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Redbridge Council will “take the lead” on the long-anticipated redevelopment of Ilford gyratory after rejecting developers it felt were trying to build too densely on the site.
The council hopes to take advantage of Crossrail arriving in 2022 to rebrand Ilford town centre as an “east London gem” and wants to create a new ‘Western Gateway’ to fit with this image.
Councillors at an overview committee meeting on February 10 were excited something would finally be done about the gyratory, which one remarked “just does not work”, after years of fruitless discussion.
The council aims to build 525 new homes in six tower blocks across the area, 263 of which will be affordable, and support more than 500 town centre jobs.
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Farah Hussain (Lab, Valentines) called the scheme “visionary” but added she wished it had happened earlier.
She said: “My frustration with these things is how long they take, we have been hearing for years and years that something big will happen and it always seems to take far too long.”
She said she also worried about areas just outside the scheme, adding: “I’m concerned they are not going to have the same thought being put into them.”
Cllr Ross Hatfull (Lab, Valentines) added: “Everyone knows the gyratory at the moment just does not work, it can take 20 minutes to literally go 50 yards. This should solve all that.
“We can have something that’s a real gateway to Ilford, that we can look at and be proud of, as opposed to some schemes built by developers that I can admit are not right.”
He said he was pleased the council was “taking the lead” and prepared to use compulsory purchase powers to avoid a “piecemeal” development that “may not deliver”.
A compulsory purchase order would allow the council to force the sale of privately-owned pieces of land where it is unable to reach an agreement with the owner.
However, a report prepared for the committee notes this is a last resort, describing the process as “time consuming, resource hungry and costly”.
Current plans for the scheme involve removing the western gyratory circulation and restricting the eastern section of Ilford Hill to bus traffic only.
The roundabout between Winston Way and Ilford Lane would become a signal junction and the underpass underneath the roundabout would be removed.
The council’s regeneration director Matthew Essex explained the project was delayed by the difficulty of finding a developer that shared the council’s green vision for the land.
He said one developer, whom he declined to name, “put forward a design with 700 homes on one site alone”, adding: “That’s one of the reasons we said let’s just do it ourselves.”
The current plan is to enter into a joint venture with a private partner, which the council will begin looking for next month before selecting one in November this year.
A joint venture is a separate legal entity from either the council or their private partner, meaning it will take time to form and faces some of the same risks as an individual company.
However, this option is preferred because the joint venture can take advantage of the council’s powers, such as compulsory purchasing, but also draw from the partner’s financial resources.
Decisions would be made by the joint venture’s governance board, which will be made up of members from the council and from the private partner.
In 2019, Redbridge Council’s cabinet approved the concept scheme and a budget of £1 million to start design work and engagement.
It hopes to see the final planning application for the project submitted in January next year.