Takes the biscuit

saynoCampaigners protested against the café kiosk plans ahead of the decision in August ©Charles Llewellyn

Plans for a new café kiosk in Christchurch Green received the go-ahead despite residents’ requests for a rethink of the design. It’s a missed opportunity, say Scott Wilding and Geoff Horsnell of the Wanstead Society

On Thursday 26 August, the case officer, Chief Planning Officer of Redbridge Council and the Chair of the Planning Committee met under delegated powers to discuss the planning application from Vision RCL (the charity arm of the council) for a new café kiosk on Christchurch Green.

In that meeting, they decided to give the proposed kiosk the green light. The decision was made public in the late afternoon of Friday 27 August (the Friday of a Bank Holiday weekend).

Despite 192 people objecting to the design and other elements of the application, their views were dismissed at the closed meeting where the decision was made.

As this was believed to be the second most objected-to application in Wanstead’s history (demolition of a 150-year-old house on Sylvan Road being the most objected application earlier this year), the Wanstead Society had hoped the council would take time to reflect on these views and ask for a better application. After all, the aim of the planning process should always be that the best design is submitted and that the concerns of the people who have to live with it are taken into consideration.

Wanstead Society had raised an objection to this project on the basis of the design. We felt that a ‘shipping container’ clad in wood was not in keeping with the council’s own Conservation Area guidance. Vision RCL had previously submitted an application for an extensive alcohol licence attached to the Green. This was thrown out at the hearing of the licensing sub-committee in April as it required the existence of a premises. However, from the outset, this application was poorly compiled. An initially unexplained cost estimate of “up to £2m” (later explained as a limitation of the application form’s drop-down list options and revised to “up to £100,000”), an old draft heritage statement and a poor mock-up photograph in the application did not help.

The Society wanted to stress that a cafe could be an asset to the community, and that the principle – if done right – could be supported. A possible alternative could have been that the adjacent toilet block could be redesigned to install a kiosk in that building with a serving hatch added at the rear meaning no need for a ‘shipping container’.

Our issue has been with the way in which the decision to approve this application was made. We feel an opportunity has been missed to ensure the best outcome is put in place as this is something we will have to live with for the longer term.

Good design isn’t rushed, but we feel that the opportunity to get it right has been missed.

For details of the planning application, visit wnstd.com/kiosk