Waltham tower blocks a threat to area’s character claims historic society

A set of 38-storey towers proposed in Blackhorse Lane – that would become the highest buildings in Waltham Forest – would “destroy the character” of the area, a local historic society has suggested.

Permission for the towers at Uplands Business Park – which would be Waltham Forest’s tallest buildings – is due to be decided by a planning committee on November 22.

In total, the application includes eight residential towers of between 18 to 38 storeys tall in between six other buildings reaching up to eleven storeys.

The site’s owner, hedge fund giant BlackRock, and its partner NEAT Developments say their proposal for 1,800 homes in eight residential towers next to new industrial buildings “harnesses the potential” of the area.

However, the Waltham Forest Civic Society has called the development “appalling” and suggested the designs are “completely out of character” with the rest of Blackhorse Lane.

Speaking for the society, Adrian Stannard said: “It looms over the Lea Valley, dominating the views from the valley – it will destroy the character of Blackhorse Lane.”

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the society’s members also object to the proposals as both the Victoria Line and the North Circular road are already “at capacity” due to other developments in the area.

The council says its masterplan for Blackhorse Lane will ensure any towers are “subject to exceptional design quality” with the impacts on the local skyline “rigorously” tested.

Most of the low-rise industrial estate would be replaced with towering residential buildings, while a new multi-storey industrial building would be added at the northern end of the business park.

This fits in with the council’s strategy to increase housing, employment and infrastructure in certain “transformation” areas by vastly increasing the height of buildings permitted there.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s planning team at the Greater London Authority (GLA), which has a veto over major developments, has warned that the proposed towers are “not suitable” for the industrial neighbourhood.

The GLA planning report said the proposals are currently “not compliant” with Waltham Forest’s own policies because Blackhorse Lane is not identified as “suitable” for tall buildings in the borough’s current Local Plan.

However, the mayor has since declined to comment.

Waltham Forest’s Local Plan – which guides major developments in the borough -has been out-of-date since 2020 but the next plan, which does identify Blackhorse Lane as “suitable” for tall buildings, is yet to be approved by planning inspectors.

Adrian said: “What is the point of a Local Plan if it allows this development?

“The [planning officer] writing the report to the planning committee will recommend approval and the planning committee will approve it.

“What a farce – it is all about monetising council land and nothing about creating sustainable communities.”

NEAT Developments and BlackRock have not responded to repeated requests for comment.

The council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for housing and regeneration Ahsan Khan claimed that that despite the scheduled planning committee meeting next month, assessments of the proposals are still “ongoing”.

He added: “We are unable to comment further at this stage as we are the planning authority.”

When asked whether there is any specific legal reason the council cannot comment on concerns about the towers, its spokesperson did not respond.

A study of the towers’ impact on the local skyline, submitted to Waltham Forest Council by NEAT and BlackRock has concluded that although some views would see a “high” impact, the overall effect would be “beneficial”.

It said this would be thanks to brickwork facades and the “articulation” of the buildings in a “coherent grouping” that would create a “dynamic skyline”.

A council spokesperson described the November 22 committee date as provisional as planning committee meetings are “subject to change”.

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter