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Labour-dominated planning committee questioned
The approval of a major development in central Walthamstow has come under criticism today as residents react to the decision.
The planning committee yesterday approved the 34-metre high development in South Grove, which includes a Morrisons supermarket and 250 flats.
There are claims that the Labour-dominated planning committee is undemocratic as voting is done along party lines, rather than on the merits of the application.
Caramel Quin is chairwoman of the Cleveland Park Residents’ Association, which represents around 200 homes near the site.
She was at the planning committee meeting on Tuesday and said the decision did not take into account residents’ interests.
“It was a political decision, not a planning decision and utterly undemocratic,” the 41-year-old said.
Labour councillors Peter Barnett, Karen Bellamy and Jenny Gray voted in favour, as well as Liberal Democrat councillor Elizabeth Phillips, while Conservative councillors Jemma Hemsted and Alan Siggers voted against.
“They voiced concerns about there being no environmental impact assessment and that traffic and retail impact looked like it would be substantial but nothing was done because there’s a Labour majority on the committee,” she added.
“I’m very disappointed. I don’t think the planning committee are fit for purpose because big decisions get rubber stamped along party lines.”
She also said the committee members acknowledged that officer’s reports compiled by the applicant were “quite sketchy”.
In an open letter submitted to council leader Chris Robbins prior to the decision, the residents’ association said surrounding roads could not cope with increased congestion.
Other concerns related to the scale, which the association claims would blight the neighbourhood, and the negative impact on nearby businesses, including Walthamstow market traders.
Jonathan Crossley, of Browns Road in Walthamstow, was also at the meeting and spoke on behalf of ArchitectsE17, a group which aims to promote quality planning in Walthamstow.
He said: "I'm very concerned that approval was granted. This is a completely out of character development that is poorly conceived.
“It is very questionable if it will bring regeneration to the high street or just take footfall from existing businesses, especially when prevailing reports find that town centres require less retail space, not more.
"I am not opposed to tall, elegant, and well designed contemporary buildings, but this is not."
He said the Walthamstow Central 'gateway' site currently under construction was supposed to be singled out as a special site in the town centre for a tall building.
Mr Crossley added: "Most importantly ArchitectsE17 would like Waltham Forest Council to set up its own Design Review Panel, which is common in other boroughs across London, that would assess schemes thoroughly as part of the planning process so that the design of developments is more appropriate and more rigorously considered."
Morrisons said the development would create hundreds of jobs for local residents.
The council is expected to issue a statement tomorrow.
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