Transport for London has announced the completion of a housing development near Blackhorse Road station, comprising 350 flats of one, two and three-bedroom sizes of which 50 per cent meet Sadiq Khan’s definition of “affordable”. The scheme is the first finished result of a joint venture TfL entered into with Barratt London in 2017 along with housing association L&Q, which manages the affordable dwellings. Waltham Forest Council gave planning consent in 2018, work began in 2019, the first residents moved in in summer 2021, and now the job is done. It seemed important to pay a visit.
The development, called Blackhorse View, has risen upon what used to be a 280-space TfL car park. It shows what can be done when a borough is eager to build, as Waltham Forest is, and if government ministers do not make politically-motived interventions, as Grant Shapps did somewhat notoriously with a comparable TfL project at Cockfosters station in Enfield when he was transport minister.
Of the affordable homes, 60 per cent are for Shared Ownership and the remainder are for London Affordable Rent, aimed at people with low incomes. The proportion of affordable homes in Blackhorse View is in line with Sadiq Khan’s overall target for housing built on publicly-owned land, including TfL’s. Through its wholly-owned commercial property company, which came into independent being April 2022, TfL hopes to get 20,000 homes built altogether on its substantial property portfolio, in partnership with different property companies. Over 800 have been completed and 3,350 have been started.
Blackhorse View a good-looking development, designed by RMA Architects. Its six blocks are arranged around two green spaces linked by a through walkway. As the main photograph shows, it’s pretty tall, with one of the towers reaching 21 storeys – not to everyone’s taste, but a familiar manifestation of development finance if a scheme has to yield a high affordable proportion and produce a long-term income stream for TfL, even when the land comes free. And take-up of the homes seems to have been brisk: TfL says most of the 293 homes for sale have been bought, with around three-quarters of them going to first-time buyers, including 108 Shared Ownership units.
The scheme also provides 17,500 square feet of commercial floorspace, some of which is occupied by a branch of Tesco. Other retailers are expected to follow and TfL says some of it might be used as “shared workspace” augmenting the Blackhorse Lane Creative Enterprise Zone, backed by the Mayor.
Blackhorse View’s bulk is not out of place amid its immediately surrounding buildings, and it makes a determined statement about sustainable travel by being “car-free” except for some Blue Badge provision and by providing 650 bicycle parking spaces for residents. But arriving at Blackhorse Lane station by Tube and wandering in the surrounding area, the complexities of the wider transport environment become apparent.
To get to Blackhorse View by foot you have to cross the busy junction of Blackhorse Road and Forest Road, which the new development faces on to as it runs downhill towards the Walthamstow wetlands and reservoirs. The effect is to make the station feel quite cut off from the new homes, despite its close proximity. A zebra crossing further down the slope might improve things, though perhaps it would be too close to the signalled crossroads.
For different reasons, the pavements on both sides of Forest Road are a mess. Major surgery is underway on the one next to the development, apparently to insert cycle lanes. Waltham Forest was a beneficiary of one of Boris Johnson’s first “mini-Holland” cycling infrastructure funding deals. As a result, bike tracks bisecting and criss-crossing pavements in unexpected ways are now a sometimes bizarre feature of the borough’s streets.
The wide pavement on the station side of Forest Road is split in two by one, which also runs in front of a bus stop, where waiting passengers sat oddly marooned in a shelter planted in the middle of the footway. Further down, huge planters block pedestrians’ ways on the roadside of the bike space, which then jags left across the footway to by-pass another bus stop to its rear. Less than a handful of bicycles went by. A triumph of zeal over outcomes?
It’s a discordant feature of an outer London street now distinguished by new housing for a range of income groups taking welcome precedence over facilities for private motoring. Here’s hoping Blackhorse View is a happy place to live.