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WALTHAMSTOW: Giant tower block plans approved
A GIANT 14-storey tower block which campaigners say will scar Walthamstow for generations to come was given planning permission at a heated meeting tonight.
Councillors narrowly passed the proposals, which also include two eight storey housing blocks, by four votes to three.
Objectors argue that the development, on the Priory Avenue side of Walthamstow Central Station, is ugly, badly designed, intrusive and will also encourage social problems and crime.
But Solum Regeneration argued at the planning committee meeting that the blocks will revitalise the area and provide much-needed housing.
Dozens of residents turned out in force to tonight's hearing at Waltham Forest Town Hall, which was marked by frequent outbursts and heckling from a packed public gallery.
Cabinet member for housing Cllr Marie Pye - who was not on the committee but attended as a guest speaker - sparked outrage when she said that residents in Waltham Forest who did not like high rise buildings should "move out and go and live in Surrey".
She said that tower blocks were justified because of the borough's shortage of housing.
And campaigners were also furious at the "betrayal" of local ward councillor Ebony Vincent, who organised a public meeting with residents to discuss the plans last month but who voted with her Labour colleagues in favour of the plans.
But Cllr Vincent said residents she spoke to were split "50/50" over the development and that she was motivated by concerns over the borough's housing shortage.
The meeting heard that the Greater London Authority (GLA) could hold its own hearing into the plans now that the council has reached a verdict on the development due to the significance of its size.
The 14-storey hotel block will be built just 22 metres from the bedroom of Sally Stephens, who is chair of Priory Avenue Residents Association.
She said: "The councillors who voted for it should be ashamed. They voted along party lines and the level of debate was pathetic.
"Our next move is to lobby the GLA and mount a judicial review. The proper procedures were not followed."
Council planning officer Ian Ansell also provoked gasps of astonishment in the public gallery when he said that the biggest advantage of the development was that it resolved the long-running saga of the construction of a pedestrian walkway between Walthamstow Central Station and Queens Road Station.
He said: "The officers' view is that the main positive is the completion of the pedestrian link".
But Peter Hughes, senior development manager at Solum Regeneration, said the biggest boost would be to the local economy.
He said: "It will create a new sense of place that will bring investment into the town centre.
"The hotel alone will bring an extra £1 million in spending every year to local shops and restaurants."
Cllr Jenny Gray said she believed the development would bring lasting benefits to Walthamstow.
She told the meeting: "I believe that the pros do outweigh the cons. I know it's a big change [for Walthamstow] but there's no other tower blocks and something's got to be first".
But opposition councillor Alan Siggers said: "We've spent the last 10 years knocking down tower blocks in Waltham Forest and now we seem to be rebuilding them.
"What concerns me is that with a development like this we are creating tomorrow's poor housing."
Labour councillors also argued that the tower blocks would comprise more than 50 per cent affordable housing.
But objectors say the claim is misleading because that includes accommodation for 'key workers' such as teachers who would not be on any housing waiting lists.
Council officer Mr Ansell also mentioned during the meeting that other developers would be watching its outcome "very closely", raising fears among campaigners that plans for more high rise projects in the borough could now follow.
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