Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Elsewhere, sense prevails...

Farewell to the 1960s, 17-storey Glencairn Tower in Motherwell
Here in Walthamstow, our councillors are still rubberstamping new towerblocks. Up in Scotland they're busy blowing them up! We challenge anyone not to enjoy videos like this one from BBC News.

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Friday, 18 November 2011

Walthamstow Central tower block, now with even more hotel rooms!

They've just started work on the grim tower block at Walthamstow Central station car park. But news reaches us that they have already filed a new planning application - to increase the number of hotel rooms and change design elements. See the letter below (click on it to read), which rather marvellously they only sent to residents on one side of Priory Avenue!
Details of how to complain are on the letter too - deadline 22nd November.

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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Arcade Site update

The council has now inked its agreement with Islington and Shoreditch Housing Association (ISHA) to develop the Arcade site. You can see the latest news on their plans here and also download a recent presentation on their ideas.

ISHA and their architects are making all the right noises about working with residents, a good quality development, family and affordable housing, not building enormous tower blocks, etc. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And we haven't seen residents' concerned taken on board yet. So let's hope the delays (they were hoping to file a planning application last month but they're still in talks with the potential cinema operator) give them plenty of time to improve the plans. Wouldn't it be nice to *not* have a fight on our hands just this once?!!!

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Have your say on locally listed buildings

If you care about which local buildings are added to the council's list (or indeed taken off it) then check out this consultation before the deadline of 25 November. Note that while the dog track and a couple of other important local buildings are being taken off the list, that's apparently because they are now listed by English Heritage which gives them more protection than the council's list.

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Tower block work starts

Work is finally underway for what will quite possibly be the ugliest and most depressing tower block in the world, at Walthamstow Central station. We say finally not because we want it there (it does loom a bit in the picture, no?) but because developer Solum swore back in January that they'd start work soon and that it'd be complete in time for the Olympics. We always said that was tosh designed to blackmail the council into rushing through planning permission. And now we're sure of it!

Anyway, we do hope that the real thing is less miserable looking - maybe the person who did the artist's impression was feeling a bit low that day...

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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Council votes to save EMD!

We stand shoulder to shoulder with the council, for once! On Weds the planning committee voted unanimously to refuse planning permission to the UCKG to convert Walthamstow's last working cinema into a church.
For more info on the campaign to save the EMD (formerly Granada) visit Save Walthamstow Cinema - and visit the Waltham Forest Cinema Trust to find out about the viable plans to bring it back into use as a cinema and arts venue!

Finally, many thanks to Tom Scott for this fab video of the jubilant crowds outside the meeting (those of us stuck inside could hear you all and were in no doubt that you were having more fun than us!)

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Thursday, 21 April 2011

Walthamstow 2.0

At last the new Walthamstow town centre masterplan from Gort Scott (yes, yet another masterplan!) has been unveiled and is available online.

First impressions? Largely good ideas but they feel like pipe dreams - funding hasn't been identified so there's a sense that the council will cherry pick a couple of ideas it likes while ignoring the holistic vision.

Also unconvinced that expensive long-term ideas like removing the Hoe Street gyratory system or removing the bus station to make way for more open space will ever happen. So we definitely wouldn't want to see The Mall expand into a large section of the Town Square Gardens if there's no guarantee that we'll get more green space back in return. (And no, getting a poxy triangle of space by Tesco that used to be bus parking doesn't count!) Active frontages to make better use of existing buildings is a great idea though. And the scale of proposed development is generally reasonable, as long as the quality and content is good enough.

Now, who's going to start the "save the Town Square Gardens" campaign?

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Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Save the date, save the cinema!

Join us on Weds 18th May and show the council you care!
It's official: one month till the council decides the fate of our cinema!

Please put the date in your diary NOW. Weds 18th May - meet up 7pm on the Town Hall steps (Forest Road, E17) and then inside for the planning meeting.
Make sure the council planning committee knows you care on the night they decide the future of our beautiful Grade II* listed cinema.

For more info see... www.mcguffin.info




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Monday, 18 April 2011

Consultants "disappointed" with WF Council, join back of the queue!

Consultants Gort Scott were due to unveil the conclusions of their Walthamstow Town Centre masterplanning consultation online by last Friday. Hurrah!

Sadly this morning their blog tells a classic Waltham Forest Council story. We quote: "We had intended to post a summary of the draft masterplan onto this blog  today. However, due to the Borough not having signed-off on the content, they have asked us not to post anything yet. We are disappointed that this is the case and it is unlikely that we will be able to issue material before Tuesday... Apologies on our behalf, we are working to resolve this."

Straight-talking consultants? We like! Look forward to reading their proposals. If they ever get signed off, that is. After all, the council never did publish the conclusions of its "healthy living hub" consultation.

In theory, the results should also be on display at the library from 3pm tomorrow (Tuesday) till 8pm on Thursday 22nd April.

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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Boo to Boris!

Disappointing news... despite all our emails, Boris has decided not to overturn the council's decision to approve the tower blocks for Walthamstow Central station car park. This despite the plans being too tall for the council's policies and CABE saying they should not be approved! And despite Boris having pledged before he was elected to fight this sort of inapproriate development. So it looks like the development is going ahead. Boo!

Meanwhile, this week is your last chance to comment on important Council policy that will shape Walthamstow for years to come. So please send a quick email by Friday! Details below.

Please take 5 mins to email the council

The council is asking for resident's pinions on what we need in Walthamstow town centre, to create an important planning document called the Walthamstow Town Centre Area Action Plan. This will shape local planning decisions for years to come - so basically please email them if you care about the local area!!!
Things you might want to talk about include: the size and shapes of new buildings; what sort of shops, cafes, takeaways, business we need; what happens to the Arcade site, EMD cinema, town square and market; what sort of new housing we need (for instance, should it be highrise) and where (and what should go with it); how to improve safety, traffic and parking problems; how to encourage visitors by day and by night.
There's a PDF file from the council that you can print and fill out but it's appallingly written. So instead you can just answer the quick questions pasted below and then send them by email to planning.policy@walthamforest.gov.uk - subject "Walthamstow AAP" or similar. The deadline's this Friday 25 March... but please do it ASAP so you don't forget!!!
  1. I like the following things most about Walthamstow Town Centre:
  2. I think the main problems in Walthamstow are as follows:
  3. I think the following should be considered as “Top 3 Priorities” for the Walthamstow Town Centre Area Action Plan to address:
  4. I think the following sites should be investigated as part of the Walthamstow Town Centre Area Action Plan:

Add at the bottom: "I would like to comment on LDF documents via the internet." and "I would like to be kept informed of progress on, and have the opportunity to comment on the Walthamstow Town Centre AAP. My contact details are:" And make sure you put on your name, address, telephone number and email address.

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Monday, 21 March 2011

Email Boris one sentence today!

Our idiotic council may have approved the plans to fill Walthamstow Central station car park with tower blocks, but Mayor Boris gets the final say. He's making his decision this Wednesday (23 March). So please email his case officer Emma Williamson at emma.williamson@london.gov.uk with your thoughts before then - today if possible, so it makes it into her written report. Subject: "Planning application 2010/1047, 1-2 Station Approach, Hoe Street E17".

Even a one-sentence email would be great, simply urging the Mayor to reject the application.

If you want to write a couple of sentence, you could also...
  • Remind him that he has pledged to veto tower block plans that don't fit in to the local context (i.e. central Walthamstow's character is largely two- and three-storey, much of it Victorian).
  • And point out that architecture experts CABE recommended that the plans be rejected because the blocks on either side of the station are still too tall to meet the council's own planning policy, and because the architectural quality of the main 14-storey hotel tower block still isn't good enough.
As with all such planning reports, they do take notice of how many emails they receive. The content isn't too important, unless you make new original points. So basically there's no need to write an essay. It would be much more effective to bribe a dozen colleagues from the office to all fire off one sentence emails to Boris too! (And if you 'do' Twitter, Facebook, etc then ask friends to.)

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Monday, 21 February 2011

A personal account of the rave that never was

As one of the people up till the wee hours on Sat night working to protect the EMD, I thought I’d give an account of what happened…

One of our Cleveland Park residents noticed vans going into the Arcade site at 9ish (the rubble car park bit behind the blue hoardings). They seemed to have replaced the gate padlock with their own, they said they were squatters and they put up a fancy legal notice on the gate saying they intended to live there and couldn’t be evicted. Police said they couldn’t do much at that stage.

We contacted the police and also the council and MP. Within half an hour council leader Chris Robbins was here on site marshalling council officers to take action. Shortly after that, the squatters were seen to cut through the big metal fence between the Arcade site and the back of the EMD. It became clear that they intended to occupy the cinema and hold an illegal rave (there was one there in 2003, very soon after the UCKG church took possession of the building).

Stella Creasy, MP arrived soon after and together she and Chris did a great job of getting council officers and police to act fast and smart. Council workers used vans to block the entrances to the Arcade site which meant no more vans could get in. Police manned the front of the cinema and, once they had permission to do so, began stopping more people from entering. The council’s noise team arrived and served a legal notice against loud music.

Ultimately we think the rave was prevented because the squatters failed to get their generator inside so they didn’t have enough power for a sound system. We saw a generator on a van circling the block unable to get in. With no music, it was the rave that never was.

A hell of a lot of people did arrive though – the word having presumably been sent out on Facebook, text, etc – hundreds of people arrived on the last tube and then wondered around aimlessly looking for the party. Some snuck into the building, others wandered around like zombies. The most unfortunate ones got caught in conversation with Stella passionately trying to persuade them all to leave our beautiful Grade II* listed cinema in peace so we can crack on with the business of saving it!

As I understand it, the Arcade site is now secure and just 10-20 squatters remain in the cinema, hopefully leaving soon. I’ll leave it to others (Stella, Bill from McGuffins) who went inside to report on the condition of the cinema. But I believe that – while there was superficial damage like graffiti from this and the 2003 rave – the far more worrying thing was the state of disrepair that the UCKG have let the building get into.

Finally, I can’t praise council leader Cllr Chris Robbins and MP Stella Creasy enough. Our most senior politicians coming along in person definitely spurred the police and council officers into working fast and working smart. It’s clear that, together with great work from police and council officers, we averted a massive rave that would have damaged the cinema more.

Chris has a reputation for being a man of action and Stella has a reputation for being a woman of action. They both earned those reputations on Saturday night by working into the early hours of the morning, in the freezing cold, to protect the cinema. And now we look to them both to work with the community to secure the future of the EMD – to force the UCKG church to repair the cinema and to support plans to restore it as a cinema/arts venue.

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Monday, 24 January 2011

Council consulation – get involved!

Go on Weds - you get to use stickers, woo!
OK, so there’s a new council consultation on Walthamstow town square and the Arcade site taking place online (follow the link and then choose the questionnaire on the left) and also this Wednesday in central Walthamstow (26th Jan – click the link for times and locations).

Except it isn’t. About the town square and the Arcade site, that is. Almost all the questions and ideas relate to how to rejig the town square, gardens and bus stations.

They tinker with stuff at the edges of the Arcade site, but the consultants have clearly been briefed not to sink their teeth into the site proper. Because a housing association is working on a design for a development there as we speak.

The council is making the same mistake as last time, when they spent a fortune on a Prince’s Foundation public consultation on Walthamstow town centre but didn’t let them touch the Arcade site. This is another massive missed opportunity to get the public involved in shaping plans for the site, and a u-turn on council promises.

Anyhoo, do please take part in the consultation. But as well as answering their questions do make your own points about the Arcade site (there’s plenty of opportunity to add comments). And while you’re at it, you may wish to tell them not to include a multiplex but to use the development to support a refurbished EMD cinema.

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Save The Cinema petition

How a refurbished EMD might look
Picture: Paul Lindt
We’re not big on petitions. But as this is the first ever petition to be hosted on the council site, it will be an interesting test of local democracy to see if they listen.  

So… please sign the online petition here to help save the EMD/Granada cinema. It only takes a minute to sign up and do so. And please forward to all your friends!

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Tower block approved :-(

Councillor Pye says "move to Surrey if you don’t like it"

Residents protest outside. Inside we were told to "move to Surrey"!

Bad news Walthamstownians. On Thursday night our council’s planning committee granted planning permission for Solum to build a 14-storey hotel on the south side of Walthamstow Central station, and further blocks of 8 storeys in the station car park, flanking the Victorian station building.

The council predictably voted along party lines, with the four Labour councillors pushing it through.

Solum didn’t win without a fight. The public gallery was full to bursting point. And residents spoke brilliantly – mainly about how council policies on height, design and impact on residents were being broken left, right and centre.

But Solum promised that they’d get the hotel open in time for the Olympics and that the streets would be paved with gold, jobs, etc.

Meanwhile Councillor Marie Pye, cabinet member for housing, spoke very reasonably about the desperate need for family housing… but then very unreasonably about the fact that we should all “move to Surrey” if we didn’t like it, explaining that we live in London and not suburbia, and tall buildings are typical of London.

Ironically, Solum is carpet-bombing similar low-quality, high-rise developments on other stations as we speak. And Epsom (Surrey) and Twickenham (in outer London, and very near Surrey) and both getting the same treatment as us.

So maybe Ms Pye should be the one that moves to Surrey. She can take her tower blocks with her and she can leave us here in low-rise Walthamstow. Where we would love some new family housing. We just don’t believe that tower blocks are the best place to put them.

Oh and we’ll be stunned if the hotel’s built in time for the Olympics!

[Apologies for the late posting of this news, but even activists get ill. There is, quite literally, no justice.]

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Monday, 17 January 2011

Feathers fly in Walthamstow

As you can see from the picture above and video below, Saturday's pillow fight demo was great fun. Thanks for coming!

There are reports online from the Waltham Forest Guardian and Walthamstow Scene.

Enjoy! And hope to see you on Thursday night at the town hall...

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Monday, 10 January 2011

ACT NOW! Pillow fight and meeting to oppose Solum's tower block plans

If you don't want to see tower blocks of up to 14 storeys looming over central Walthamstow then it's time to ACT NOW! Please join us at a pillow fight this Saturday and then at the town hall next Thurs night.

In fact, the planning meeting next Thurs is without a doubt the most important meeting we've ever asked you to attend. If planning permission is granted, it sets a precendent which could see countless more tower blocks green-lighted soon, transforming Walthamstow's low-rise town centre forever.

Details of the action below. Meanwhile a quick precis of what's happening: developers Solum are proposing to stick a hotel and lots of flats in a series of tower blocks on what's currently the car park beside Walthamstow Central station, dwarfing the Victorian buildings. See older stories on this blog for the fact that it's contrary to the council's own design policy and that national experts CABE say it's a poor design that should be refused. (The plans have been slightly revised since - but fanstastically the main tower is now even taller than it was in the original plans!) But noises from the council suggest there's a good chance it will be approved, so please show your opposition.

Pillow fight!
When? Saturday 15th January, it will start sharp at midday when the sign is given (you’ll know it when you hear it) and last just for 5 minutes.
Where? Walthamstow Central railway/tube station - directly outside station entrance on the station approach side (i.e. car park side, where the development is proposed).
Why? If you enjoyed Fight The Height's rotten tomatoes protest you're going to love Stop The Blot's pillow fight! Good family fun, so bring the kids. It's intended to be a peaceful (soft pillows and avoid heads) but powerful statement, a protest and photo opportunity to get media coverage. The pillows symbolise the amount of bed-spaces the hotel and flats will generate. Please bring a pillow (in a shopping bag so it isn't initially seen). Or if you are worried about taking part – come along and hold a sign instead.

Planning committee!
When? Thursday 20th January, meet from 7pm
Where? Meet on the steps of the Town Hall, Forest Road to protest as committee members arrive, then go inside and fill the public gallery for the meeting (7:30pm)
Why? Just seven councillors decide on whether Walthamstow will be dominated by these tower blocks for decades. What's more, if they approve the plans it sets a precedent that could see countless more tower blocks green-lighted soon, transforming our low-rise town centre forever. A massive turn-out for the meeting is essential and might be the only way to convince councillors that they must reject the application.

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Happy new year? Part 2: St James St

Next up are little-publicised plans to build up to eight storeys in St James Street - it's near the station and we think it's on the site that's currently occupied by the health centre.

The development is in two phases. The first (planning application 2010/1635) is for a new health centre with 19 flats on top. The second (outline planning application 2010/1636/OUT) is for another two blocks of flats with shops on the ground floor. Both planning applications are for "four to eight storey buildings".

Four to eight stories makes it sound fairly modest. But bear in mind that it's two or three times the height of the surrounding area. The only equivalent height in central Walthamstow is Tower Mews, opposite Walthamstow Central station (nine stories) and we all know what an ugly sore thumb that is!

Click on the application numbers above for more info. And you can object online here (the site address is 47 St James Street E17 7PJ).

Finally, we got the info from the rather wonderful Planning Alerts website - highly recommended for alerting you to planning applications in your area and making it easier to respond to them online.

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Happy new year? Part 1: Essex Wharf

Welcome to 2011. The year that developers harden their resolve to carpet bomb Walthamstow with high-rise, low-quality developments, and our council resolves to approve them all, declaring "thank you, sir, may I have another?" OK, let's hope we're wrong and the council resists some of them. But the signs are not good...

Last week the council approved plans to build 124 flats, in four blocks up to seven storeys high, on Essex Wharf beside the River Lea, not far from the ice rink. The site is beautiful, overlooking the canal and the Walthamstow Marshes nature reserve (pictured), and wholly surrounded by the Lee Valley park. The plans are totally inappropriate for the location.

The Labour councillors, who have a majority on the planning committee, ignored all objections and voted as a block to approve it. It was clear that the decision had been made before they entered the room. This does not bode well!

As for the fate of Essex Wharf, it is still totally up in the air. On the one hand, the Lee Valley Regional Park authority is asking the Secretary of State to "call in" the plans - and he could overrule the council's decision to grant planning permission. But on the other hand, the developers are currently appealling their original planning application (for 144 flats, in blocks up to nine stories high!) - a public enquiry starting on 18th Jan will decide whether the council was right to refuse permission.

So we might have seven stories. Or nine. Or none. Here's hoping...

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