Criticism of 'comedy of errors' consultation for Wanstead flat extension plans

The modernist flats in Malcolm Way, Wanstead. Developers want to build an extra flat on each of the

Developers want to build an extra floor on each of the six modernist blocks in Malcolm Way and have submitted five different 'prior approval' planning applications - Credit: Google

Residents are calling for plans to add a floor extension to six blocks in Wanstead to be re-submitted after issues over the consultation process.

Architecture firm Brooks Murray has submitted five different 'prior approval' planning applications to build an extra floor on six blocks in Malcolm Way, which is in the Snaresbrook Conservation Area and would add 20 new flats in total.

Thirty residents who live in the blocks and the street have written an objection letter to Redbridge Council, calling for the application to be re-submitted as a single major application.

They also raised concerns that the consultation was not done correctly.

The residents said consultation letters arrived after it had already started and had a different end date to what was listed on public notices in the area.

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The letters stated the consultation ended on March 31 while the public notice post said it ended on April 10.

Brett Leahy, head of planning at the council, said: “The applications at each block in Malcolm Way are for ‘prior approval’ and are not full planning applications.

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"Under prior approval regulations, after 56 days passes if the application is not assessed against the regulations the applicant will benefit from deemed consent.  As such it is important that consultation periods are adhered to so there is no delay to decision making.

"This ensures that the applications are assessed correctly."

He said the difference in the end dates for the consultation was due to them being produced at different times and the consultation period remains open until the latest date shown.

Cllr Paul Canal (Con, Bridge) described the consultation as a "comedy of errors" and called for the applications to be scrapped and restarted as a major, single application.

He said: "The consultation letters arrived after the consultation started, and the end date on the notices posted around Malcolm Way is different to the the end date in the letters.  

"To add insult to injury, the Redbridge planning website was down for scheduled maintenance on the final day of the consultation."

In 2016 the council rejected similar plans from the same developer to build 20 flats on top of the existing six three-storey high blocks on Malcolm Way.

The developer appealed the decision and the planning inspectorate overturned it and approved the application in April 2017. 

Some residents feel the latest application is being pushed through because of a change in the law which allows applications such as this one to have prior approval.

David James, a resident of Malcolm Way, said: “In 2016 Redbridge Council rejected similar plans for 20 flats in Malcolm Way as they knew the massive, negative impact they would have on our lives.

"This time the council has not consulted many of the residents of our narrow street and planning officers will not even engage with us. Many of us feel that we are being ignored and that planning approval is a done deal.”

Mr Leahy said: "The introduction of upwards extensions to the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) is part of government aims to boost the supply of housing within existing developments and give far greater flexibility for provision of new homes.  These changes were introduced in the Prime Minister’s ‘Build Build Build’ statement in 2020.

"Roof extensions of up to two storeys can now be introduced to a number of different types of building to create additional flats and houses without requiring formal planning permission."

In the objection letter, the residents said: "We cannot understand why these five applications are being considered separately by council staff when they are from the same developer, using the same team of advisers, for the same type of units, in the same street and all being considered at the same time."

Only residents in the six affected blocks and one house which one of the buildings overlooks are believed to have been sent consultation letters.

For the 2016 application, the consultation radius extended to all residents in Malcolm Way and the immediate surrounding area.

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