replace the existing buildings in two taller blocks at the northern end of the business park.

A study of the towers’ impact on the local skyline, submitted by NEAT and Blackrock has concluded that although some views would see a “high” impact, the overall effect would be “beneficial”.

Viewing the development from the open space of the reservoirs, the study said the “tonality” of the brickwork and the “articulation” of the buildings would establish a “robust residential character”.

It added: “The illustrative scheme demonstrates how the development specification document and design guidelines could be applied to create a coherent grouping of buildings that create a dynamic skyline through the introduction of varied and higher quality of architecture.”

The Mayor of London, who also has powers over large planning applications, has warned that the proposals are currently “not compliant” with planning rules because Blackhorse Lane is not identified as “suitable” for tall buildings in the Waltham Forest’s current Local Plan.

The council’s last Local Plan has been out-of-date since 2020 but the next plan, which does identify Blackhorse Lane as “suitable” for tall buildings, is yet to win final approval from the government’s planning inspectors.

When approached for comment, a spokesperson for the Mayor said: “We can’t comment on this given that the planning application is yet to be referred to the Mayor for consideration at Stage 2.”

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter