Friday, 20 November 2009

Walthamstow Winter Olympic bid on track.

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Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Er, do you own a scanner?!

The Art Trail postcard exhibitions (shown here at the Rose & Crown) were a huge success, generating loads more entries packed with ideas for the Arcade site.
We now have 288 postcards to scan so we can present councillors with the vast array of ideas that residents have to offer. If you have a scanner at home or at work and could help with this then please email us at (if a few of us each scanned 40 postcards - which is 10 A4 scans - it would make light work of it!)

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Thursday, 17 September 2009

Cabinet get another Turkey ready for Christmas

Adrian Stannard [Waltham Forest Civic Society] provides us with a window on the Council Grotto, determined as ever to serve us with the lowest common denominator fare, no matter how inappropriate or unsound.

The Cabinet split along party lines this evening when the Liberals declined to support this report (attached) . The vote 6 Labour to 4 Liberals meant the report was passed and the council will look for a developer for the Arcade site which will include a swimming pool and cinema.
The Scutiny Committee raised 3 issues
1. A feasibility study was needed and a full financial appraisal before the proposals are progressed any further.
2. A feasibility study is needed inorder to assess whether the provision of a swimming pool/leisure centre would fulfil the role of an "anchor" tenant.
3. Any decisions concerning the Arcade site should be delayed until the current contractural agreement with St Modwen's has expired and the conclusions of the Healthy Living Hub exercise are reported to Cabinet in January 2010.

Cllr Sullivan, Chair of Scrutiny, said the council was heading for massive deficits and the Arcade proposals were unaffordable and "damn reckless".

Cllr Wheeler said these points were covered in his report and it was easy to find reasons not to proceed. "We know we have a package that will work". Financial arrangements will work but are "novel". It was necessary to move on otherwise the opportunity is lost.

Cllr Macklin was concerned at the interweaving of the Arcade site and the Pool & Track, whereas sports provision needed to be improved. Work should stop on the Arcade site plans and the council should focus on the other major issues that are looming. Taking the pool away still leaves the track to be managed.

Those in the public gallery gave a resounding support to Cllr Macklin's speech but were silent at the end of Cllr Wheeler.

Adrian Stannard

There have been an unfeasable number of feasability studies done so far, and yet so much of what has reached the planning stage has been utter tosh. It is time to take a step back, ignore the political / election driven imperatives to be seen to be doing something, anything, it doesn't matter what it is, and reconsider the vision for the whole town centre, including the EMD cinema.

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Tuesday, 15 September 2009

“And the wooden spoon goes to…”

................…St Modwen and the Arcade site scheme”.

It’s not all hard slog and protesting for Fight The Height’s foot soldiers. On Sunday 13th September at The Rose and Crown in Hoe Street their hard work was handsomely recognised. In front of an enthusiastic audience, FTH received a special commendation from Capacities Ltd for its ongoing Arcade Site campaign and on hand to receive a framed certificate and a wooden spoon was the group’s secretary, Barry Coidan.

The award ceremony was part of the first Ceausescu Awards run by Capacities Ltd, an educational agency promoting better participation of citizen in the design and management of city amenities. These “bad building prizes” are named after a remark made by Boris Johnson during his 2008 Mayoral campaign in which he accused his opponent of encouraging “Ceausescu – like projects”. Steve Butters, the agency’s director, addressed the audience for a few minutes to explain the agency’s aim and why Waltham Forest Council’s Arcade site scheme would have made Nicolae and Elena proud.

Other shortlisted projects, characterised by oppressive scale, bulldozed planning and architectural hype, included the Peninsula Square in Greenwich, Dalston Square in Hackney, the Aldgate Union Tower in Tower Hamlets and Newham’s Queens Market at Upton Park. Dalston Square won the golden spoon award with Queens Market scooping the silver spoon.

And the fight goes on. Our Council is still pursuing a major development on the Arcade site which would include a substantial tower – albeit financed by the Council Tax payers rather than private speculators. The Arcade site is now paved over: the Council belatedly seeking our views on what should fill the temporary open space. Anyone at the Day of Action in support of the EMD Cinema at the Rose and Crown would have seen the huge response to Fight The Height’s postcard project offering alternative uses for the Arcade site. We’ll happily share Waltham Forest’s residents’ ideas with our Council – if they have a big enough post bag!
If you’re intrigued by the Ceausescu awards and/or Capacities Ltd you can contact them at

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St Modwen Give Back Handers?

It has been scurrilously reported in this Guardian article

and this Telegraph article

that St Modwen, those fine, upstanding, members of the urban development community, protectors of architectural heritage, and bastions of sustainable living, offered bribes to those Phoenix Four scallywags.

I'm sure its just some sort of misunderstanding kind of thing; not so much a bribe as offering money to important officials to help them see complex decisions in a more straightforward and simple way. [So, definitely not a bribe then]

I am sure that when a thorough investigation is done, the reputation of those excellent St Modwen chaps will remain.

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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

How to object to the Cinema plans

Please visit

Or come to the Day Of Action on the 13th! (see below)

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Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The key cinema planning documents

If you only read two of the zillions of documents about the UCKG church's planning application then make it these two:
We're teaming up with McGuffins to draft ideas for objections. We'll post them here soon. The deadline for objections is Monday 14th September.

Read More......

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Last call for postcard exhibition

Our exciting exhibition of ideas for the Arcade site will be at the Changing Room Gallery, Lloyd Park (31 August - 6 September), and as part of the E17 Art Trail at the Rose & Crown pub on Hoe Street (5-13 September).

So please grab a postcard*, fill it in and send it to us to arrive by next Friday, the 28th. Thanks!

Please encourage your children, friends, family and neighbours to take part too, we really do want everyone's ideas. And of course if you want to see the EMD cinema saved, you could propose a development that connects with it...

* You can pick up a postcard from venues including: Ye Olde Rose & Crown Theatre Pub, Waterstones, The Mall information point, Co-operative Bank, Daisy's, Sainsbury's, L'Hirondelle, Second Nature, Hornbeam, Caliente, Penny Fielding's Beautiful Interiors.

Or download one from the "We want YOUR ideas on a postcard!" story below. Or email your details asap to and we can send you a postcard.

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Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Arcade Site - Have Your Say

Follow the link below to the Councils Consultation Questionnaire.

If you want a car park, a pig farm, or a 1 : 2.6 scale model of Uluru then make sure you let the council know. Otherwise we'll have a couple of crummy old fair ground rides, and some new seats for the open-air-drinking club for the next 2 years.

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Thursday, 9 July 2009

It's not all bad news.

Summarising a year of "catastrophic" write downs, Bill Oliver, St Modwen's chief executive admitted "we are at the lowest ebb, [but] we don't think we've reached the bottom."

Whilst it doesn't look likely that St Modwen will actually collapse, The Financial Times noted
"with the property market likely to stay moribund for some time, it is hard to get excited about the prospects for the sector"

An appropriate comment also in relation to the 'car park' which the council have built for us. I am finding it very hard to get excited about the prospects for this sector. However, the Grand Opening is coming up, and it will be fun.
A bouncy castle, face painting and some jugglers in a car park. Yet again Waltham Forest Council striving to get the very best for Walthamstow.

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Friday, 3 July 2009

We want YOUR ideas on a postcard!

What would YOU like to see on the Arcade site in central Walthamstow?

We're asking residents, artists, schoolchildren and architects to send us a postcard with their dreams, visions and ideas for the site, on the corner of High Street and Hoe Street.

Thousands of postcards are being distributed. Grab one at a pub, shop or community centre near you and jot down your ideas. Alternatively, click on the links below to download the postcard, download a bigger picture to work on (entries can be in any form, not just postcards), or download a brief for schools or architects.

You can pick up a postcard from venues including: Ye Olde Rose & Crown Theatre Pub, Waterstones, The Mall information point, Co-operative Bank, Daisy's, Penny Fielding's Beautiful Interiors.

Or email your details to and we can send you a postcard.

We'll be exhibiting entries over the coming months. Our first two exhibitions will be at the Changing Room Gallery, Lloyd Park (31 August - 6 September), and as part of the E17 Art Trail at the Rose & Crown pub on Hoe Street (5-13 September). Details of more exhibitions to come.

Click on the links below for more info...

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Saturday, 27 June 2009

Here we go again

Having been rejected by Hackney Council in 2007 and again by the Secretary of State, following a Planning Inspectorate enquiry, in 2008, the developers have resubmitted plans for the development of the former Lesney Matchbox Works on the River Lea Navigation Canal and Homerton Road. It consists of a 15 storey tower block and two other builds of 12 and 10 storeys.
The Planning Inspectorate report found nothing wrong with the design, bulk or height of the proposed build – rather he said that “In terms solely of design, this could be a development of which the Borough would be proud. ....and would be attractive to behold and would excite and delight.” The SoS’s rejection was because of the housing mix of the proposed development not the height and bulk of the tower blocks.
So why should FtH be interested to this development – which is not in our borough and miles away from the Arcade? The worrying thing is that Hackney Council refused planning permission on the grounds that a tower building would be inappropriate. Yet the Planning Inspectorate found in favour, and praised the design. Ironic since that the proposed tower is only ½ mile away from where the local council tower blocks were blown up 20 years ago – to be replaced by low rise housing.
The Lea Navigation Canal running towards the Limehouse Basin is overwhelmed by high rise, massive developments. They are eyes sores. But somehow, planners don’t get it. They have to meet the dwelling density targets and developers have to jack up their profits. The result is a design famine which is devastating in its effects on the neighbourhood and people sense of place.
And, of course, the Lesney development is a “landmark” project. Under that label, any design can be shoe horned in; no matter how inappropriate.
Even with a sympathetic Council, large tower block schemes are being approved. What’s clear is that the local and wider community has to make it voice heard if we’re to get something in Walthamstow that is not a planning and community disaster.

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Monday, 15 June 2009

Arcade temporary design set in stone

A council regeneration officer has finally clarified what is happening with the Arcade site's temporary use. The design has basically been decided on, and any public consultation will simply be about what uses the resulting triangle of blank space will be put to (see drawing below).

Here's what she had to say:

"Council Officers have investigated alternative surfaces for the Arcade site with the objective of enabling the maximum number of potential temporary uses on the site. As the site may only be in temporary use for 18 months to 2 years the Council is seeking to use the most economical materials and, where possible, those which can be re-used elsewhere once work begins on the long-term project. Soft landscaping would be very expensive if it were to be undertaken to the standard which Walthamstow Town Centre deserves and it would not enable the variety of interim uses the Council would like to offer the community. The existing town square and gardens are in close proximity to the site.

"The consultation with the public will be on uses for the site and not the design of the site. There will be planters on the site to add foilage and colour to the scheme. There could be a play facility on the site as it is possible to lay a temporary safety surface."

Hmm, we wonder if "public consultation" on the long-term use of the site will be just allow us to say what uses we think the £35m swimming pool should be put to...

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Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Arcade planning application

It's a classic council move...

They have announced a public consultation on what the temporary use of the Arcade should be.

Pox pops in this week's WFM magazine all say it should be a park.

And yet the council has already filed a planning application to cover a big triangular section of the site with a hard surface, prior to consultation, but pretty much precluding any possibility of it being a park.

Not got time to see the planning application yourself? Click on the picture above to see for yourself. The good news is they're ruling out car parking. The triangle of land, with a couple of trees reinstated on Hoe Street near the bus stops, will back onto a 2.4m high hoarding that fences off the wasteground behind houses on Cleveland Park Avenue.

If you want to object, the application is number 2009/0669/LA and you can send objections to Development Management Group, LBWF, Sycamore House, Forest Road, London E17 4JF by 29 June 2009.

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Saturday, 30 May 2009

AGT - Arcade's Got Talent

And so the Arcade Show goes on. Bulldozers are due on-site on Monday to level the area, in to prepare the ground for a temporary public space.

There are a number of contenders bidding to become an alternative to the 'tower-block-cinema-hotel-swimming-pool fiasco'. Although there is a commitment to involve the public, it is unclear at what stage this will be. Let's hope we don't have to spend weeks watching a panel of the vacuous and the unhinged, select our choices for us.

It's good to see the council responding to public pressure, and planning to make use of the space, but it is essential that they outline exactly how the decision making process will operate, and make it possible for local residents to actively participate in it.
For more information check out the article below;

Unfortunately the council is still seriously contemplating the 'tower-block-cinema-hotel-swimming-pool-fiasco', and they have applied to consider the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment. For more info see;

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Monday, 27 April 2009

Scrambled or Poached?


Waltham Forest council has been forced to send plans for Walthamstow’s Arcade site back to the drawing board for an astonishing fourth time. The council broke European rules when it changed the way it was funding the plans and yet decided to stick with developer St Modwen. Now the council has admitted the site must be tendered out to developers again.

St Modwen won the contract to develop the Arcade site in 2007, after an earlier scheme failed to get off the ground. The developer was due to buy the site from the council, then privately fund construction. But the recession meant that St Modwen could no longer do this. Instead, in March, the council cabinet voted to stick with St Modwen but use £35 million of public money to fund the scheme. In doing so, the council broke EU procurement rules that say large publicly funded projects must be advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).

The council will now have to put the entire site out to tender to developers again, and plans for the site may change for the fourth time. Originally, the site was to feature a library. Then a Primark, 18-storey tower and cinema. And more recently a tower block, hotel, cinema and swimming pool, to replace the one at Walthamstow Pool & Track.

Fight The Height want the site grassed over and used as a park until market conditions pick up. Meanwhile the council should concentrate efforts on finding a way to return the EMD into use as the local cinema and use a much smaller amount of public money to refurbish the Pool & Track.
After 4 failed attempts to develop the site, surely its about time some heads rolled, the eggy mess is all cleaned up, and someone with a truely sustainable vision for Walthamstow's town centre is given the lead.

For more on this story read the Waltham Forest Guardian's report (and the countless comments on it) and the response from cinema campaigners.

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Saturday, 25 April 2009

Clear as.....


No one is quite sure what it is, what it does or exactly where it is.

However, the upshot from a recent consultant debriefing, is that it might involve some of the land behind the Town Hall, possibly a secondary school, and probably some housing.

The Allotments are safe though.

According to the consultant they are "Sacrosanct".

[I'm thinking salt and pinch-of]

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Thursday, 16 April 2009

Cinema "exhibition" also online

If you can't make it to the consultation (sorry, "exhibition", the UCKG aren't even pretending to consult with us!) then you can also see all the information online and fill in a feedback form. You can find it all at
For details of the exhibition, which ends tomorrow (Friday), see the story below.

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Monday, 6 April 2009

UCKG "consulting" on cinema plans

We just received this letter inviting residents to consult on the UCKG church's new plans for the EMD/Granada cinema (click on the letter above to read it).

Admittedly we are a cynical bunch here at Fight The Height. But... in what way really will this be a consultation? If we all turn up and say we'd prefer it to be a cinema, will they back off and sell the building to a more suitable owner? If we point out there's no parking to handle the crowds they'll attract on a Sunday, what will they honestly do about it? Will we in fact have any say in the plans at all? We doubt it, even though the letter says "the feedback we receive will be considered carefully and taken into account as far as possible before we finalise our planning application".

That said, do trot along to the consultation on the 16th and 17th if you can. The UCKG's proposal is rumoured to include a small performance/cinema space upstairs that'd be available for hire by other community groups. So why not take along a list of your favourite plays and films (especially the ones featuring sacrilegeous themes such as homosexuality, adultery, etc) and check that the space will be run independently and without censorship from the church. Again, we doubt it.

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"Healthy Living Hub" consultation

The council’s plans for the Arcade site have changed as developer St Modwen couldn't persuade Primark and the like to take on retail outlets in a recession.

Instead the council has decided to go ahead with the scheme but with a swimming pool as the key attraction rather than retail. This will have to be funded by £35 from the council tax payers of Waltham Forest by means of a loan. (Redbridge is trying to do something similar in Ilford by rebuilding Ilford swimming pool for £35m. They have been unable to raise the finance.)

European rules dictate that large investments by public bodies have to be tendered by advertising in the Official Journal of the European Union, OJEU. So why has the council stuck with St Modwen rather than doing so?

Meanwhile, to legitimise this scheme they have employed one of the largest consultancy firms in the UK, namely Building Design Partnerships (BDP Ltd), to carry out a Healthy Living Hub survey on the land stretching from behind the Town Hall, including the Monoux College land.

No, we don't know what a Healthy Living Hub is either. But it sounds like it might be a land grab - the precursor to designating the land as suitable for a major development, perhaps to help pay for the council's Arcade plans.

Get involved by attending the consultation process and contacting your councillors. The Tories are calling for a special meeting of the council in May to try and stop this cabinet process before too much of our money is wasted.

To book an hour slot to speak to BDP on either 22nd or 23rd April and express your views about the land behind the Town Hall contact Andy Watson 020 7812 8373.

Questions you may wish to ask include:

  1. Have any decisions already been taken or proposals made regarding the development of these sites?

  2. Who is involved in the consultation process?

  3. What weight will the findings of the consultation be given in the decision-making process?

  4. What is the timescale for the Masterplan and will it be published by the council?

  5. Will all the unedited consultation responses be made available to the public?

  6. Will the full council be allowed to vote on the proposals or will it only be cabinet members?

  7. Will the land be sold even if the market is at rock bottom?

  8. What happens to the plans if the council can’t raise £35m?

  9. What is safeguarded – are the allotments up for sale, the land around the Monoux building etc?

  10. How will the athletics track operate if the swimming pool is closed?

  11. Will the pool be guaranteed to be kept open until the new one is up and running?

  12. What the hell is a Healthy Living Hub anyway? (especially if they're removing the sports facilities from the land...)

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Friday, 3 April 2009

St Modwen chairman: “Council asked us for tower”

Sir Anthony Glossop, chairman of St Modwen, told Fight The Height campaigners that “[Waltham Forest] council asked us for a tower… they wanted something that would put Walthamstow on the map”. He added that he would personally prefer something more in keeping with the surrounding area, but that tower blocks had been the done thing when Ken Livingstone was Mayor of London.

We’d long suspected that the council had driven the high-rise plans, but this was the first time anyone involved had admitted it. The revelation came when the affable Sir Anthony came over to chat to us after St Modwen’s AGM in Longbridge. During the meeting, campaigners had challenged him on St Modwen’s unpopular tower block plans in both Walthamstow and nearby Upton Park. And beforehand we had handed shareholders joint flyers for Fight The Height and Friends of Queen's Market.

Other highlights of the meeting included the lack of dividends - although directors still enjoyed their fat salaries and pensions - and Sir Anthony describing the property market being worse than anything he’d ever seen.

A comedic note came from a local Longbridge resident asking whether or not the supermarket due to be built there would be an Asda. Here we go again, Sir Anthony must have thought (the supermarket famously pulled out of Queen's Market after a FoQM campaign) only to discover that she specifically wanted an Asda. Not any other supermarket but specifically an Asda. Sir Anthony suggested she could have the one that East Londoners didn’t want. As corporate AGMs go, it was hilarious. OK, you probably had to be there…

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Monday, 30 March 2009

All those in favour........

Over 300 people turned out on Sunday at a public meeting in support of the EMD. It was good natured and informative event. Time and again members of the local community spoke passionately about the value of the EMD to Walthamstow as a cinema, and their fears about any scheme in which the UCKG proposed to share a small portion of it.

Notable highlights included;
  • The transparently vacuous and nonsensical excuses given by the UCKG for not attending the public meeting

  • Councillor Macklin's forthright condemnation of the Council's decisions throughout the EMD and Arcade saga, followed by the recollection [by other people] that he was party to those decisions and didn't ever oppose them.

  • Councillor Wheeler's rambling riposte, in which he appeared to support pretty much everyone, especially if they want a swimming pool in the town centre and a running track in the sky above it.

The meeting concluded with votes on 4 key issues;

  1. Would the community prefer a revived EMD to a new multiplex - 100% in favour

  2. Do the community wish to proceed with the UCKG plan for shared use - 100% against

  3. Should the council pursue a Compulsory Purchase Order, and take control of the EMD building - 100% in favour

  4. Should the council agree a land swap with the UCKG; exchanging the EMD for facilities elsewhere - 90% in favour and 10% against

Read More......

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Barmy £35m plan for Arcade site... please send a quick email TODAY!

The council's latest barmy decision is to plough £35m of public money into a new Arcade scheme including a swimming pool. See this story in the Walthamstow Guardian... including many comments from frustrated residents!

While we prefer a pool to a Primark, the decision to stick with developer St Modwen means the unpopular tower block design will probably change very little. Especially as the council seeks to recoup its (read: our) money by flogging off flats. The council's even going to fund St Modwen to the tune of £500,000 to develop the plans. So yet again tonnes of money are being poured into a scheme in which the developer can't lose - but we, the public, will lose out no matter whether the plans go ahead or not. Also the council finding £35m to bail out its tower block plans undermines its claims that it can't find the monet to help save the EMD cinema.

We think the council should instead genuinely go back to the drawing board, without being tied to a developer, genuinely consult residents about what we want, and consider the fates of the Arcade site and the EMD together.

Anyway, the council cabinet made the decision last night to go ahead with this barmy plan, but was split along party lines. If four local councillors insist on it, the decision can be called in to full council next week for debate - and that would see a good chance of it being overturned. Or any five local councillors could ask the mayor to call an extraordinary council meeting. Both of these options could see the decision sent back to cabinet for reconsideration.

So... please fire off a quick email TODAY to your local councillors - visit this council web page to find out who they are - simply asking them to please call the Arcade site decision in to full council. This will be particularly effective if your councillors are either Lib Dem or Conservative (the Labour guys were in favour of the plan).

Oh and please do email your councillors. Don't just assume someone else's councillors will do the job! These guys care about votes - so the more emails they receive, the more chance of them calling it in, and the more chance of the decision being overturned.

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Monday, 23 March 2009

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Arcade News

The WF Cabinet are soon to decide if, and how, they will press on with the Arcade development. Presently they are planning to move Pool and Track [but not the Track part] onto the Arcade site. For the detailed report follow;

Our concern major concern is that they still hope to recoup 30-40% (i.e. £10-14m) of the budget through the residential units, and if so then - you guessed it - we're talking another unpopular tower block plan!

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Friday, 6 February 2009

Council U-Turn on EMD

The deal being done behind closed doors between the UCKG and Waltham Forest Council is finally out in the open, and sadly, but unsurprisingly, the best interests of the local community have been sold up the river.

The "new" proposals are for the venue’s main auditorium (Cinema 1) to be used exclusively as a church, while some [small and inaccessible] remaining space may be adapted to create a 250-seat venue, which UCKG claims could be used to provide facilities for conferences, cinema, theatre and meetings. Alongside this, the adjoining carpet shop and Victoria pub would be closed and converted into UCKG ‘training rooms’ and ‘youth centre’.

We say "new", because to all intents and purposes this is exactly the same proposal which the council once deemed to be both "inappropriate and unviable with regard to the needs of the local community".

What has changed? Well, in the intervening years the UCKG have allowed the building to crumble to such an extent that it became Category A on English Heritage's At-Risk Register, English Heritage leant on the council, and demanded that they address the degenerating state of their Grade II* listed cinema. And now, forced to face-up to the difficult issues that the EMD presents, the council look likely to take the line of least resistance, and cave-in to the UCKG.

Of even greater concern than the wholly inequitable division of the EMD between the church and the community, is the precedent which the UCKG have already set in similar community "share" schemes. For more detailed information follow the links from the McGuffin EMD article at but in short, a few years ago the UCKG persuaded Lewisham council that their proposed church in Catford would share its space with an independent cinema and community centre. However, once planning was agreed the UCKG made sharing all but impossible, and with that the cinema and community centre dissolved, leaving the UCKG with the whole space.

Nice work!

With the Arcade development going down the pan, this is surely the council’s opportunity to stand up and be counted, take a lead in regenerating the town centre and successfully develop something for everyone in Walthamstow.

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