Whips Cross Hospital car park plan raises pollution concerns

Plans for a six-storey car park as part of the new Whipps Cross Hospital have added to concerns over air pollution.

The new hospital in Leytonstone, managed by Barts Health NHS Trust, is due to be completed by 2026 and will shrink the current campus, freeing up space for at least 1,500 new homes.

The first set of plans shows where the new homes will be located and details plans for the multi-storey car park, due to open at the end of next year.

More than 1,200 spaces are currently dotted around the site and, while Barts insists the new car park will be more efficient, its future neighbours are worried it will concentrate air pollution near their homes.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, nurse Hannah Johnson said there was “no need” for a 500-space car park next to Peterborough Road to replace the more scattered approach.

She said: “We are not as a community saying we do not want patients or visitors to come here but they do not all have to come to our back garden, it’s a big site.

“They are dumping pollution on people already living here. I currently have around 20 spaces by my house but soon I will have 500.

“Waltham Forest is usually so big on air pollution. I think ultimately the ambition is to maximise the amount of land they can sell for housing.”

Barts currently intends to reduce the total number of parking spaces from 1,211 to 887, building both the 500-space car park and another smaller car park once the hospital is complete.

However, Hannah added that she fears this second car park “won’t go ahead” and is only included in the masterplan to “appease” residents.

Concerns about air pollution in this corner of the hospital site are not new since, in January, residents bordering the strip of land known locally as the “panhandle” complained about plans to use it for construction access.

At a meeting on January 26, the Panhandle Action Community Team (PACT) urged councillors not to allow Barts to open up the land, which runs between the back gardens of two rows of houses.

PACT co-chairman Debbie Walker, who lives in West End Avenue, said: “In the 30 years I’ve lived here, and at least 100 years before that, the panhandle has been here. It’s not an access point but an area of land that has benefited many.

“The plans to use it as an access road for heavy construction vehicles for the next five years has caused a shock and, we believe, is an idea that will seriously affect the quality of life of residents.

“We fully support the council’s efforts to improve our air quality and it seems to us that this proposal flies in the face of those plans.

“It also seems a bit incongruous that residents like me can have a Low Traffic Neighbourhood at the front of the house but can’t have one at the back of it.”

At the meeting, deputy leader Cllr Clyde Loakes said the council would meet with Barts to ask if there were other options to allow construction vehicles onto the site.

Plans submitted by Barts show that the “panhandle” is one of three options being considered, along with West End Avenue itself and James Lane at the junction with Clare Road.

The submitted plans read: “The trust recognises that all construction access options or a combination of will impact residents in some way.

“Planning will be undertaken at a later stage when the contractor is appointed. The contractor will be required to fully consider the implication of construction access.. (and) put in place a series of mitigation measures to reduce the impact.”

The plans also propose to turn the “panhandle”, currently separated from Lea Bridge Road by a car dealership, into a pedestrian and cycle route called Fille Brook Walk.

Barts Health NHS Trust was given the opportunity to respond to concerns around parking and the use of the “panhandle” and declined to do so on record.

The new homes, according to the plans submitted, will be located in the current hospital building, the frontage of which will be preserved.

These new homes are expected to bring “roughly 3,365 people” into the area and put “additional pressure” on GPs, schools and green spaces.

Local GPs can accept roughly another 2,600 patients and it is expected another facility will be built on the site to care for the excess.

It is estimated around 500 school-age children will come to live in the new homes, although the trust believes “there is sufficient school capacity… to absorb this demand”.

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter