Boom or bust? A town ready to make most of new train link
12:00 16 August 2014
It’s been hailed as a catalyst to investment in Redbridge – and the Crossrail factor can already been seen in the borough.
While the new train line is not due to open until 2017, planning applications for homes and hotels in Ilford have begun flooding in.
But could easy access to the city leave it a ghost town?
Mike Crocker, vice-president of the Redbridge Chamber of Commerce, told the Recorder businesses were beginning to realise there could be a negative effect on the town if more is not done to draw people in.
He said: “Already people are realising that while people could be coming into Ilford, they could also be leaving Ilford.
“As good as it will be, it will be taking people out.
“You can see good reasons for having it, but we’ve got to give people something to come to.”
Despite his concerns, Ben Collins, manager of the Ilford Business Improvement District (BID), said there was “no question” Crossrail would bring investment into the town centre and its surrounds.
But he admitted the multi-billion pound line was not going to be a “magic wand” to bring investment into the area.
“Crossrail is happening. I look on it as absolutely positive and a massive opportunity for the town centre and the businesses around it.
“People are going to be looking for more affordable housing and places to stay.
“Once they are here, it’s our job to promote what’s in Ilford and make them stay a little longer.”
Mr Collins dismissed fears easy access to other parts of the city could have a negative effect.
“Of course people can get out to other areas quickly, but they are going to be able to get here quickly as well,” he said.
“If the shoe was on the other foot and we weren’t part of Crossrail, we would probably be up in arms.
“It’s got the potential to completely revitalise and transform what people think of Ilford.
“Even if they have plans to go elsewhere, they will spend a proportion of their time and money in Ilford.”
And he welcomed an influx of plans to build hotels in the town centre.
“It’s all more investment – these businesses don’t just buy these hotels on a whim, they know there’s demand.”
Cllr Helen Coomb, Redbridge’s cabinet member for planning and regeneration, said the council had been focusing on getting funding to transform the gateway to the town – Ilford Station.
“We are putting bids in to TfL to improve the area around the station,” she said.
“People are always going to come to Redbridge because of the good schools and access to the countryside and the city.
“Crossrail is a marvellous thing. It’s going to benefit the people who already commute from Redbridge and shorten their journey.”
Cllr Coomb also welcomed proposals for new hotels in Ilford, bringing in more jobs to the area.
“More hotels are a good thing,” she said. “I’ve already seen more people with their knapsacks, they are going to be spending their money here and the hotels will provide jobs.”
Nick Mann, from Crossrail, said the town had already been identified as one of the stops on the line with significant potential for growth.
“In the short term that means jobs and building opportunities. In the longer term it’s making Ilford a more attractive place for people to stay and people to visit. That’s what better transport links does for an area.
“We are making it easier for people to live in Ilford and get into central London or get to Heathrow, or get to Essex.”
He said the company believed Crossrail would draw people in to stay and work in Ilford, as well as living there, by improving the “perception” of it.
“The better transport links that Crossrail will bring will make it a better place to live and a better place to do business.”