Hands off our panhandle, say residents near to Whipps Cross Hospital

Residents living next to Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone are urging the council not to let the NHS use a stretch of open land as an access road while the new hospital is built.

Land known locally as the “panhandle” – where the hospital is the “pan” – runs from Hospital Road until just before Lea Bridge Road, between the back gardens of numerous homes.

The Panhandle Action Community Team (PACT) is concerned Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs Whipps Cross, wants to open up this land to provide access for construction vehicles.

At a meeting of the neighbourhoods scrutiny committee on January 26, PACT members called on councillors not to undo their hard work to improve air quality or create another busy junction on Lea Bridge Road.

PACT co-chairman Debbie Walker, of West End Avenue, said: “In the 30 years I’ve lived here, and at least 100 years before that, the panhandle has been here. It’s not an access point but an area of land that has benefited many.

“The plans to use it as an access road for heavy construction vehicles for the next five years has caused a shock and, we believe, is an idea that will seriously affect the quality of life of residents.

“We fully support the council’s efforts to improve our air quality and it seems to us that this proposal flies in the face of those plans.

“It also seems a bit incongruous that residents like me can have a Low Traffic Neighbourhood at the front of the house but can’t have one at the back of it.

“We do support the aims and ambitions of the redevelopment but this can’t be to the detriment of the health and wellbeing of the residents.”

Fellow co-chairman Andy Crossman quoted the words of council deputy leader and committee member Cllr Clyde Loakes, saying: “It is my hope that everyone will be motivated to improve the air we breathe.”

He said it was “imperative” that deciding the future of the panhandle “should be an inclusive process and not a decision made by developers and then presented to people for their views”.

He added: “It cannot and must not be turned into a road. 140 children and older people will be directly affected by the pollution.”

The panhandle is separated from Lea Bridge Road by a car dealership and a solid fence but extends directly from – and is labelled on Google Maps as – Hospital Road.

Responding at the meeting, Cllr Loakes said: “I hear you loud and clear. Clearly this is going to be a major issue for us going forward for a number of years.

“We need to ensure that we deliver that hospital but, during that time, we also need to ensure that we are not creating tensions in the community.

“We have just invested in changing Lea Bridge Road to a different sort of road, one that prioritises pedestrians and cyclists… we need to continue to ensure that’s a safe route for them.”

He added that he would be meeting with Barts later that week to ask if there was “another way” and would send a full response to PACT at a later date.

It was not possible to reach the car dealership for comment at the time of writing.