THE BUILDING of nearly 500 new homes on the site of the former Queen Mary College halls of residence in the heart of South Woodford - has divided opinion since construction first began three years ago.

Concerns were raised over the impact that the predicted 900 new residents of the Queen Mary's Gate development, in the High Road, would have on local services and about the design of the apartment buildings themselves.

Some of the first people to move into the complex in early 2008 complained to the Guardian about faulty lifts, unconnected telephone systems and parking disputes - with residents in the local community also upset by developer Telford Homes' request to use public money to pay for a new piece of art work inside the gated site.

We decided to find out what life is like for residents two years on - with nearly three quarters of its homes now filled.

Nicole Benjamin, 25, said the teething problems that confronted her in 2008 are now a thing of the past.

She said: "There were a few issues with the lifts and with not being connected to the telephone system for a few weeks, which was annoying - but they've all been fixed.

"It's been quite pleasant living here.

"I don't get much noise, and the flats are in a great location for the tube, and the restaurants in George Lane.

"It feels very secure here."

When retired policeman John Macknicki, 62, first moved in, in February 2008, the complex was still a building site.

He said: "It was pretty disappointing to start off with. They were still constructing it.

"Things have definitely improved. If I have a problem and call (Telford's) then they usually respond within 24 hours.

"You can't fault the location in terms of transport and the restaurants and pubs in George Lane. South Woodford has alot to offer.

"Alot of people here are renting so there's quite a high turnover of tenants."

Fellow resident Steve Homes, 43, said he is happy with the quality of the estate - but that there is little sense of community yet.

He said: "The build quality is great and the landscaping is ok.

"My flat's so well insulated I can leave my heating off most of the winter.

"It's hard to get to know your neighbours. You don't really see them.

"There's no community association as far as I know."

Glamour model Danielle Lloyd has since moved off the estate, but still owns a flat there - which she currently rents out.

He mother, Jackie, said: "She's been generally happy with (the flat).

"She's not had any trouble since she began to rent it out."

Barry Van Loen, 65, of nearby Tempus Court in South Woodford High Road, said: "It's too big for the area.

"It is well set back from the road, but five or 600 properties on one site is alot.

"Alot of the people there probably go to and from the Tube to get in and out of town and that's it.

"How many are interested in getting involved in the local community?"

Sheena Ellwood, Sales and Marketing Director at Telford Homes said the development was in an ideal location, with South Woodford offering both a country feel and "urban chic" with its cafe culture.

She said: "The development continues to appeal to many different types of homebuyers, from career-minded singles to new families right through to 'empty-nesters.'

"The level of sales is right on track at present, with prices recovering steadily.

"Towards three quarters of the new community is occupied already, the Affordable Housing is also all completed and occupied.

"We are about to release for sale the final quarter of the open market homes later this month and anticipate continued success from interest to date; this final phase will offer homes ready for occupation from this Autumn through to the end of the year."