Waltham Forest Council has come under fire in recent weeks over its decision to grant planning permission to four new tower blocks- the highest standing at 29 storeys - in Walthamstow Town Square.

Just 20 per cent of the 500 flats will be allocated as 'affordable' housing and more than 2,000 people signed a petition calling for the plans to be scrapped.

Cllr Simon Miller, the local authority's portfolio member for economic growth and high streets, has his say on why the development should go ahead:

Walthamstow is at the heart of our borough. 

It has gone through significant change and regeneration over recent years - from improvements to schools, such as Holy Family and Willowfield, a new cinema, Walthamstow Wetlands and the transformation of Lloyd Park - the area is changing rapidly. 

But residents tell us that real problems still persist. Walthamstow Central Station lacks capacity and accessibility, Whipps Cross Hospital needs rebuilding and the Mall shopping centre and nearby children’s playground look tired and no longer reflect Walthamstow’s upbeat and vibrant community and identity. 

Plans to redevelop Walthamstow Mall, approved by Waltham Forest Council Planning Committee in December, have led to an impassioned debate about the benefits of a new shopping centre.

The owners of the Mall, Capital & Regional, have spent three years developing their proposal to provide 8,000 sq m of new retail space, over 500 new homes, create hundreds of permanent retails jobs, a new children’s play area and a radically improved town square, built to the highest standards, with new amenities and planting.

Improving the retail and nightlife offer is key to giving residents the opportunity to spend their social and leisure time in Walthamstow town centre. 

At present, many choose to go further afield which has a damaging effect on our local economy. 

The redeveloped Mall would attract people from across Waltham Forest and beyond, having a positive impact in Walthamstow, drawing in new businesses and giving residents more choice. 

I have heard people’s concerns that the development will not meet our 50 per cent affordable homes quota. 

The council is proud to have the best record in London for affordable housing, delivering 47 per cent over the past three years against a London average of just 26 per cent.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

An artist's impression of the development

But the added cost of keeping both the Mall and our historic market open during the development, and the construction cost of building on top of a Tube line, means this simply isn’t feasible. 

As a council, we are absolutely committed to increasing the number of quality affordable, shared ownership, social and council homes in the borough. 

We understand the detrimental effects the housing crisis has on residents. For instance, together with the GLA we are bringing forward development of the former Webb Factory site in Blackhorse Lane for a development of 330 homes. 

These are 100 per cent genuinely affordable homes marketed at local residents first. We also have ambitious plans to build council homes in the borough and many are currently under construction. 

Unfortunately, we can’t fix the housing crisis alone, but complaining about the Conservative Government’s lack of action isn’t going to get our residents into decent homes or bring the price of housing down.

This is why we are committed to delivering 12,000 new council, social, affordable and private homes in the borough to meet our housing need. 
We will also ensure the infrastructure is in place to give all residents access to the services they need such as schools, GP surgeries and good public transport. 

To illustrate this, Capital & Regional as part of the planning agreement has agreed to make a significant contribution to support a potential upgrade to Walthamstow Central Station that will improve accessibility and ease congestion. 

The redevelopment will be a significant catalyst for the continued regeneration of Waltham Forest.

Great progress has been made in the area in recent years with employment at an all-time high, schools performance improving and average earnings rising higher than the London or national average. 

We have put stringent demands on the developers to ensure that local people get the first opportunity to purchase the affordable homes and secure the long-term jobs a revitalised town centre will create.