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A £190 million Leyton project received planning permission at Waltham Forest’s first live-streamed council meeting last week.
Previously, plans for the Score Centre redevelopment, the council’s largest scheme of this kind, were criticised as “clearly not policy compliant” by one councillor.
The development on Oliver Road will include 750 new homes and an 18-storey tower. Half the new homes will be “affordable” but the majority will be “intermediate” rather than cheaper “social rent”.
Permission was granted for the project in a meeting of the planning committee on March 31, which was live-streamed to the public due to the current lockdown.
‘A virtual planning meeting’
Waltham Forest Council’s planning meeting had four councillors present in the room and many more taking part through Microsoft Teams.
The council was reportedly keen to go ahead with the meeting so as not to delay the Score Centre development.
The four councillors physically present were necessary to allow decisions to be made according to government legislation around council meetings at the time.
Since April 4, the rules have been changed to allow fully remote council meetings to make decisions due to lockdown measures.
The council has yet to respond to questions about whether all meetings, many of which were postponed due to the pandemic, will now go ahead remotely.
Consultant Steve Chambers, who specialises in the built environment and transport, raised concerns about whether virtual meetings will be used to push through controversial plans.
Responding to the news on Twitter yesterday (April 5), he said: “I am deeply concerned these ‘temporary’ crisis measures are going to see a whole load of stuff get through without proper scrutiny.”
Waltham Forest Council has yet to respond to questions about how public participation will work in live-streamed meetings.
‘Clearly not policy compliant’
At a pre-application meeting on March 3, Cllr Marie Pye (Lab, Leytonstone) expressed concern about the ratio of tenures, adding: “Our policy is to put housing at the top of the pecking order.”
She asked what of the planned non-residential improvements, which include GP rooms and a nursery with 138 spaces, would have to be lost for the scheme to offer more social rent homes.
The council’s Strategic Director Economic Growth & Housing Delivery Stewart Murray said: “Each 10 per cent switch (from shared ownership to rent) has £5.5 million hit. So if we switched completely the viability would be in the negative territory.
“To maximise social rent we would have to forego some of that social infrastructure, some of those non-profit-making community elements.”
Conditions placed on the project include restricting the sale of the last 50 private units until all affordable housing has been finished.
Any three-bed “shared ownership” flat which is unsold for a year will also automatically be converted to London Living Rent.