Evergreen Field: A huge victory for the Wanstead Society. Or, alternatively, nothing much

evergreen1The Wanstead Society has scored a historic victory in its long-running struggle to prevent development on the Evergreen Field on Wanstead High Street. Or, perhaps, they haven’t.

What they *have* achieved is to get council backing for their scheme to transform the field into a community resource including a “circular meadow surrounded by woodland, with new access points, improved edges to Christchurch Green and a opening through trees framing the church spire”. It also proposes that the meadow be used for public or private events – including

  • Maypole dancing
  • an outdoor harvest festival
  • a snowcrowd on 1 Jan
  • a temporary marquee for events like antiques fairs, wedding receptions or outdoor theatre

The plans (see full application here) would look something like this:

Councillors on the Redbridge regional planning committee approved the plan at a meeting at Wanstead Church School on Wednesday night, sparking several celebratory tweets.

So does that mean an end to the plans, recapped in full here in the first instalment of Tales from Evergreen Field, for flats, shops, mosques, vegetable patches, luxury apartments or starter homes? Err… no. Not necessarily, for one very obvious reason: the Wanstead Society doesn’t own the land.

So what exactly was the point of the meeting, and what does the decision really mean?

Redbridge councillor Paul Canal told Wansteadium: “Planning application approved, but as WS do not own site, academic. May increase protection. Key protection planning designation.”

Wansteadium will be seeking further clarification about what, if anything, this decision changes, and we’ll bring it to you here.

 Update, Thursday 8am

Wansteadium reader and Wanstead Society member Roger Estop writes:

There is now a planning permission for multi-use open space on Evergreen Field – the first time it has ever had an approved use. This establishes the principle of a suitable use for land that has lain vacant and useless for years – but whose openness is an essential part of the Wanstead scenery.

Rather than waiting for the worst and reacting against unsuitable development, the Wanstead Society proactively followed its vision. ‘We don’t own the land, but we feel the land belongs to Wanstead’, say the Society. After years of limbo, we want the community to shape its future.

The planning application raised awareness of the field and caught people’s imagination – there have been a variety of views about how it should be used. The permission sets a new baseline for the owner’s proposals – it means any alternative development will get intense scrutiny.

It is the first time there has been an intelligent response to the Council’s planning policy to protect the open space. This policy has existed for several years, yet the long term owner did not address the policy and sold the land to a new buyer, despite its statutory policy against development.

The Society now has to carefully consider ways forward. It has to define a practicable use, set how the land would be brought into use and how it would be managed in the long term. This has to be done in a creative, realistic and collaborative way – hopefully with the Wanstead-based owner, but also with local organisations and councilors.

Update, Thursday 3pm

The agent for Dalbir Singh Sanger, the owner of Evergreen Field, has told the Wanstead Guardian:

 “My client has plans for a small development there, with the addition of handing over 50 per cent back to the community in a very similar scheme.”