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Plans to build two homes on Leytonstone garage land were finally approved on Tuesday after seven years of failed applications.
Despite the council’s deputy leader, Cllr Clyde Loakes, urging the planning committee to refuse, members felt unable to do so after the Planning Inspectorate dismissed their previous concerns.
The two land-owners last applied to build two four-bedroom homes on disused garage land behind Browning Road in 2019 but were rejected by the committee.
They appealed to the Planning Inspectorate, which said the development “would be acceptable” if not for the pressure new residents would place on the nearby protected area of Epping Forest.
Planning inspector Dan Szymanski said this extra pressure could be mitigated through a financial contribution and the new plans thus offer £200 towards this end.
Cllr Loakes (Lab, Leytonstone) insisted the planning inspector had “bitterly let down” the council, residents and even the applicant “by creating this strange situation”.
He told committee members: “I still have very significant concerns about this application and don’t understand why it requires two parking spaces.
“It beggars belief that, in this time of climate emergency, we still think properties require parking when they are on main bus routes and near Tube stations – it makes no sense whatsoever.
“We need to be protecting and preserving these backfill sites and allowing wilderness to take over.”
Browning Road residents also appeared before the committee to object to the plans, saying they had been “nothing short of hounded” by years of applications for the site.
Sarah Peston questioned why residents should suffer “for the benefit of two households” and said she was disappointed the applicant “can just buy themselves out” through mitigation.
She added: “Construction vehicles in this narrow and busy location is a recipe for disaster and the lack of direct access means there will likely be issues with fire engine access.”
Another opposing neighbour, Beth, said she was “bewildered” to have to go through the “arduous planning process” again for an “identical application” to that last rejected.
She said: “The applicant has made seemingly no attempt to alter their plan, seemingly confident they can push this through.
“Me and my new baby would be clearly visible in our entire downstairs living space from the first floor on this development.
“This is a quiet garden space, essential for our mental health and physical wellbeing. Please do not let the greed of one ruin life for many.”
While neither landowner spoke at the meeting, planning agent Ben Norton insisted that the new plan “resolved the only issue preventing the planning inspectorate from allowing the appeal”.
He told councillors: “This has been mischaracterised as buying our way out but in fact it’s contributing financially to measures to help protect the area of conservation at Epping Forest.
“These houses are definitely needed in Waltham Forest and, whilst they make a limited contribution, they still offer new housing.”
Responding to concerns about fire engine access, he added that a sprinkler system would give occupants enough time to escape, a view supported by a report from a fire safety company.
After councillors voted to grant planning permission, Cllr Sally Littlejohn (Lab, Cann Hall) said that though “a lot of residents will not be happy”, the committee “do have to take into account” the views of the planning inspectorate.
In his decision last June, planning inspector Dan Szymanski found the development “would be acceptable in respect of its impact” on neighbouring roads and homes.
He wrote: “The provision of two family sized dwellings on the appeal site would provide new residential accommodation in a sustainable location, result in a small temporary economic benefit during construction, and once occupied a small sustained benefit to the local economy.
“There would also be likely to be a minor ecological benefit on the appeal site through management of trees and provision of habitat boxes. These combined benefits attract modest weight in favour of the scheme.”