In recent years, much speculation has centered on the development of Orpington high street: after being sold in 2019, plans began to form, creating a new vision for the shopping centre located nearby- The Walnuts. Although the company behind the construction proposal claims they will support local small businesses and bring opportunities through its two tower blocks of flats and improvements to existing facilities, locals have not been so supportive. Why is this the case? 

After carrying out various public consultations, the redevelopment team have found that the subjects taking part (the majority being older residents of Orpington) voice concerns for high density changes that will result in the area greatly shifting, as well as environmental factors such as an area of forest being demolished for the space required. In response to this, their plans have slightly altered to appeal to locals- the original idea for a 25-storey tower block of housing has been reduced to 19. In addition, the layout of the newly reconstructed leisure centre and daycare have seen changes: the once two-Storey format was reconsidered and subsequently changed to simply one floor to accommodate all demographics.  

Clarissa Wenborn, an architect on the Walnuts Redevelopment Team, further elaborated on the changes made to initial planning through sustainability. She explains that while solar panels and environmentally friendly insulation will be installed into the new buildings, the project’s housing also contributes to a greener Orpington. As the tower blocks will be developed to an elevated level, it makes more space available for forestation to grow when urban structures are built vertically.  

Despite the team’s changes to their plans and promises to create an ethical environment, a considerable number of Orpington residents are skeptical. An online petition on attempting to boycott the redevelopment has received almost 1,000 signatures, the supporters claiming the scale of the project to be too vast. The representatives of the Orpington Labour Party have also raised concern about the size of the plan, although not directly opposing redevelopment. The consultations that brought many of these challenges forward are reportedly consisting of mainly older people: Wenborn estimates that around 90% of the contributors are over 30. To combat this lack of younger people taking part in the surveys, the Areli team have begun to display their plans in schools across south-east London. Results have shown that the younger generation are more accepting of the plans and are more in favour of the extensive changes on the High Street. 

The development team have expressed their interest in opinions on the plan, being open to suggestions and constructive criticism. Although large-scale buildings have been reduced by a considerable amount, locals still believe that the plans are too dense for the area and would- in the long term- bring more harm than good to Orpington through its overwhelmingly large tower block presence and massive increase in retail store amount.