Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Arcade: back to the drawing board

At a council meeting last week – and as reported in this week’s Walthamstow Guardian - councillors finally admitted that the Arcade plans are no longer going ahead as planned.

The good news is that we might end up with, say, a swimming pool instead of a Primark. (Although this could turn out to be yet another pipe dream that vanishes when the council takes a long, hard look at its budget.) Meanwhile the bad news is that plans still probably include a tower block built by the same developer, there’s no suggestion of taking this opportunity to genuinely involve the community in the new plans, and the council still seems hell-bent on including a multiplex instead of refurbishing the EMD cinema next door and linking it to the Arcade.

Here’s the Fight The Height statement on what came out of the meeting:

"While we welcome the chance to rethink the Arcade site, Fight The Height still has some major reservations about the council and its plans.

"Firstly, the council is still partnering with St Modwen. Despite changes to the retail part of the plan, it would appear St Modwen are still planning a residential tower block that will be out of keeping the low rise character of Walthamstow and against the recommendations of The Prince's Foundation report on Walthamstow.

"Secondly, the council is still playing its cards way too close to its chest. This should be a vital moment to engage with the community on making the site work and be popular for everyone in Walthamstow. Instead, Cllr Wheeler was forced into admitting changes to the plans only to other councillors at two meetings where the public had no voice (and with no advance notice of the meetings). And there has been absolutely no public dialogue on the changes - just a terse announcement to other councillors.

"Finally, we're disappointed in the entire council - not just Cllr Wheeler - for the level of debate at Tuesday's meeting. Councillors appear mostly concerned in simply getting something, anything on the Arcade site. But most councillors seem to have given up caring what actually will go on - a cinema, a swimming pool, a hotel, a tower block - who cares as long as it gets built seemed to be the general attitude of Tory, Liberal and Labour councillors alike.

"The final resolution councillors voted on merely asked the cabinet to look at 'innovative ways to proceed'. We would much rather the council uses this opportunity to evaluate more carefully what will really work on the site now, and for many years to come; rather than just sign up whatever they can now. After all, what's a year or two more of an empty site after so many years?! A proper solution for the site would genuinely bring regeneration, wouldn't tower over the market and would bring a solution to the EMD/Granada cinema issue, rather than leaving it to rot."

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Tuesday, 16 December 2008


Walthamstow residents have called on the council to lift the veil of secrecy from the town centre development after a similar scheme in Hertfordshire collapsed last week.

St Modwen, London Borough of Waltham Forest Council’s preferred bidder to redevelop the old arcade site on the corner of Hoe Street and the High Street, last week pulled out of a scheme to redevelop Hatfield town centre in Hertfordshire after funding for the project fell through.

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council last week confirmed that plans for a brand new town centre would be scrapped after failing to attract £25m Government funding needed to make the project viable.

Fight The Height’s Barry Coidan said:

“All the economic and financial assumptions that underpinned the Arcade scheme have been shot to pieces. All we ask is that Waltham Forest Council tells its tax payers, in detail, with specifics, how the development of the Arcade site is affected by the current economic environment.”

Residents who have joined together to oppose the town centre development are now asking:
· By what date is St Modwen required to lay the planning application before Council?
· Is there scope for any extension?
· As a result of the current financial downturn are there any significant changes to the original outline proposal?
· If so what?
· If St Modwen withdrew what alternatives do the Council have in mind?
“We think these are reasonable questions,” Barry Coidan continued.
“Our councillors have no excuse for keeping us all in the dark.”
The Arcade site has been empty for a number of years and a previous scheme to build a library on the site fell though after a deal between Waltham Forest Council and developers collapsed.
Hoardings on the site claim that planning permission would be sought in Spring 2008 with work beginning a year later, but so far no application for planning permission has been made to Waltham Forest Council.Fight the Height argue that the planned 18 story tower block is unwanted and out of keeping with the surrounding area, and that current proposals for a huge Primark and multi-screen cinema will put independent traders out of business and destroy any hope of reopening the historic EMD cinema.

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Monday, 8 December 2008

Enough is Enough

On Radio 4s Today Program this morning Councillor Loakes made clear the Councils priorities;

"Its about protecting the quality and the offer of the town centre. ... Enough is Enough"

Hear, hear. We couldn't agree more.

Granted, he was talking about the council's takeaway outlet plan; ' Fastfood Undermining Can Kickstart - Universal Popularity', but nonetheless what is good for the Goose, should also be good for the Arcade Site, the EMD cinema and the Big Screen.

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St Modwen in the firing line

The proposed redevelopment of Hatfield town centre by St Modwen, was called into question at a fractious public meeting last week.

From the council there was;
"We can't produce something which we haven't got funding for."

and from St M we had;
"The project could be smaller than originally planned".
How much smaller was not divulged at the meeting, but if its dependent on the funding they haven't got, then possibly smaller like a cheap Lego model which has seen better days and is missing a quite few pieces.

Still, Hats off to Hatfield Council and St Modwen for standing up to be counted, and shouted at, which is a lot more than Waltham Forest have managed in recent months.

News on our own development is quieter than a hibernating tortoise, in a soundproof box [but with air holes in it], and in the race to wake up and do something useful I know who my money is on.

To read more about the Hatfield meeting go to;

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