On Tuesday 8th May, Waltham Forest Planning Committee, who voted against a groundswell of public opinion to grant planning permission for the temporary basketball facility on Leyton Marsh, passed London and Quadrant’s unpopular plans for the former Walthamstow Dog Track.
This site of Walthamstow Stadium will now be turned into a high-density, architecturally- insensitive housing development which, with only 20% of social
housing, which is not even close to meeting the council’s own guidelines for developments to have 50% of social housing. Tensions ran high, with nearly 20 speakers eloquently putting their cases against the development, and angrily responding to the dismissive way in which the Labour councillors ignored the issues they raised and once again voted along party lines (4-3) to grant consent.
Members of Save Leyton Marsh who attended the meeting described it as “yet another insult to local democracy” and “another travesty of justice”. Member Claire Weiss, who has lived in the borough for many years described the scene at the meeting as “one of pure theatre” in which “”the script had been well rehearsed and the outcome predetermined” (to anyone who has attended any court cases relating to Leyton Marsh, this has a familiar ring).
Opposition to the London & Quadrant planning application is cross-party and has mass popular support. There were no reasoned responses, or even begrudging respect, from the four councillors to the read-out messages and/or quotations of clear opposition to the proposals from Stella Creasey MP, Iain Duncan Smith MP and the Mayor of London and two other main mayoral candidates.
Waltham Forest Council has set itself outside this groundswell of public, well-informed opinion. Instead, it wants to see five-storey tower blocks squeezed into the Stow site, uncharacteristic for the suburban area, lacking in facilities such as doctors surgeries, dentists, shops, and yet offering bizarre tokens that include the prospect of residents running around a re-designed mini-track in the place of the greyhounds. What an irony.
The Chair having been shamed (on this one procedural point only) to consider a deferment – on grounds that the report from English Heritage was incomplete due to last-minute alteration to the proposals – predictably the Gang of Four hands duly went up again to forestall this.
We can learn a lot from the long experience of Save Our Stow. Their determination and wide-ranging support was admirable.
In addition to the overriding factors of (a) ignoring the strength of local opinion, and (b) the planning applicants’ railroading methods tolerated by the Council officers and committee, a number of key issues common to both Save Our Stow and SLM arguments are emerging, namely:
- loss of recreational amenity
- loss of well-known and loved borough asset
- incorrect interpretation as a purely local issue
- harm to local community
- damage to bio-diversity (the River Ching a tributary of the Lea runs across the Stow site and the original proposal to de-culvert it has been lost, thanks apparently to Environment Agency indifference)
- environmental flooding hazard (the Stow is geographically on the same flood plain as Leyton Marsh).
Save Leyton Marsh have already filed our first judicial review of the decision to grant planning permission for the monstrosity on our marsh.
We hope that this unpopular decision will also be reviewed and look forward to working with other local groups to represent our community and hold the Gang of Four responsible for their poor decisions which are adversely affecting people in the area.