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Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Why the fuss?

Why would anyone be bothered to write a blog about Waltham Forest? It's a small London borough of around 250,000 souls, with some wealthy wards but predominantly it's made up of poorer wards. The Council's website gives a detailed profile of the borough.

This blog grows out of my frustration with the state of planning (public and private) within the borough. The apparent inability of the Council to articulate, in any real sense, a practical, realisable vision for the borough.

If you walk up Hoe Street on the left hand side from Walthamstow Central underground station you'll pass a pub, five or six estate agents, four or five fast food outlets and two Indian restaurants. The other side of the road is mostly estate agents. Where Hoe Street meets the High Street is a large derelict site - where the old arcade used to be. The site is boarded with large photo montages of what the Council sees as an appropriate development for the site.

A site crowned by 18 storey apartment block, with retail space and the possibility of multi-screen cinema.

Much of Walthamstow, and its main shopping thorough fare, is of Victorian/Edwardian build. There is a considerable unity and form
in the terraces that comprise much of the main shopping areas. Very few building are more than three or four storeys high, although many bear witness to the relative poverty of the area - we have no bijoux boutiques or Chelseaque shopping vistas. No, it's mostly small, independent shops - garish plastic neon signs and overful displays.

The main retail area is run down - if anything the range of shops is diminishing, the choice increasingly limited. You only have to look at archive photographs of the town centre to see how much has been lost. And the Council recognises this. It has been something that they have sought to address over the years; and the latest development plan - jointly with the developers St Modwen is their response to this need. Yet after a considerable effort - in terms of analysis and consultation -the final product is something which is no different from any modern retail re-generation in any town centre.

The proposed build bears no relationship to its surroundings - it makes no effort to articulate the prominent domestic build in the area. In this case post modernism is an excuse for lazy planning.

It annoys me that after so many years, so much money - all the Council can come up with is a clone of any modern development. Is their imagination so limited, their ambition so stunted, and their opinion of Walthamstow's inhabitants so mean? Apparently so.

Please visit www.fighttheheight.co.uk to find out more about this disastrous proposal.





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