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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