Construction is slowing down across the country for a range of reasons, including interest rate rises, higher construction costs and fire safety rules requiring two staircases in new tall buildings.
These changes have impacted many major projects in Waltham Forest, with a Walthamstow development recently halting mid-construction and a developer pulling out of a Leytonstone council estate rebuild.
While some developments – such as The Mall in Walthamstow town centre – appear unaffected by the industry slowdown, other developers have cut costs or increased their project’s size to protect their profits.
In one extreme case, a five-storey block in Chingford has been left untouched for the last three years.
Which developments have been hit the hardest by the construction slowdown?
Late last week, work stopped at the former Homebase site on Forest Road, Walthamstow, now known as Patchworks, where Inland Homes was in the process of building 583 flats.
Administrators at FRP Advisory, who took over Inland Homes on 27th September, have told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) they are carrying out an “orderly” disposal of the company’s assets.
Waltham Forest Council, which has no direct role in the development, says it will work with FRP Advisory and contractors to “ensure a delivery plan is agreed”.
Last month, construction giant Bellway Homes Plans decided to “terminate” its partnership with the council to knock down the 1960s-built Avenue Road Estate in Leytonstone.
Residents of the estate voted overwhelmingly for the rebuild and planning permission was granted earlier this year, but Bellway Homes told the LDRS that market conditions mean the project is “no longer viable”.
Ahsan Khan, deputy leader and cabinet member for housing and regeneration, said Waltham Forest is now “assessing alternative routes” to deliver the scheme.
For the last three years, a half-finished concrete structure of a five-storey residential building has sat exposed to the elements at Rowden Parade, in Chingford Road.
Work on the site started in early 2019, shortly before the three-year planning permission expiry deadline, but came rapidly to a halt the next year.
The unfinished property is now advertised for sale online at £4.5million.
A plot of land in Blackhorse Lane bought by the Greater London Authority (GLA) in 2017 – touted as the first time a London Mayor had bought land – was supposed to be developed into 350 “affordable” homes.
But in June this year, the GLA said the plans were “no longer viable” after both housing associations involved, Swan and Catalyst, ran into difficulties.
Plans changing to keep viable
In recent years several developers have told the council their plans cannot go ahead without increasing the number of homes or the price the council pays for construction.
Marlowe Road and Town Hall
Housebuilder Countryside is Waltham Forest Council’s partner on two major projects, replacing hundreds of homes at Marlowe Road Estate in Wood Street and building more than 400 homes around the town hall on Forest Road.
While the town hall development is reportedly “progressing well and as planned”, Countryside and the council claimed a “viability deficit” meant they needed to increase the number of homes at Marlowe Road last year.
This saw plans for low-rise homes in the final phases of the 448-home redevelopment scrapped in favour of high-rise blocks containing 150 more homes than originally planned.
However, figures obtained by the LDRS suggest that Countryside’s “deficit” was in fact a £14m profit – a ten percent markup on the cost of the overall scheme.
In 2021, developer Taylor Wimpey won a £6.9m discount on the amount it paid for the Score Centre in Leyton, which it is building 750 flats on.
The developer warned the council that “unforeseen costs” meant it might not be able to complete the project, now known as Coronation Square.
Waltham Forest Council agreed to cut the price to £23.5m, although Taylor Wimpey appeared to agree to pay £3m more for community infrastructure, in return.
The LDRS understands that work is “progressing as planned” with 109 flats already completed.
Earlier this year it emerged that profits had evaporated on the council’s 17-storey Juniper House development on Hoe Street.
Work was originally expected to finish in 2021, but construction company Hill Partnerships asked for £1.8m more due to “Covid-19 and other cost increases”.
After what appeared to be a long pause in construction, the council says the residential section of the building is now complete.
Marketing materials branding the building as “Skyline” are offering two-bed flats for sale from £530,000 to £590,000.
Lea Bridge Station
Developer London Square recently asked for permission to add three storeys to 26 and 23-storey towers planned at the junction of Lea Bridge Road and Orient Way.
It said that extra storeys in the towers, being built on council-owned land, are needed to pay for second staircases that are likely to be required in all buildings more than 30metres high.
Extra storeys are also likely to be requested in a cluster of towers that already have planning permission at the former Lea Bridge Gasworks.
A spokesperson for the developer, Berkeley, repeatedly told the LDRS the scheme was going ahead as planned last year, before revealing proposed changes this summer.
The developer said that since gaining planning permission in 2020 viability of the scheme had been impacted by “very high inflation” and “the need for an internal second staircase”.
Construction is ongoing at the council-owned former Wood Street Library site, on the corner of Wood Street and Forest Road, which is also being built by Hill Partnerships.
The council says the 67 homes will be “100 per cent affordable” – about half sold under shared-ownership schemes and half for social rent.
When contacted for comment, Ahsan Khan, deputy leader and cabinet member for housing and regeneration, said: “We are aware of the issues and challenges that are currently facing the construction industry across the UK and we are working with companies with developments in the borough to understand the impact these problems may have locally.
“It is anticipated that most will be able to continue unaffected.
“We have been able to increase the provision of affordable homes in some developments so that more local people have the chance to live locally, close to their friends, families, and support networks.
“Our conversations with developers will also create more employment and training opportunities for residents.
“We will continue to do all we can to ensure the right homes are being built in the right places.”