Feelings run high over Forest Gate revamp

Feelings ran high during a public exhibition of proposals to regenerate Forest Gate town centre.

Many of those attending the public consultation held by developer Obsidian at Durning Hall signalled strong opposition to the plans, which include a 26-storey housing block, shops, cafes and restaurants, as well as facelift for the area, including Earlham Grove, Woodgrange Road and Sprowston Road.

Don Lewis, of neighbouring Crosby Road, described the plans as “hogwash”.

“We have enough tower blocks,” said the 65-year-old.

“We need more houses not more flats.”

The main residential tower in the proposals, which is to be situated next to the Crossrail Station scheduled to open in 2017, was the main focus of opposition voiced by many.

Andrew Jarman, of Tower Hamlets Road, said the development was “totally out of character with the low rise Victorian housing in the area”.

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Ms Hacker of Ridley Road said the proposals, which include up to 850 new homes, were the last thing that a “grossly overcrowded” area needed.

“We need fewer people not more housing,” said Ms Hacker.

“The more houses we build the more people will come.”

As well as the main tower block, the Obsidian plans include three, three to eight storey buildings on Woodgrange Road, four to eight storey buildings along Sprowston Road and Earlham Grove, and three, seven to 12 storey buildings on Woodgrange Road.

Obsidian development director Craig Calder said opposition to the main tower block was a generational issue with many young people in the area supporting the idea.

“There is a barrier to be overcome with the older generation resisting change but we hope to bridge that gap,” Mr Calder said.

Strong opposition was also expressed by members of the Pentecostal and Methodist congregatioins who use the Church Hall, which is to be replaced under the plans.

Mr Calder sought to allay the fears of the groups by reassuring them that space would be found for their meetings within proposed community facilities.

“We want to increase community space by 25 per cent in this area,” the development director said.

“There will be plenty of room to go round for everyone.”

While many of those attending the exhibit were critical of the plans, some were generally supportive of the move to give Forest Gate a much needed facelift.

Caroline Cousins, of Latimer Road, said she was “exciting and essentially very positive”, while sharing concerns over the main tower block and the fact that there was no new school.

Another 81-year-old resident from Sebert Road said she liked the green space within the scheme and the extra community facilities.

The project includes a public park and large community square, as well as child play areas, and tree-lined parades.

Obsidian chairman and former Tory London Mayor candidate Stephen Norris said: “This scheme is about making Forest Gate much more attractive to people who live here now.

“There has been a great deal of nonsense about destroying Forest Gate.

“We are trying to keep as much as possible of the town’s character and are responding to what the community tells us.”

Time will tell just how much the developer takes on board residents’ concerns.