Architect of Walthamstow families and homes hub reveals plans to segregate rich and poor residents

An architect hoping to build an 11-storey tower on a former library site in Walthamstow says it has to segregate rich and poor tenants to avoid lowering the value of its market-rate flats.

The former Wood Street library, a locally listed building, is currently being demolished to make way for Waltham Forest Council’s ‘families and homes hub’ and 67 new homes, almost half of which are affordable.

The council decided the original 1950s building was in too much disrepair to maintain and built a new Wood Street Library 500 metres down the road, which opened on August 13 last year.

At a briefing for the council’s planning committee on February 16, Cllr Marie Pye (Lab, Leytonstone) questioned why current plans for the block group cheaper flats into a separate part of the building.

The committee heard the cheaper flats – 18 of which will be under half of market rent and 14 of which will be more expensive “shared ownership” homes – will have separate stairs and lifts from the wealthier tenants.

A spokesperson for architect Haworth Tompkins said that not segregating the flats would “add additional risk in terms of marketability”.

They said: “The scheme has challenging viability because we are delivering a new hub, as well as 50 per cent affordable homes… (which) the market units are helping subsidise.

“We have made a tenure-blind residential entrance, but felt that we had to de-risk the scheme and have separate cores.”

Cllr Pye has previously argued passionately that residents need to “live in inclusive communities” and that schemes with a “poor door” are therefore unacceptable.

She asked: “Can I just check that what you are actually saying is there’s a risk people will not pay as much for a property if they have to live next door to somebody in affordable housing?”

The spokesperson confirmed that “there is that risk” and that non-segregated communities do “impact values”.

CGI image of the proposed new families and homes hub

In December last year, the council reassured concerned residents that it does not plan to move its Youth Offending Service (YOS) into the new building.

The new hub will provide space for “a small number of” appointments for young offenders but most will be seen at a “Family Resilience Centre” planned for the south of the borough.

At the time, a council spokesperson said: “The YOS works with children who have come into contact with the justice system and their families so it is sensible to have them at the Hub where support for young people and families is available.”

Young people seen by a YOS may not have been convicted of a crime and the services also run programmes to prevent offending.

Work is meant to start on the new building in October this year, with the aim of finishing by October 2023.

Haworth Tompkins will appear again before the planning committee at an as-yet unknown date to seek final approval for its design.

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter