A group of Leyton residents discovered the council planned to have homes built on their car park when a prospective developer showed up to take a look.

The car park off Claude Road was built in the 1960s for terraced houses being built at the same time, which did not have on-street spaces.

Until November, the current residents believed they owned the car park and were shocked to discover the council was offering it as a site for affordable housing.

The council maintains that, following the bankruptcy of the original builder in the 1980s, the homes were sold on or transferred to another housing association without their parking spaces.

A title deed dated June 24, 2019 describes the land as belonging to Waltham Forest Council, which now hopes it will be used to provide much-needed homes for local people.

While residents feel blind-sided and worry about the impact of a construction right outside their doors, one organisation that has bid on the space hopes to reassure them.

'I can lose a parking space, I’m more indignant about it'

Resident Louis Barron said he was shocked to find the council claiming to own the land, given it had for many years refused requests from residents to maintain it.

He added: “They have not told anyone they are selling it. It was hidden on the London City Hall website and we only found out when some people planning to bid on it turned up to have a look.

“It’s quite unpleasant for people, it will suddenly mean their houses are facing a block of flats rather than an open space.

“Personally, I can lose a parking space. I’m more indignant about it. The council’s response has been dismissive but lots of residents remember the parking being built for those houses.”

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Residents Louis Barron, Ewan Macfarlan and Akeil Yousaf were surprised to discover they did not own their parking spacesResidents Louis Barron, Ewan Macfarlan and Akeil Yousaf were surprised to discover they did not own their parking spaces

Residents are less worried about parking than seeing a new building right outside their doors

Akeil Yousaf, who has lived in one of the neighbouring properties since his childhood, added: “The council has been very disrespectful to all of us.

“I have lived here for over 30 years and they never maintained the car park, it has had to be maintained by us.

“The view outside my window or my children’s windows will be gone. I do not know what I’m going to end up seeing there but it won’t be nice for the local community.”

On the London City Hall website, the council stated it wants a community-led housing group to build affordable housing on the site.

Potential new owners 'are local people like they are'

The Local Democracy Reporting Service spoke to one of the groups to bid, Forest Community Land Trust (https://forestclt.franholder.co.uk/), which hopes this will be their flagship development.

Member Chris Carthy explained they proposed to build fewer than 10 homes on the site, probably the same height as the surrounding homes.

He said: “We are sensitive to the people that park their cars there but we really think that, in this housing crisis, there needs to be a better use for small pieces of land like this.

“We are equally sympathetic about the impact any project might have on people nearby, since we are local people like they are.

“We think there could be a modest development there that would safeguard their light and privacy, probably a similar scale to the terraced housing already in the area.”

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Mr Carthy said Forest Community Land Trust, which is entirely volunteer-run, was set up with the aim of building “genuinely affordable homes for local people”.

He explained that anyone who lives or works in the borough can join for £1 and that the current 150 members included both people hoping to live in future projects and those simply interested in having a say.

The Forest Community Land Trust is in the process of developing its allocations policy for future developments but can confirm successful applicants would need to demonstrate a link to the borough and a genuine housing need.

Mr Carthy added: “This is not about developers coming in from the outside and imposing things, it’s a different way of doing development.”

Cllr Simon Miller, responsible for economic growth and high streets, was keen to emphasise that, though the council had invited bids, there were no planning proposals for the car park yet.

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He said: “Before any development was to take place a detailed consultation with local residents would be undertaken.

“We are ambitious in our goal of delivering new, high-quality affordable housing that helps keep young people who have grown up in the borough near their families and support networks.”

Despite the fact that the car park is currently being used with no issue, he added that the council “does not have the resources to repair it to provide free parking for local residents”.

He added: “The cost of maintaining it as a car park will far exceed any income the Council could generate from parking on the site.”

It is understood that the decision to offer the land for community-led housing development was made in March last year.

Residents who previously used the car park would be eligible to apply for on-street parking permits.

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