A View from Wanstead Flats

"Obsidian is currently preparing for a masterplan for the regeneration of Forest Gate town centre"

That's the introduction to a proposal for a major regeneration scheme in Forest Gate. It goes on to say that this will refelect the issues and opportunities facing the local community, and that there is much about Forest Gate that reflects its historic past and the quality of the Victorian architecture. It mentions that Obsidian's motto is 'To work with the best of the existing'.

What has all this got to do with Wanstead Wildlife, then? I need to be careful that I don't go blogging off on too many tangents, but I live in Forest Gate, don't really think too much of it - apart from the part where I live - and do appreciate that the area in question, which is adjacent to the station, needs a good overhaul. But here is the crunch. The area in question consists of the likes of shop frontages, community facilities, some villa-like houses - a bit of a mix. But it is a mix that doesn't include anything quite on the scale of:


i) one residential tower of 26 storeys

ii) three 3-8 story buildings

iii) perimeter buildings between 4-8 storeys

iv) Three taller buildings of approximately 7-12 storeys


A comparison of the scale of present buildings in Woodgrange Road, compared to those proposed!


It does include a new public open-space "with access to non-residents", provision for approximately 850 residential units and private parking "limited and controlled by management of the new residential blocks and a controlled parking zone"; oh - and there will also be cycle parking, of course.

Wildlife again? Well, I'm sure the open space will deal with that; apart from the gardens front and back of the existing villas, nothing much will change there. Indeed a releatively new development exists near to Wanstead Park Station and is, to my mind, similar disproportionate dimensions in so far as "reflecting the past and working with the best of the existing" which was erected hard against the Eagle and Child pub and opposite what is a sympathetically-styled health centre. This - the residential development opposite the health centre - has a roof garden, apparently, because you can see the regimentaly-styled tree planting leaning across the roof's "garden" clearly - from Wanstead Flats!

Wanstead Flats

The Shard, Orbit Tower, Capel Point and Westminster Bank Tower.

The proposed 26 Storey Block, plus the others, will be appear between the Shard and Capel Point. Capel Point is 10 storeys!


And so back to Wanstead Flats. Wanstead Flats is - some people eventually find - quite a gem, really. It's easy to see the attraction in the diversity of landscapes in Wanstead Park, but driving by the flat, open expanse of grassland that is Wanstead Flats doesn't necessarily immediately suggest the tremendous feel of openess that can be experienced if walking across it. Great cloud and skyscapes, views of the distant Highgate Hills, the Crystal Palace Hills and Shooters Hill. These are somewhat spoilt by the impossing twin towers at the Leytonstone end, the lesser impact of the 'Belgrave Heights' tower block by Bush Wood, and now the towering 105m 35-storey Pioneer Point skyscraper in Ilford. When the 115m “ArcelorMittal Orbit”, or Orbit Tower for short, is completed, this monstrosity will also be visible as an eyesore from Wanstead Flats. In the distance the even taller buildings of the City are clearly visible and - spreading southwards - now can be seen 'The Shard'. The complex around Canary Wharf is closer still, but all of these are far enough away not to impose themselves.

The Forest Gate project is another matter entirely. It is in no way sympathetic to the historic past or the Victorian architecture of the area, nor is it sympathetic to Wanstead Flats. The very name "Forest Gate" reflects what the settlement was - the gateway to Epping Forest.

The Woodgrange Web Community Website contains views on this subject and is available here.

Paul Ferris, Equinox, 23 September 2011