Around 100 homeless residents are set to find respite in South Woodford after a three-storey temporary housing scheme has been approved.
The green light comes in spite of growing opposition, with more than 100 objections submitted in a few days, many claiming the scheme does not meet required housing standards.
For around an hour, the council’s nine-strong planning committee discussed proposals to erect a 30-unit prefabricated modular building, in place of a single storey car garage in 120 Chigwell Road, for 10 years.
It was voted through with eight in favour and one against.
The application was submitted by Redbridge Council, who own the proposed brownfield site, and manufacturing company Elliot UK.
Speaking in support of the application, council officer Yasmin Thurgood said: “These homes will provide suitable accommodation for homeless residents to enable the council to meet its homeless strategy and duty until such time that there able to secure permanent housing.”
She added that the scheme had been developed collaboratively with a group of tenants currently in temporary accomodation and that a 60 sq metre play area for children had been added to the plans as a result of their feedback.
Cllr Howard Berlin questioned the Ms Thurgood on the quality of the homes, stating that they are only 60 per cent of the minimum size required by the Mayor Khan’s London Plan.
“[They are] good quality in relation to the current provision of shared facilities – such as shared accommodation and bed and breakfast accommodation – which the council moving away from,” she responded.
“This [scheme] is far more suitable.”
She said that the London Plan is for permanent accommodation only and that there is no minimum standard for temporary accommodation.
She gave the example of children being better able to do their homework by having their own rooms, unlike in shared accomodation.
Rena Pathak, of residents group South Woodford Society, South Woodford Conservative cllrs Michael Duffell and Suzanne Nolan and resident David Clarke spoke in opposition.
“Can I be clear, that I am not against housing our most vulnerable residents,” said cllr Nolan.
“I accept that residents living in a small crowded B&B or outside the borough is a worse situation.”
But, referring to the sites’ proximity to the heavily congested Charlie Brown’s roundabout, she added: “Pollutant levels are four times the legal limit.”
She said: “I’m sure you will have read in The Guardian that a child’s asthma death was related to illegal pollutant levels.”
Ms Pathak said: “If any part of you balks at the idea of letting our most vulnerable live in metal containers, in a concrete jungle with an electrical heater and a window that opens up, not to sunlight, but the filth and grime of the North Circular, please reject this proposal.”
Mr Clarke also raised concerns about the pressure the residents would place on nearby schools and GPs.
Neil Goate, the council officer in charge of the application, said that the majority of residents will primarily all be from the borough – their children already at school and already be registered with GPs in the borough.
“We are satisfied it would not place a significant burden upon the surrounding area,” he said.
The council’s community safety team, he added, has checked air pollution levels and are satified they will be acceptable when double glazed windows and a mechanical ventilation system is installed.
He also highlighted that the council’s planning committee had approved the neighbouring five-storey Scenix building – a five-storey apartment block – only two years earlier.
The Environment Agency, he highlighted, also withdrew an initial objection about the site being situated in a flood plain after the plans were amended to include an underground void to absorb water in the event of a flood.
“I’m a little bit annoyed because in front of me I’ve got a proposal with over 105 objections made,” said Labour cllr Varinder Singh Bola.
“It is embarrassing that we don’t speak to the people in the vicinity – that we leave it to this late stage.”
But he expressed overall support for the project, saying this point was one everyone should take on board for next time.