Plans for 17-storey student tower in Walthamstow angers residents

Mick Ferris
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Neighbours are concerned a planned 17-storey tower in Walthamstow will “plunge them into darkness”.

Proposals have been put forward by student housing developer YourTribe to erect a near 57m-tall block of flats in the residential Brunner Road.

The tower, described by residents living nearby as “monolithic,” would comprise 437 apartments aimed entirely at students.

Myriad concerns have been raised. Kate Butler, an organiser of the ‘Stop the Tower’ campaign, said it would block out daylight from her nearby flat.

Her single-aspect home, which has windows on one side only, will look out directly on the student accommodation.

She said: “I’ll lose a lot of, if not most of my sunlight.

“We bought our flat from the [now defunct] council-owned developer SixtyBricks, which advertised ‘fantastic views over London’.

“That same council is now considering a 17-storey tower, which feels like a betrayal.”

Fellow campaigner Kristina Pringle said it was “appalling” that the developers could put forward plans that would “plunge people into darkness”.

Similar plans for six-storey tall blocks on the site of the St James Health Centre raised identical concerns, but they were nonetheless approved in November 2023.

In response, YourTribe said the Brunner Road development would adhere to the proper standards and was supported by the council’s Local Plan, which was approved in February.

The pre-existing neighbours would meet the BRE requirement of two hours of sunlight per day and the impact would be “minor,” according to a report by the developers.

Residents also believe these specific proposals go against the council’s plan for the area.

Originally, Waltham Forest Council recommended a limit of nine storeys for any building erected in the area.

However, after part one of the Local Plan was approved on 29th February, setting out the need for 27,000 new homes in the borough by 2035, the guidance for St James was revoked.

Under policy 54 of the scheme, anywhere between ten and 17 storeys would be deemed appropriate.

But even if it is appropriate, Ciara Simmons, vice-chairwoman of the Waltham Forest Lib Dems, argued “little consideration” had been given to the infrastructure required to support such an influx of people.

She told the LDRS: “Walthamstow residents are already struggling to get GP appointments or see a local dentist, and many of our local spaces are disappearing in favour of council deals with big developers.”

Despite the objections, the YourTribe spokeswoman said there was a “clear need” for more purpose-built student housing. She added that the area was “ideal” for such a tall building.

According to promotional material, it would be within a 45-minute journey of twelve university campuses in the capital, where 118,000 full-time students are enrolled.

Additionally, there are 16,158 full-time students already living in Waltham Forest, the developer says.

Though it is not directly tied to the launch of University of Portsmouth’s Walthamstow campus in May, it would potentially house some of the 3,000 students expected to be in the borough by 2030.

The spokesperson said the site was “in close proximity to public transport, walking and cycling networks, and local facilities,” and it would involve “significant contributions” to the St James Street Overground station.

She added: “YourTribe is committed to delivering and maintaining bespoke, high-quality, good value student accommodation across London and will continue to work with Waltham Forest Council to provide this for the people of Walthamstow.”

Flats in similar YourTribe developments are leased at more than £1,200 a month.

However, Kristina fears these high prices, which she said would be difficult to afford even on a full-time salary, could price out students living on a tighter budget.

While they appreciate the need for student housing, and say it would be a “great thing” to have more of them in the borough, its opponents would rather see more affordable housing for families.

Joe Harris, who has lived in the area since January 2023, said he would back a mixed-use development similar to Fairlie House, which is made up of council tenants and first-time buyers.

He said: “There are thousands of families on the waiting list and this does nothing for them.

“A giant monolith of luxury student flats isn’t really what the area is crying out for.”

He described the site – 86 Brunner Road – as having “so much potential, adding: “When you walk along the high street and down St James, you don’t think, ‘We really need 600 luxury student flats in a prime development location’.”

A spokesperson for the council said that no decision had yet been made and it would be referred to the planning committee “in due course”.

What the development would look like. (Image: YourTribe)

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