Image Credit : White River Valley Museum, Auburn
The people have spoken, but the people still have more to say. This Tuesday, 13th October 2009 at roughly 6.30pm, the people of Highams Park will once again climb the steps of Walthamstow Town Hall demanding the Council Planning Committee agree a smaller footprint from the proposed Tesco development.
The people agree : the Council have under-estimated the negative impact that the unreasonably-sized development will have on the neighbourhood, an enormous store with hundreds of jam-packed residential units tacked onto the side.
I have conducted a randomised personal survey of the citizens and small businesses of Highams Park, and although this is admittedly not thoroughly conducted research, it is perhaps eye-opening about what the people really, really want.
Resolution of Local Parking Issues
The people of Highams Park, together with the small businesses, find the biggest problem to using the neighbourhood centre for retail purposes is the lack of short-term (non-commuter) parking spaces and unloading bays. This is a land management issue, a painted-road-markings management issue. We have a large traffic island and an extended kerb right next to the train station on the side of the main car park that could be converted to “pop-in” and drop-off parking purposes. We would need it to be properly managed and staffed, but getting this problem sorted out would vastly improve the way the village centre functions.
Break-through Business Needs
In order to encourage new local small business, and bring established local businesses back to the neighbourhood, we need a system of incentives, break-through business rates. This is what the Council could reasonably give the area to stop the closed retail units being subject to planning applications from fast food joints and discount chain stores.
Better Social Patrol
We need more than a couple of Community Support Officers strolling around at lunch-time. During parts of the day and night we have some local anti-social behaviour problems that could be easily contained given better patrolling and local agreements and powers. In some parts of the Borough there are street wardens that act quasi-officially, and I think this would be good for Highams Park, too. It would raise the tone of the area to have helpful street wardens always on hand to help with any issue or enquiry. It would encourage small businesses to stay open in the evening and not feel obliged to pull down their shutters as the drinking hours begin.
There are a couple of notable eyesores in the area, including the wire fencing around the old Regal cinema, graffiti and illegal advertisements and posters, that have been there so long they have become part of the scenery, making the centre of Highams Park look like it’s permanently derelict. This would take so little to fix in terms of money and monitoring. We want a better image for our area, to make it feel more welcoming, safe and functional.
7 Hours Guaranteed Peace each Night
Part of the problems of living in the area is due to noise at night. We need to have a way to guarantee seven hours of guaranteed peace each night, not a 24 hour Tesco megastore with petrol garage. Highams Park is not a motorway service station. It is a residential area, and our human right to sleep should be respected and guaranteed.
Allotment Food Land
We don’t need a giant supermarket with food brought in by truck and aeroplane from all over the world. We need allotment space so that we can grow our own food. Supermarket food is going to become increasingly expensive as Energy and Fuel prices rise, as the supermarket system of food delivery is based on using cheap Electricity and Petrol. The supermarket model is not sustainable going forward, and so we need the land, that Tesco would like to build on, to be acquired by the Council, by compulsory purchase order if necessary, and remediated for allotment food use.
The quality of jobs created by a supermarket is very poor, compared to the possibilities for returning the land to light industrial use, where small technology firms could be encouraged to set up shop, producing anything from novel bicycle trailers to Low Carbon city scooter designs. The technology needed for the Low Carbon future centres around reducing Energy use, in areas such as transportation, home insulation, Renewable Energy and locally produced food products. All of these could be accommodated by new start-up businesses housed on the land that Tesco currently owns. With all the excellent education in the area, it’s a shame not to have hi-tech green jobs provided in the area so that people can stay here and not move away for work.
Regular Farmers and Local Market
Highams Park wants fresh, organic, locally produced food, and a covered stall area for regular markets on the land that Tesco owns would suit our needs. These could replicate the successful Farmers Market introduced into Walthamstow and other places.
A New Park
The people of Highams Park really object to all the trees being destroyed to make way for the new Tesco development. We want the trees to stay, as part of a new local park.
The people of Highams Park want to see the return of a good local butcher, as has happened in Woodford Green. We also want to see a good local greengrocer, to complement the discount International grocery store which is just opening. We want to see a fish and sea food counter at Budgens or in a separate local store. We want our own cheesemonger and local yogurt maker. We want a local food cooperative to supply discounted dry provisions such as rice, lentils, oats, flours and canned foods. We want a community kitchen to supply good quality lunches to local business workers and schoolchildren. We want more repair shops. We want a jewellery shop. We want a childrens clothes and uniform shop. We want a fine arts gallery. We want relaxed evening cafes.
We want the roads closed from time to time so we can have children playing in the street. We want forest crafts events to encourage local handiwork and carpentry. We want a Bingo hall. We want our cinema back. We want proper social development, not a clone town, not an enormous anodyne, over-lit megastore with a massive parasitical community moving in along with it. We want sustainable, local shopping, not public relations and marketing.