Ilford tower development approved

Plans for a 29-storey development in Ilford town centre – including the demolition of a supermarket, probation centre, car park and gym – have won planning permission.

Montreaux Ilford Developments plans to build 627 homes on Ilford Retail Park, just five minutes walk from the town hall, and a new primary school where the probation centre currently stands.

At a planning committee meeting last night, the probation building’s owner criticised Redbridge Council for taking away his decade-long “investment in the future of Ilford” to “give it to a recently arrived developer”.

However, despite a borough-wide fall in pupil numbers suggesting more primary schools may not be needed for years, committee members unanimously approved the initial “outline” plans.

A lawyer for the centre’s owner, Greg Cooper, said the developer had decided to co-opt his client’s building because it “could not make the school work on their site”.

The meeting of the council’s planning committee on Thursday July 15 was told: “All my client asks is to be treated fairly at every stage of the process.

“He would redevelop when the lease allows him to do so or even sell it, if the council replaced it with an equivalent investment.

“For ten years, my client has had an investment in the future of Ilford and, the next minute, you take it away from him and give it to a developer recently arrived in the borough.”

The developer said it had had “extensive conversations” with the building’s owner over the last two years but said the dispute was “not a planning consideration”.

They added that they had discussed acquiring the land through the council’s Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) powers if necessary, “essentially safeguarding that land for a school”.

The council’s education department is currently advising the Department of Education to halt plans for two new schools in the borough, as decreasing class sizes threaten existing schools’ finances.

The site is less than five minutes walk away from Winston Way Primary School but officers insisted the new school “may be delivered later… dependent on the demand for school places”.

Committee member Gurdial Bhamra, who had the most reservations about the scheme, said he was concerned by plans to put the school’s play area on the roof because of space limitations.

However, the council’s head of planning Brett Leahy insisted this was appropriate for an “urban school”, which had “been designed in collaboration with those specialised in school design”.

The committee also received an objection from Capital Industrial LLP, owner of the neighbouring Redbridge Enterprise Centre, which fears clashes between businesses and future residents.

Their representative wrote: “Block D, located immediately overlooking a fully operational service yard, with no attempt at any form of separation, will inevitably lead to future conflict.

“The construction and eventual occupation of 627 [homes] and a three-form primary school in part utilising the same access as the REC does not present a plausible strategy and will generate significant conflict.”

However, council officers responding to their objection insisted the site is allocated for housing in the Local Plan, adding: “Current uses on the adjoining site could be replaced in future.”

They also pointed out that the plans submitted are still only at “outline” stage and that “the detailed design can evolve to further address any current concerns.”

Asked by the committee’s vice-chair, Paul Merry, why they were considering outline plans, the developer’s planning consultant explained it was to allow the current details “to be fixed” before more detailed work commenced.

Cranbrook member Varinder Singh-Bola told the rest of the committee that they would “have a really existing scheme on [their] doorstep” once the final plans come through.

He added: “It’s a challenging site… whatever you do, it will always be challenging to try to tick all the boxes and make it worthwhile.

“I’m pleased some of our comments have been taken on board, with regards to having the taller buildings towards the rear of the site.”

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter