Walthamstow Town Centre Update: February 2018

A number of residents have used social media to contact me regarding the proposed development for Walthamstow Town Centre - I've been providing regular updates for all those who have emailed me about this issue regarding the information I have received and the questions I have put to the Council. If you are a Walthamstow resident and want to receive these directly please email with your name and address to stella@workingforwalthamstow.org.uk. 

Update to Walthamstow Residents Sent Friday 9th February 2018.
Hello!

I’m writing to you as a resident of Walthamstow who has been in touch with me regarding the proposed redevelopment of the Mall Shopping Centre in our town centre. I apologise that due to the large volume of correspondence I have been receiving recently, on a number of subjects, I have not been able to update you on my discussions with the council on this issue as quickly as I had hoped. 

I hope the below is of interest and I apologise for the length of this email in advance.  It contains the most recent information I have had from the Council, whether I believe this shows the development meets the tests I have set out previously, and an update on the call for the viability assessment for this development to be made public by the local authority.
 
What is Best for Walthamstow: Four Tests 
As you are no doubt aware since my last update, shortly before Christmas the Council gave the proposals for development of this site approval. To proceed, the project now requires the GLA to give their final approval and successful completion of a Section 106 agreement. I do not as yet have any details of the timescale for this next stage. 

At both these stages it is local councillors and the Mayor of London himself who have the formal decision making powers, and as such as your local MP I have no control or veto of this process. However, as you may recall from previous correspondence I have set out a series of tests regarding all local development that I have sought to apply to this proposal and to whether I would consider it to be of benefit to Walthamstow. They are as follows:
 
A)    Does this development deliver the affordable housing our community needs?
 
With over 6,000 people on the housing waiting lists, the majority of residents now living in rented accommodation in Walthamstow and a shortage of properties, Walthamstow needs more housing available at rates which can be afforded by residents without incurring unsustainable debt. With 46% of residents who are in work earning less than the living wage, it is vital that any developments are only given the go ahead in Walthamstow if they have a high percentage of affordable and social housing in them- for rent or purchase.
 
B)    Will this development bring the jobs and investment to our area Walthamstow needs?
 
Whilst unemployment has gone down in Walthamstow over the last few years, wages and skill levels have stayed low. For many travel and childcare costs make working or studying in central London impossible, meaning it is vital to have well paid work and training opportunities in our local area to support our local economy and society. Any new development – in its construction or continuation- must deliver well paid jobs and apprenticeships for local people to help ensure Walthamstow’s residents benefit from it.
 
C)    Will this development be sustainable?
 
At the election I pledged to help support initiatives to make Walthamstow carbon neutral. Sustainable development is both good business sense and vital for our planet. Any development must not only be built in a way to minimise the impact on our environment, and should be carbon neutral in its operation, for instance by maximising the use of renewable and zero carbon energy sources.
 
D)    Will this development support our public services?  
 
With any major development can come investment in supporting services- whether money provided for healthcare and education facilities or for physical and environmental improvements. Our local voluntary and community organisations are struggling to find premises in our community due to the high rental costs of our limited office space too. No development in Walthamstow should stand alone- it has to make an active contribution to supporting the wider provision of services and community services residents require and supporting its impact on our area.
 
The Council Response

In response to these tests, I have now had the following response from the local authority on this matter which I am sharing in full below:

“Thank you for your email.  The planning application for the redevelopment of The Mall was very complex and raised a number of key issues.  As such the officer report to the Council’s Planning Committee ran to nearly 200 pages.  The report set out a thorough analysis of the 4 questions you pose and can be viewed in full via the following link:
 
http://democracy.walthamforest.gov.uk/documents/g4529/Public%20reports%20pack%2013th-Dec-2017%2019.00%20Planning%20Committee.pdf?T=10
 
I have however, provided a high level summary in the following paragraphs.
 
Affordable Housing
The scheme proposes 20% affordable housing which will be shared ownership and all provided on site, which will be secured through the Section 106 Agreement. The Section 106 will also include viability reviews at specified periods during the development process which would aim to increase the amount of affordable housing provided.
 
Jobs and Investment
The proposed application would deliver additional retail, restaurant and leisure uses within the proposed extended Mall shopping centre stimulating further growth and investment within the town centre. The proposals would continue to extend the town centre economy into the evenings with a new food and leisure offer. The new high quality public realm would also provide a flexible events space within the town square, which in conjunction with the future plans to remodel the market, would facilitate the formation of a multi-cultural and inclusive programme of events, such as outdoor cinema, theatre, music, street performance and farmers markets, bringing further activity to the town square.
 
The scheme would future proof the expansion capabilities of Walthamstow London Underground Tube Station with a contribution of £1.5 million, as agreed with TfL/GLA, to mitigate any impact of the scheme
 
Development of the overall site could sustain in the region of 590 workers per month, generating a significant work source for the existing construction labour force living locally and within the wider region. Once operational phase is achieved, the development could generate in the region of between 240 - 350 Full Time Equivalent jobs within the retail sector.  This is in addition to existing jobs within The Mall as it stands.
 
Sustainable Design Standards
The proposed development has been designed to be sustainable and energy efficient through the use of robust construction materials and various technologies, which are outlined in the submitted energy documents.  The key sustainable elements are as follows:
 
·         The applicant has committed the retail element to achieving a BREEAM rating of ‘Very Good’, with a current predicted score of 60.54%. This is a fair margin of comfort above the minimum 55% requirement for a ‘Very Good’ rating, in accordance with London Plan
 
·         The residential element will be expected to meet energy and water standard equivalent to those under Level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes.
 
·         The applicant has also committed to providing a sufficiently sized energy centre which would serve the development
 
The Section 106 agreement also includes a requirement for a Carbon Offset Fund contribution of an estimated £668k.  This will be reviewed once further details of the outline parts of the submission are known.  This would be used to offset CO2 arising from the residential element of the scheme.
 
Public Services
 
The number of children likely to be living in the proposed development is anticipated to be fairly low given the mix of the units and the quantum of larger family size units being proposed as part of the development. The education department were consulted and they have advised that there would be a sufficient number of school places within the local Walthamstow area to serve the additional child population that would arise due to the scheme. Further to this the WFCCG were also consulted and have advised that there are sufficient doctors’ surgeries within the local area to cater for future residents within The Mall development. In these respects, there would not be a strain on public services.
 
The scheme includes significant improvements to public realm including a scheme to upgrade the current Town Square to provide a more useable, higher quality public space and through the redesign, introduces new and additional facilities and ways of using the space.
 
The maintenance of the new Town Square would be secured through a contribution of £500,000.00 which would be paid by the applicant to the Council who will continue to be responsible for the maintenance of this space.
 
As you are aware the Planning Committee resolved to grant planning permission, but a decision on the application has not yet been made as we are currently finalising the heads of terms for the Section 106 agreement before it is referred to the GLA. 
 
For information, the Council has granted permission for a music venue as part of proposals to redevelop The Standard on Blackhorse Lane.  Although this was not part of the proposals for The Mall, I would anticipate that events in the Town Square and some of the food and drink venues could include provision for live music.
 
I hope this is sufficient to satisfy you that The Mall proposals can be described as good development.”
 
 
Next Steps: Securing Further Detail on these Plans and The Viability Assessment of these Proposals

In the light of this response, I do not consider this information provided by Waltham Forest to show that this development has as yet met the four tests set out above for any development to be considered in the best interests of Walthamstow. I have therefore asked the Council to provide further detail regarding the calculations made by the Education department set out above and also for a copy of the Clinical Commissioning Group response.

To understand what options are open with regard to ensuring this development does meet these tests- and so whether for example in securing a better deal for Walthamstow social housing could be provided as part of this development or we could seek a living wage clause for all employment at this site - I also believe it would be of benefit for residents to be able to access the viability assessments made for this proposal. These assessments provide the financial information on which decisions about this site have been made, and in particular information about what can be built there given the economic constraints the Council and the developers face. I have therefore asked the local Councillors about this and am pleased to report they intend to make this information available to local residents in due course.

I will therefore be in touch with you again when this information is published to ensure that all those interested in this issue are aware of it and that it forms part of the local discussions about this development and whether it is of a nature that will benefit Walthamstow. Although I don’t have any formal role in this process of decision making, I will continue seeking to ensure residents are able to access the information they need to evaluate this development and the options are open to Walthamstow in securing the housing, regeneration and investment our community desperately needs.
 
With kind regards and thanks again for being in touch about this issue, 

Stella