Town centres

Our aim is to support and promote retail, business, cultural, leisure and residential investment in our town centres that recognises their unique identities and invests in their future.

Waltham Forest’s town centres are the commercial and community hearts of the borough, adapting to new urban lifestyles and expectations to provide a range of activities, including shopping, social spaces, business networking and cultural activities.

Plans for growth and investment are underway to find new solutions for these growing urban centres that achieve the right mix of land uses and facilities to support existing and future resident and business communities.

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Priority actions Click to get info

Our key actions for realising this strategy are:

  1. Work with our key partners to achieve the planned investment and regeneration of Walthamstow town centre at the heart of the borough.
  2. Develop detailed plans for new centres at Lea Bridge and Blackhorse Lane.
  3. Undertake a programme of town centre heath checks, audit and action plans to support business growth, town centre management and new investment.
  4. Promote the unique characteristics of each town centre and capture the opportunities to invest and create even more vibrant centres, with a particular focus on arts, culture and music.
  5. Establish a Town Centre Initiatives Grant Fund to support new retail activity, markets, public realm improvements, arts interventions, activities and events.
  6. Adopt guidelines to support use of council and developer space for pop up shops and meanwhile uses including art and cultural installations.
  7. Review town centre retail planning policies and adapt them to support growth.
  8. Adopt a protocol for Town Centre Management setting out the standards for planning, licensing, building control and environmental health.

Walthamstow Click to get info

Walthamstow is the main town centre and a key growth area in the borough. It is also a major centre in London, benefiting from excellent transport links to central London – 14 minutes on the Victoria Line to Kings Cross and 19 minutes on the Overground to Liverpool Street, with easy access to both Stratford and Stansted Airport via Tottenham Hale. 

Walthamstow has seen some exciting changes recently. Key sites developed include The Scene, a complex with a cinema, restaurants and new homes, the Solum II Station development, with a hotel and homes, and the first phase of refurbishment of the former EMD Granada Cinema. In addition, the council has invested in improving public spaces and shop fronts at the both ends of the High Street and along Hoe Street. Council-led Heritage Lottery Fund improvements to buildings and public realm at St James Street are currently underway and due for completion in summer 2017.

New activities for residents and visitors to enjoy include the council and GLA-supported Night Feast and the Central Parade, a creative workspace and business hub in the heart of Walthamstow with an in house bakery and cafe.

Future investment in Walthamstow includes the development of proposals and delivery plans for key council-owned sites such as Central Parade, Juniper House, the Town Square, including its relation to proposed Mall development, Walthamstow Library, South Grove and Chestnuts House. The council is also committed to facilitating development of proposals and delivery plans for key third party owned sites, which include The Mall, EMD Cinema, Overground Station/Solum Phase 2, South Grove/ Brunner Road and Central House (Strettons).

The Walthamstow Town Centre Area Action Plan (AAP) is important for the future of the town centre. It will guide and shape its development. This includes the potential for 2,000 new homes, the 90,000 sq ft. Mall extension and a mix of leisure, community and business space.

The council has prepared a further place-shaping strategy to articulate how development could be brought forward. More information on recent investment and the plans in the pipeline for Walthamstow can be found on the Shaping Waltham Forest website.

Walthamstow - Town centre strategy and delivery plans 2016-20 (pdf 441KB)

Leytonstone Click to get info

Leytonstone is the borough’s second largest town centre, benefiting from proximity to open space at Wanstead Flats and transport access via the Central Line, Overground and A12.

In recent years, the council has invested in improvements to the public realm, particularly around the station and along the High Road, as well as in the recently completed renovation of Leytonstone Library Plus. This has helped encourage a mix of businesses to set up in the town centre, including a variety of places to eat and drink, as well as three distinct markets.

A place-shaping strategy has recently been prepared and will set out how the council will work to secure further investment in the town centre and bring forward development of key sites, including:

  • around the Matalan store
  • around the Tesco’s store
  • Church Lane car park and other sites at the underground station
  • Network Rail land at Joseph Ray Road

The council has also secured £500,000 of New Homes Bonus (top-slice) funding from the GLA for shop front and public realm improvements south of Leytonstone High Road Overground Station, investing in an area which benefits from proximity to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Crossrail stations at Maryland and Forest Gate from 2019.

See plans for Leytonstone town centre in our place-making and delivery strategy (pdf 7948KB)

Section by section in detail:

Leytonstone - Town centre strategy and delivery plans 2016-20 (pdf 536KB)

Leyton is a major focus for growth and development in the borough, with a whole new community planned to the west and south of the established town centre. Development between the existing centre, Leyton Mills and the new residential development needs to be integrated to ensure the High Road continues to thrive, offering a range of independent retail, food and drink for the area’s diverse communities

The council, with architects Allies and Morrison, has developed the Lea Valley Eastside vision – a long-term vision for how the Leyton and Lea Bridge area could change over the next 10 years. 

The consultation ran for a period of eight weeks and, a series of public exhibitions were held. The council are considering all responses with a plan to bring it forward to Cabinet in May 2017.

Lea Valley Eastside lies just to the north of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and on the edge of the Lee Valley Regional Park, providing access to significant swathes of green space and leisure facilities. The area has fantastic accessibility with both underground, overground and the national rail station at Lea Bridge which reopened in May 2016, providing direct links to Stratford and Tottenham Hale.

The Vision covers the three key areas of Lea Bridge, Church Road, and Leyton. These areas will form reinvigorated communities with new homes and jobs, improved transport connections, green spaces, new schools and healthcare, all forming part of the Council’s vision.

Lea Bridge Vision

  • Up to 1,200 new homes
  • 200,000m² of new non-residential space
  • A new local centre with retail and health facilities
  • Retain, expand, enhance, diversify and modernise the existing business and employment centre
  • Creating additional access to the waterways and green spaces of Lee Valley Regional Park

Church Road Vision

  • Up to 400 new homes
  • 45,000m² of retained and new employment space
  • Improved routes, green spaces and sport facilities at Dagenham Brook, Leyton Jubilee Park and Ive Farm
  • New west-east connections across the Brook into Leyton Jubilee Park
  • Energy and utilities infrastructure to support a sustainable future supply

Leyton Vision

  • Up to 2,800 new homes
  • 50,000m² of commercial space
  • A new primary school
  • Transforming Leyton Mills retail park to include new shops, business space and new homes
  • An enhanced tube station entrance and public realm along the High Road
  • Improved connectivity to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park via a new bridge, improved junction at Ruckholt Road and potential for a new station

Lea Valley Eastside Vision (pdf 3,106KB)

Leyton - Town centre strategy and delivery plans 2016-20 (pdf 556KB)

Chingford Click to get info

Chingford is an important district centre in the north of the borough with a range of independent shops and places to eat and drink, also benefiting from proximity to Epping Forest and access to the Overground network to Liverpool Street. The council is continuing to look at opportunities to improve the use of the Assembly Hall and Library.

Chingford -Town centre strategy and delivery plans 2016-20 (pdf 423KB)

Chingford Mount Click to get info

The council invested £750,000 in public realm and building refurbishment at Albert Crescent in 2013 and is now working with local groups to identify opportunities for further improvements for shops, businesses and to public space to increase activity in one of the borough’s largest district centres.

Community initiatives have led to an Italian farmer’s market being established in the town centre. There are further opportunities for investment and development in Chingford Mount, including at the Sainsbury’s store and adjoining Hall Lane car park.

Chingford Mount -Town centre strategy and delivery plans 2016-20 (pdf 823KB)

Highams Park Click to get info

Highams Park is a small district centre with access to the Overground network and home to a range of small independent retailers as well as a large Tesco supermarket and associated mixed-use development.

The council secured £100,000 New Homes Bonus (top-slice) funding from the GLA to make improvements to shop fronts and install artwork in the centre of Highams Park, which was completed at the end of 2016.

We’re also working with local groups on the preparation of a neighbourhood plan, potential improvements to the local park and proposals to reopen the Regal Cinema.

Highams Park - Town centre strategy and delivery plans 2016-20 (pdf 303KB)

Wood Street Click to get info

The council has delivered a comprehensive programme of public realm, shop front and business improvements to Wood Street using a mix of funding. The district centre benefits from access to the Overground network and is home to a variety of independent retailers as well as the community arts collective Wood Street Walls whose work is seen across the borough and is working with the council and GLA to secure studio space.

In late 2016, Wood Street won the ‘Great Street’ Award, an international accolade from the Academy of Urbanism. Wood Street is a fine example of how council and local resident groups and local businesses have worked together and made a real difference to the area.

The Marlowe Road estate regeneration project will see a major development at the heart of the town centre delivered by Countryside Properties working with the council.

Wood Street - Town centre strategy and delivery plans 2016-20 (pdf 525KB)

Bakers Arms Click to get info

Bakers Arms is a small district centre situated between Walthamstow and Leyton. It has benefited from an extensive programme of shopfront and public realm improvements in the last three years, helping support the range of independent retailers and national multiples present in the centre.

Bakers Arms - Town centre strategy and delivery plans 2016-20 (pdf 349KB)

Blackhorse Lane Click to get info

Blackhorse Lane is a strategically important growth area situated within the Mayor’s Upper Lea Valley Opportunity Area.

It forms one of the council’s key regeneration areas both for housing development, employment and business growth. Blackhorse Lane has the potential to provide 2,500 new homes and 1,000 new jobs to 2025 as part of the comprehensive regeneration of the area, including new public open space, highway improvements, schools, community and shopping facilities, spaces for creative industries and links to the Walthamstow Wetlands.

The current and anticipated regeneration for the Blackhorse Lane area is supported by a strong planning policy framework which is set out in the Blackhorse Lane Area Action Plan 2015 (pdf 5,376KB).

A number of key sites are being developed for housing and mixed uses with the Housing Zone designation offering a fantastic opportunity to help unlock the barriers to further development. The Housing Zone will also provide funding to help deliver a number of regeneration projects in support of the new housing including improvements to Blackhorse Road station and public realm improvements.

Some of the key sites and projects underway or in the pipeline include:

  • Mandora development providing new homes, student housing, shops and business space
  • Gnome House which provides a landmark mix of community and business space
  • Redevelopment of the former Standard Pub to provide a mixed-use development including replacement music venue
  • Legal & General’s proposals for a private rented sector housing development next to Walthamstow Wetlands
  • Developments at Sutherland Road bringing forward a mix of affordable and private housing as well as a new health centre
  • Council and GLA support for a cluster of creative industry uses along Blackhorse Lane and Sutherland Road, including Blackhorse Workshop and proposals for Uplands House and Lockwood Way as part of the recently secured £1.1m from the GLA’s London Regeneration Fund
  • The Council has prepared the Sutherland Road development brief which sets out parameters for the development of the Former Webbs Industrial Estate, owned by the GLA, and adjoining sites, to provide a mix of commercial space, new homes and a walking/cycling route connecting Sutherland Road with Blackhorse Lane.