Council leaders unanimously backed adding 40 homes to a library site despite warnings it could harm a “quaint, semi-rural area”.

Waltham Forest Council hopes to use profits from the new homes at Chingford Library to almost entirely fund the revamp of the library and adjoining Assembly Hall.

Cllr Simon Miller, who is responsible for economic growth and housing development, told a cabinet meeting today that concerns the project would be a high-rise were “a nonsense”.

The cabinet heard objections from residents and Cllr Emma Best (Con, Endlebury) before giving the project unanimous approval.

Louise Morris, who has lived in Chingford for more than 40 years, said: “I cannot help but feel saddened by this proposal.

“I understand the need to implement changes and I embrace them. However, the changes must benefit all residents and be in keeping with the local community it serves.

“I urge you to rethink this matter and consult all Chingford residents, as we are the people who will have to live with all the decisions you make.”

Out of the total 40 homes, 12 will be available for affordable rent while eight will be “shared ownership”.

Ms Morris questioned whether the building would fit in with the surrounding area and how the extra residents would affect access to GPs and schools.

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Cllr Emma Best queried the number of homes planned, telling the cabinet: “We are talking about substantial growth on what the site already is, at least doubling the size.

“Are we going to make sure the homes are truly affordable and not 50 per cent shared ownership, which in my experience is not a help to many on modest wages?”

She also worried how financial uncertainty caused by coronavirus would affect the project, adding: “We may lead ourselves down into a rabbit hole where 40 units has to turn into 50 or 50 plus units in order to make the project viable.”

Her suggestion that the council form a 'North Chingford Community Board' with councillors, community leaders and residents to shape the area’s regeneration was not responded to directly in the meeting.

Building on the new 'Chingford Hub' is expected to start in the middle of next year and finish in mid-2023.

The library, which is used by around 12,000 people a month, will remain open in a temporary location throughout.

Cllr Miller said: “The plans for the redevelopment of Chingford Library and Assembly Hall are to create a new cultural hub for the area including a fully accessible modern library and café with a community and events space that better meets the needs of small and large events alike.

“The 40 new homes for local people does not require a high rise building with the new development likely to be four storeys and has a target of 50 per cent being affordable homes. The sale of the homes would pay a significant amount of the cost of the new facilities with the Council paying an additional £617,000 for fitting out the new library and community space.

“The current buildings are not accessible for people with disabilities as they have no lifts, they are expensive to maintain and heat and do not meet the needs of local residents and community groups.

“The dedicated library space will be at least the same size as the current library space, but the updated modern design will make it easier for all members of the community to access and enjoy these essential community facilities.

“Engagement with local people will take place before any final decision is made and if planning permission were granted we would be looking to setup a panel of local residents to help us decide on the use and design of the cultural hub.

“ I can assure residents that temporary library facilities would be created during any build programme ensuring that Chingford would continue to have library services throughout.

“As the site is located within Chingford Green Conservation Area any development would need to preserve and enhance the character of the conservation area."