No-one seems to know what is to happen to the former Andrew’s Builders Merchants on Woodbine Place.
Renovations are clearly taking place at the boxy little shop, which closed last year after many decades’ service to the people of Wanstead (tap washers and fairy lights, mostly).
Double glazing has been installed, and electrical work has been taking place. But it is the removal of the ultra-distinctive black and white painted wooden sign, a familiar and charming sight for years, which is for many people a real sadness.
Some Wansteadium readers have even suggested launching an online petition to ensure the sign is saved for posterity. One, Dan,Â said: “The landmark signage has been removed and it is sad to think that this has been allowed to happen. The high street has suffered badly in recent years and this is another blow to its preservation.”
It is clear, though, that far from being a redundant shell, for the right business this could be just the right opportunity, with high visibility, and lots of people nearby. For Wanstead too it could be a wonderful addition to the ecosystem of the high street. And yet mystery surrounds the plans – a spokesman for Redbridge Council told Wansteadium that it had not been notified of any work at the building.
Even the mighty Wanstead Society has drawn a blank. It has been drawing up suggested plans to tidy up the land at the front, where the pavement is extremely narrow – especially for families dodging buses while walking to the Treehouse Nursery or the library. They are hoping that the accountants THP and the children’s shop Bambini will help in working out exactly who owns which bit of land, and then apply to the council for some maintenance work to take place. But attempts even to find out who is the current owner of the building itself have so far proved unsuccessful.
Anyone with knowledge of plans is invited to contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Discretion assured.
• Some good news though – 10,000 trees are being planted in Roding Valley Park (off Onslow Gardens and Chigwell Road) as part of an initiative led by Trees for Cities. The benefits will be to some birds and bats, prevention of soil erosion, and minimisation of road noise for residents. Plus, you know, trees are nice.
•Two people are to appear in court next week charged over the deaths of 80 birds at Alexandra Lake. BBC News is reporting that the two men have been charged with using a pesticide without approval, poisoning animals, killing wild birds, theft and storing a pesticide without approval, and adds that both men worked as pest controllers for a local authority.
•The Wanstead Smarter High Street competition is not happening this year – blamed on a lack of funds. But times are still tough in Wanstead – two of last year’s shortlist subsequently shut up shop – so perhaps survival is more the order of the day. The campaign website says it will be continuing campaigning though, saying:
We’ll be comparing our high street to other conservation areas, asking why Redbridge council has let the quality of our High Street slip and demand that they uphold good design values in the future. It is in all our interests, not least the businesses themselves.
• There was a nasty-sounding van-jacking in Snaresbrook when a driver was threatened with a gun. According to the Wanstead Guardian, though, the driver, a former doorman, seems to have been more traumatised by being made to take off his trousers by his attacker.
It’s hard to stay calm when you’ve got a gun held at your head. But you’ve got to do it. It’s when you panic that you get problems. At the time I just kept as calm as I could. I’ve had knives waved at me before when I used to do the doors – but a gun is different altogether. I was a bit confused when he asked me to take my trousers off. I thought ‘if he tries anything funny here he’s going to have to start shooting.
• Wansteadium noted two weeks ago that the Redbridge council elections had turned out to be a mirror-image of the national election result. To make the parallel even more apt, the Tories and Lib Dems have formed a coalition in Redbridge too. Wanstead councillor Thomas Chan, who was the first Chinese mayor in Britain, has now finished his term as mayor.
The Wanstead Society has decided to oppose new plans to demolish the historic Kinema building. Its owner wants to build eight flats and a restaurant, but says the plans would be sympathetic to the style of the High Street.
• There’s another flag on a tree.