A live-work village in E17
Will this imaginative project on the edge of Walthamstow pay off as a place that Londoners can truly afford, asks Ruth Bloomfield
THE streets in the Blackhorse Lane area of Walthamstow were a hive of industry in the mid-1900s, with small businesses based in modest workshops making everything from fireworks to fancy boxes, picture frames to fizzy pop.
After the Second World War the dolls house makers and bicycle manufacturers were driven from the area by the destruction of wartime bombing, and the transformation of the land into an industrial zone, which in its turn was outrun by technology.
Now the E17 suburb is going back to its roots. Ultimately the big idea, under the Blackhorse Lane Action Plan, is to build about 2,500 homes north of Blackhorse Road station and attract a new generation of makers, designers, artists and start- up entrepreneurs. It’s intended to breathe life into an area which had disappeared off the map as the property boom in the rest of Waltham Forest borough passed it by.
With the remnants of its slightly forbidding industrial estates, even local estate agent Andrew Goad, director of The Stow Brothers, who has operated there for 16 years, has to admit: “Nothing really happens around here and it still looks very industrial, which people don’t want.” But what Blackhorse Lane does have is the space to build the homes these small business start-ups need if they are going to stay local.
HOMES READY TO RENT BY THE END OF THE YEAR
The first rental properties will be finished this year. According to CBRE’s annual Borough by Borough report, published this month, Waltham Forest has experienced the strongest house price growth of any London borough over the past five years, with prices rising to an average £416,926. Over the next five years CBRE forecasts prices will rise another 17 per cent.
The price boost has been two miles down the road in and around Walthamstow.
Developers of all sizes, hungry for land, are piling into the Blackhorse Lane area to create an interesting mix of homes for rent, shared ownership, private sale, and student housing. They are also, under “encouragement” from Waltham Forest coun- cil, to include workspaces for small and creative businesses on their sites.
The council is calling Blackhorse Lane a “creative industries zone”, investing in existing small workshop spaces in the area as well as using its planning powers to make sure developers include workspace in their schemes. These developers include housing associations Catalyst Housing and Swan Housing, which have teamed up with the Greater London Authority to build 330 affordable homes on the former Webbs Industrial Estate in Blackhorse Lane.
BIG-NAME ARCHITECTS COME IN TO HELP
A heavy-hitting international architect, CF Møller, the Danish firm behind Phase Two of the Darwin Centre at the National History Museum and the Sammy Ofer wing of the National Maritime Museum, has been hired to design the project.
Alongside the homes will be studios for artists and artisans, a small park and some shops — although since this project was only announced in August further details are scanty.
The largest development, of about 1,000 homes, is also the most advanced. When complete the seven-acre brownfield site right by Blackhorse Road station will have more than 500 student flats, and 499 properties for sale and rent. Already up and running is Gnome House, a printmaking studio- cumcommunity centre, with space for artists and classes and groups for locals. The first phase of homes, called Fizzy Walthamstow, will complete at the end of this year, a range of rental flats to be managed by Fizzy Living (fizzyliving.com). A one-bedroom furnished flat starts from £1,550 a month, with two-bedroom, two-bathroom flats from £1,805. Average rent in Waltham Forest, says CBRE, is £1,346 a month. These “build to rent” flats have the advantage of long-term leases plus extras like free wifi.
Taylor Wimpey is building the private homes. A disappointing 64 will be affordable for first-time buyers. The first homes at the development, named Eclipse, went on sale in September in advance of completion next year. Onebedroom flats start at £329,000, with two- bedroom flats from £435,000 (taylorwimpey.co.uk).
Right beside Eclipse stands one of Blackhorse Lane’s few pubs, The Standard. A popular live music and alternative comedy venue, it had closed and the site was sold to a supermarket in 2011, but happily planning permission granted to Turkish Food Centre this summer allows for a basement music venue, a bar, a food store and 50 flats.
Legal & General is involved at Blackhorse Mills, a build to rent scheme on the former Ferry Lane Industrial Estate. Planning permission was granted this summer and work began in September, to a design by another big name, Assael Architecture.
The £180 million project will include up to 440 flats, ranging from studios to three-bedroom homes, plus a gym, private dining rooms, flexible working space, roof terraces and a residents club room. There will also be 20,000sq ft of office space for creative and start-up businesses.
One in four of the flats will be rented at subsidised levels to key workers. Legal & General says the rest will be “targeted for the mass market” and pointed out that while rents at build to rent schemes might seem high, the value for money is in all the extras.
“Blackhorse Mills will offer residents reduced energy bills, no letting fees, and free services such as gym, wifi and car club membership. Roof solar panels will provide the building with communal lighting and power.
“Residents will be offered longer and more flexible tenancies, from six months to five years. They can also decorate their own homes and keep
Hive of Walthamstow industry: Cassie Payne, manager at The Local Honey Man in Sutherland Road and Gareth Reid, owner and founder of Wood Street Coffee