Facelift plan for Walthamstow town centre

Walthamstow town centre is set for a £1.79million facelift, in a bid to cement it as an “emerging cultural quarter” when the new EMD theatre opens.

Waltham Forest Council leaders agreed last week to invest in creating a “theatrical promenade” from Walthamstow Central Tube station to the 1,000-seat theatre set to open this spring.

The money will be spent on street lighting to make the area feel safer at night and to create a side-entrance for the theatre and nearby accommodation for performers.

A report presented to council leaders also revealed officers are in “advanced discussion” with the University of Portsmouth – which plans to open a campus in the borough next year – about taking over council-owned Central House in Hoe Street.

Cabinet member for economic prosperity Simon Miller said the agreed investment would enable “a whole series of ambitions” for the area.

He said: “[These include] encouraging footfall and incentivising people to spend time in those areas and to use those shops and residences – a key part of that is how we promote safety and lighting.

“[We will] enhance lighting and wayfinding to make the town centre an even more welcoming place, specifically to ensure there is continuity of appearance and amenity between two centrals areas and the EMD Theatre so the benefits of that investment are felt as widely as possible.”

A 2019 council survey found two thirds of visitors and residents said the town centre was unappealing at night due to concerns about personal safety.

Those surveyed said they were unhappy about “poor signage causing difficulties in orientation and perceived poor levels of street lighting”, which the council hopes to correct.

The EMD Theatre, previously known as the Granada Cinema, is undergoing a £31m revamp, meant to cost less than £20m when it was first agreed in 2019.

It is hoped the venue, which will be run by Soho Theatre, will stimulate £34-52million growth in the local economy over the next ten years.

The nearly £1.8m agreed last week will be used to create a “sequence of stages”, marked by theatrical lighting, banners and artwork, between the Tube station and the theatre.

Other planned improvements include better pedestrian crossings on Hoe Street, a revamp for the clock tower and and a facelift for Cairo Place, opposite the theatre.

The cobbled Hatherley Mews will receive a festoon canopy, a heritage style lantern and a “red carpet” side entrance for performers.

Ten of the eleven flats in the 100-year-old Tramworks, most of which are not currently let, will be converted into commercial spaces, while a remaining unit will become accommodation for performers.

The report adds that the water pipes beneath the cobbles in Hatherley Mews need to be completely replaced, which poses a “significant risk” of disruption due to a Thames Water backlog in work.

It adds: “Temporary measures implemented to try and improve water pressure has not met minimum standards, cannot easily be serviced, and supply has been known to run dry during peak demand.”

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter