‘The cup is full’ – Hostile South Woodford crowd quizzes Labour leader on housing plans

PUBLISHED: 16:49 04 November 2016 | UPDATED: 16:49 04 November 2016

Redbridge Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal speaking at South Woodford Libary.

Redbridge Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal speaking at South Woodford Libary.

Cllr Jas Athwal

Redbridge Council’s leader defended plans to build 650 homes in South Woodford by 2030, to an angry and sometimes hostile audience of residents.

The crowds to see Cllr Athwal spilled out of the area in South Woodford Library.The crowds to see Cllr Athwal spilled out of the area in South Woodford Library.

More than 100 people poured into South Woodford Library, in High Road, on a dark November night last Thursday to hear Cllr Jas Athwal speak about the Local Plan – the council’s strategy for building homes over the next 15 years.

The council has to submit a document to the planning inspector detailing how it is going to hit its house building targets of 1,100 new homes a year.

The majority of development is to be in the south of the borough, but 650 homes are planned for South Woodford, and Thursday’s meeting was a chance for residents to raise their concerns.

Young and old turned up, worried about the future of their area, in a fine display of local democracy.

The crowd was so large it spilled round into the main part of the library, with many people unable to see the Labour leader.

Some residents were reportedly turned away at the door, as there was not enough room in the library.

The event was organised by the South Woodford Society, who claim the proposals will put too much pressure on already over stretched services in the area.

Cllr Athwal said: “The Local Plan gives better protection to the residents of South Woodford.

“If you look at the south of the borough they will have 11,000 homes built there. South Woodford has 88 over the next five years.

On the subject of infrastructure he responded: “What we are looking at with schools is there are schools coming up for extension.”

The Labour leader said he thought Crossrail would take some of the pressure off the Central Line, with commuters from Essex starting to use the faster Elizabeth Line.

The crowd became slightly hostile when Cllr Athwal was questioned why Wanstead and Woodford Green had avoided similar development proposals.

One resident accused him of “not giving a straight answer”, while another declared “the cup is full” when Cllr Athwal stated South Woodford’s neighbours are protected from large housing proposals as conservation areas.

He told the crowd: “We need to have a Local Plan by next year otherwise one will be imposed on us without any local input.”

Consultation into this has now finished, although council officers will continue to meet with the South Woodford Society to finish the proposal before submission.

After the meeting Cllr Athwal said: “It was great so many residents came along to discuss their concerns over the plan and hear first hand from me why certain proposals have been included.”

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