Friday, 24 February 2017

Response to Town Centre Exhibition

Having visited the Town Centre exhibition in the Mall  (24th and 25th February) we were very disappointed to see the lack of detail. It was more like the regular update the council has been providing for decades about their plans for the Town Centre. This was the second public consultation by Capital and Regional and was not of the standard we have come to expect. It covered far more than their scheme so why was the council not leading the exhibition? It also lacked any detail of what is proposed which then begs the following questions:

  1. One of the display boards reporting on the last consultation stated “55% indicated overall support”. We petitioned the public and got 2,000 signatures during the summer and we would argue most people that bothered to stop were against it. Because Capital and Regional (C&R) have been sparing with their information most people do not have the information to have an informed view.
  2. Design – C&R state Walthamstow has a “unique character” which is why people want to live here. Their plans will ruin this feeling. There is very little detail available but the design is not compatible with the Victorian nature of the High Street and a 29 storey tower block will be an eyesore as the highest building nearby is 14 storeys. The council’s Design Supplementary Planning Document on tall buildings warns about the “impact and local and strategic views” – there was no information about this impact. The Design policy also states “Impact on microclimate for example wind, sun and reflection”, we know this information will have to be provided when the planning application is submitted but surely they could reveal how much work they have done to cover off these points?
  3. Entrance – because the detail has not been provided it was not entirely clear but it seems the entrance to the shopping centre will be between two 6 storey buildings giving it an unattractive tunnel like feel.
  4. Congestion – the Town Centre and market are already very congested and busy. Creating over 500 homes for a 1,000 more people will just make it far worse.
  5. Construction – we managed to establish there will be 6 tower blocks built over the existing shopping centre one of which will be 29 storeys high. We are not engineers but how do they intend to do the piling work to support these blocks while the shopping centre continues to function? Even if the engineers have come up with some clever way of piling quietly surely parts of the shopping centre will need to be closed while the work is in progress? This will mean serious loss of business for the shopkeepers.
  6. Access to the site – as everyone knows the roads around the Town Centre are clogged with traffic so how will the vital supplies for the building work be brought to site? Drivers are already being told to keep clear of the area while the gyratory system is being rebuilt, will it be necessary to keep people away for even longer which can only have a detrimental effect on the economy of the Town Centre? Shopping Centres are already under threat from online shopping and increase in Business Rates this is likely to be the final nail in the coffin for the Town Centre.
  7. Bus Station – for years there has been talk of improving the bus station but this plan clearly leaves no space to expand the bus station so the overcrowding will just get worse.
  8. Open Space – C&R state there will be “over 2 acres of enhanced public space” but that is a significant reduction as they will be building over a large part of the existing open space which is well used during the summer.
  9. Cafes – the plan shows cafes in front of the old BHS building which will be a good thing as it will bring alive this dead frontage. 
  10. We urge you to demand C&R come back with a proper display to show the detail of what the new scheme will look like in its context, how they propose constructing 6 tower blocks on top of a working shopping centre and what they intend to do to mitigate the traffic disruption accessing the site. This scheme is very expensive and will have marginal benefits to the economy of the Town Centre and will not create a pleasant place to live.

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