Redbridge could be forced to sacrifice green belt in housing shortage crisis

GVs of sites earmarked for housing in Redbridge
Five Oaks Lane, Hainault,

GVs of sites earmarked for housing in Redbridge Five Oaks Lane, Hainault, - Credit: Archant

Redbridge’s green belt could be under threat if the borough’s housing crisis is not tackled.

The council has published its new draft local development plan which includes the option of building on sites in Fairlop, Barkingside and Hainault.

The plan lists four strategies, which also include proceeding with the controversial Oakfields playing fields site, building on King George and Goodmayes Hospital land and building up Woodford and Wanstead town centres.

But a residents’ association has branded the green belt proposal a “scare tactic” and vowed to “fight tooth and nail” to protect the borough’s green areas.

The draft preferred options report is due to go before next week’s neighbourhoods and community services committee before being put out to full public consultation.

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Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal said the borough needed to act now to protect itself from unwanted future developments – including those on green belt land.

He said: “If we don’t do anything, we are going to struggle because we leave ourselves open [to developers].

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“Doing nothing is not an option.”

He said the council wanted to show residents all options were open.

“We will not leave any stone unturned,” he added.

The report said without a “credible” up-to-date local plan, developments rejected by Redbridge could still gain permission by appeal.

Cllr Athwal said the borough needed to show it was doing everything it can do meet its housing need.

Currently the target set out in the London plan is 760 new houses a year, set to rise to 1,123 following a review of housing land availability by the Greater London Authority (GLA).

But the figure “falls well short” of the borough’s real need of 2,000 a year.

Last month the Recorder revealed the council had given planning permission for just 440 affordable homes in the past five years – despite its 10-year plan aiming to create 4,525, and a housing waiting list nearing 8,000.

The report said the four strategies were not “mutually exclusive” and could be looked at in tandem.

The Oakfields strategy includes building 800 homes, a new high school and an NHS clinic on the former green belt site, with “significant areas of open recreational space” remaining.

But the future of Old Parkonians football and cricket clubs, which use the site, would be “uncertain”.

In 2010, the site was found by a review to be severed from the rest of the green belt, and it was released for development.

But after huge opposition from residents the council agreed to look at alternative strategies.

Other large sites identified in the report are the areas around Goodmayes and King George hospitals and Ford Sports Ground in Seven Kings.

The third strategy – to build a “north/south growth corridor” – suggests raising building heights and density in town centres between Woodford Broadway and South Woodford District and through Wanstead.

The report said the areas could provide a “significant number of new homes” but were too small for community facilities such as schools.

But it warned their character could be affected, with conservation areas in that part of the borough also at risk.

The fourth strategy in the report said much of the borough’s 2,000ha of green belt was “potentially developable” and could provide a large number of homes and community sites if policy restrictions were removed.

Areas to the immediate east of Barkingside and Fairlop underground stations would be “highly accessible” suburbs.

Leader of Redbridge Conservatives Cllr Paul Canal said the council needed to have a “mature conversation” with residents about where to build.

And he warned without a strong local plan, developers could be able to build “rabbit hutches out of papier mache” and the council would be powerless to stop them.

“I don’t want it in my borough,” he added. Ron Jeffries, chairman of the Aldborough Hatch Defence Association said the green belt was “absolutely sacrosanct”.

Mr Jeffries said the group would “fight tooth and nail” to prevent building on those sites, and said brown field sites should be used.

The fourth strategy suggests land south of Five Oaks Lane in Hainault, an extension to an area already earmarked for 425 new homes on the north side.

While admitting development would “do harm to the functioning of the green belt”, the report said “it could meet needs”.

Goodmayes Residents’ Association (GRASS) chairman Keith Stanbury said there was “no other option” than building on the green belt as long as brown field sites were exhausted.

He said: “The council is looking at it realistically.

“I’m pleased the administration are going to consultation.”

He said residents should have a say in the redevelopment of Goodmayes hospital.

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