Aston-Mansfield, one of Newham's oldest charities and the owner of Durning Hall Community Centre, has today issued a statement on its formal objection to controversial regeneration proposals for Forest Gate submitted by developers Obsidian.
Last month, Obsidian's plans were rejected by Mayor of London Boris Johnson, with the Greater London Authority questioning the suitability of a 20 storey tower block on the current Durning Hall site and raising serious concerns about the lack of clarity on a range of issues from affordable housing to community facilities. Now the objection of a significant Forest Gate landowner - as well as Durning Hall, the charity owns a number of other properties in Woodgrange Road and Earlham Grove - has put further pressure on Obsidian to drastically change its plans. Whilst accepting that Forest Gate is in urgent need of redevelopment (lets not talk about the £92 million spent on the seven-year SRB programme that was supposed to rejuvenate the area), the charity's statement says:
Aston-Mansfield's intervention will make it far more difficult for Newham council, which has been supportive of Obsidian's proposals, to make an early decision on the planning application in its current form. The planning committee is due to meet on on 21 February and if it decides to reject the call for further consultation and grant planning approval, the developers have said they aim to start construction work this year.
Aston-Mansfield supports the principle of regenerating Forest Gate but does not believe that the proposals set out in the current Obsidian planning applications adequately meet the Council’s regeneration objectives nor are they in the best interests of the local residents and community groups. In particular:
Consequently the Charity is unable to support the application as it currently stands and is working on some constructive suggestions to put to Obsidian and the Council if the current application can be deferred for further consultation.
- The volume of space that Aston Mansfield currently provides for community use in Forest Gate is more than two and a half times larger than the amount proposed in the application;
- We agree with high density housing near the station but think the proposed tower requires much greater justification both in terms of visual impact and financial viability;
- The application makes no contribution to affordable housing and no mention of how the temporary hostel for homeless people provided within Durning Hall will be replaced or improved;
- The five phase development proposed could disrupt life and work in the area for years causing operational difficulties and planning blight that will severely compromise our work;
- There is no indication as to how the Charity is expected to maintain its services whilst the Durning Hall site is redeveloped.
If this does not happen there is a real danger that Durning Hall will have to close during the period of redevelopment and may not be able to reopen in Forest Gate.
The Save Forest Gate camnpaign continues to call for local people to lobby councillors - more information here.