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Decision to build new 'urban village' in Walthamstow made despite vital information only being made available during meeting
A new ‘urban village’ development has been approved despite vital documents not being made available to decision makers until minutes before the decision was due.
An "administrative error' was blamed for the delay in providing members of the council's planning committee with detailed architectural plans for the site in Blackhorse Lane, Walthamstow.
Three committee members raised concerns about the break in protocol, which sees all supporting evidence made available at least seven days beforehand.
Raising concerns with chairman Peter Barnett during the decisive meeting on Tuesday, Cllr Jenny Gray said: “Some members only got the documents tonight, so the committee is making the decision have had 10 to 15 minutes to look at it.”
Cllr Alan Siggers, who was joined by Cllr Roy Berg in expressing dismay at the handling of the application, added: “I’m so depressed by the way this has been put in front of me.”
Cllr Barnett apologised for the “administrative error” but said that a decision had to be made at the meeting.
Developer MacDonald Eagan is set to build more than 500 student flats, almost 500 private rental units and about 1000sqm of office space as part of what the company describes as an “urban village” between the former Standard pub and Hooker’s Road, extending westwards to the reservoir.
Existing buildings will be replaced, except Gnome House, which will be refurbished and turn into a complex including children’s play areas and communal cafe spaces.
Council planners recommended approval of the ambitious scheme and, despite the administrative error, committee members approved the application by six to one.
Anna Alcock, a director of Inky Cuttlefish, a print business based on the existing site, spoke in support of the development.
She said: “This will help Blackhorse Lane to operate as a community centre, somewhere for children to play and have safe access to the marshes.”
Cllr Geraldine Reardon also supported the application and said local residents had been waiting 15 years for a regeneration scheme of this nature and were particularly pleased there would be a new access road to the marshes.
“They are so close to one of the most beautiful locations in London and they can’t get to it,” she said.
Cllr Alan Siggers was the only member to vote against the scheme, claiming too much was being squeezed onto the site.
“I’m really concerned about the sheer volume of units going on this site,” he said.
“The strain this puts on the infrastructure we already have is extraordinary.”
Cllr Siggers and Cllr Liz Phillips also raised concerns about the amount of planned affordable housing, which was set at 19 of the 484 units, with 40 available to buy under a shared ownership scheme.
Cllr Phillips said: “19 is appalling. I just hope they offer us more.”
Chairman Barnett informed the committee that the allocation of affordable housing had been approved by an independent advisor to the council and the developers would reconsider the allocation as the three stages of the build were completed.
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