Mont Rose College flats plan approved as student union asks government to intervene

Gants Hill development plans

The development at the site of the Gants Hill campus of Mont Rose college was approved but the secretary of state is considering calling in the application. - Credit: KO Architects

Plans to build flats on a college car park in Gants Hill have been approved by councillors - but the student union has appealed for government intervention to stop it.

The proposal, which includes a block of 15 flats and an eight-storey commercial building on the car park at Mont Rose College's campus, in Eastern Avenue, was approved by Redbridge Council's planning committee.

Before the application was presented to the committee on Monday, March 22, planning head Brett Leahy said the council had been informed that the office of housing secretary Robert Jenrick was considering whether to call in the application.

Mr Leahy said the council was advised it should proceed with the vote but that a formal decision notice had to wait until a decision on government intervention had been made.

Developers wants to build a five-storey building in Mont Rose College's car park. Picture: Cindy Chen

The development will see the construction of a five-storey block of flats on the current site of the college's car park. - Credit: Archant

If Mr Jenrick decided to call in the application, it would take away control from the local authority.

Legal officer Andrew Swaffer said he did not anticipate the government would proceed, as it did not in the Bodgers and Tesco towers developments - both of which were considered for call in. 

He said: "It is highly, highly unlikely that the secretary of state will consider this application of national importance."

Following the meeting a representative from the student union, which is chaired by Anthony Osigwe, sent an email to councillors confirming they requested Mr Jenrick call in the application and threatened to go to a judicial review in the coming weeks. 

Gants Hill development plans

The first block would see ten office spaces created between Commercial House and Montrose House in Eastern Avenue. - Credit: KO Architects

Cllr Paul Canal (Con, Bridge) issued a motion, which was rejected, to defer the application until the housing secretary made a decision.

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However vice chair Cllr Paul Merry (Lab, Wanstead Park) said it was extremely dangerous to move the discussion outside of the April 28 deadline when a decision was needed. 

Despite a statement by solicitor Tracy Lovejoy, who represented the student union arguing against the plans, the application was finally approved.

Cllr Gurdial Bhamra (Lab, Clayhall) voted against it along with Cllr Canal and Cllr Michael Duffell (Con, South Woodford). 

Cllr Hannah Chaudhry (Lab, Chadwell) abstained but the remaining seven Labour councillors voted in support of the application. 

The main issue in the meeting was about how many disabled students attend the Gants Hill campus, called Mont Rose House, with the student union claiming there were 75.

Council officers refuted that figure and said the college refused to submit an official list to the developer.

Ms Lovejoy said the removal of the car park and the loss of the disabled spaces was "discriminatory and disproportionate."

In a report the applicant submitted, sets of data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed there were 50 students registered with a known disability of any kind in 2019/20 at the college, which is spread across three campuses.

Cllr Merry asked Ms Lovejoy how many students with physical disabilities attended the Mont Rose House site and she claimed there were 15.

He then asked if all 15 of those drove their own cars and required parking but Ms Lovejoy was unable to answer that question.

Cllr Daniel Morgan-Thomas (Lab, Wanstead Village) said: "We are in a very strange position where the objections are coming from a student union and not from the report or the school."

There are 10 spaces available at the college for disabled parking but council officers found that only six of them could be properly used as they are significantly less than the minimum required space to allow wheelchair access.

A number of councillors said they were in favour of the application as the development would exceed affordable housing targets.