Digital approach to consultation leaves many Chingford Mount residents “out of the loop”

Chingford residents furious about plans for their neighbourhood insist a “digital first approach” to consultation is leaving many out of the loop.

Waltham Forest Council is currently consulting Chingford Mount residents about its vision for the area, including which spots will be earmarked for high-rise developments.

Council planners have proposed that Sainsbury’s in Hall Lane, the former South Chingford Library and Iceland on Albert Corner all make way for blocks of up to nine storeys, which would add up to 360 new homes.

Some, like residents Karen and Ian McGill, argue few are aware of the consultation and suggest the council’s focus on gathering comments online is “underhand”.

In addition to inviting comment through its website, the council organised public events on November 24 and December 1 and have distributed leaflets and posters.

Karen told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “All I want is everyone to be aware of what is planned. As long as everyone knows, it’s up to people to have their views.

“The council should let us know in a way that’s easy for people, not leave some old dear trying to find out what’s happening online when she’s going to be overlooked by nine-storey flats.”

Karen and her husband Ian created a Facebook group, ‘Save Chingford Mount from Over-Development’ in early December to raise awareness and distributed 2,000 leaflets at their own expense.

She added: “The leaflet [the council] is sending out only has one link to the framework and nothing on the site allocation so you can see the proper plans.

“It’s just a shambles, everything is underhand and no one wants to tell anyone what’s going on, it just seems so unfair.

“I feel that this whole consultation has been flawed from start to finish and I am extremely upset that the council have been most unhelpful throughout this whole process.”

Jemma Hemsted, a Conservative councillor for Valley ward, described the number of new homes as the main issue she and many others have with the plan.

She said: “It’s far too many homes in that area…If they’re not going to build any more infrastructure in terms of doctors or recreational space and parking, we don’t want to see tower blocks.

“We spent the best part of the 90s knocking down tower blocks because it is not the best way to live, for safety or for health. Why aren’t we learning the lessons from the past?”

When contacted for comment, Cllr Miller said: “The council is keen to get the views of residents to help shape the local plan and area framework for Chingford Mount that will decide where investment may be made and identify where improvements are needed, and so consultations were opened on November 22.

“Following a public engagement event in November, leaflets promoting the consultations were available from 228 Chingford Mount Road and were provided to local councillors.

“To ensure that more residents have a chance to take part the deadline has been extended, with the closing date for submissions pushed back two and half weeks until 31st January.

“The council will produce updated leaflets for distribution in January and these, alongside consultation boards, will be available at South Chingford Library for the public until January 17, when they will be moved to 228 Chingford Mount Road pop-up shop window until the consultations have ended.”

Residents can comment on the Site Allocations for North Waltham Forest Consultation here and the Draft Chingford Mount Town Centre Framework here

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter