Cllr John Moss is a councillor in Waltham Forest and Political Deputy Chairman in Chingford & Woodford Green
Waltham Forest is an unusual Borough. It extends from the edge of Stratford town centre, right up to the Essex border in Epping Forest. Not surprisingly, the character of the Borough is as varied as its people. Its south and centre, centred around the town centres of Leytonstone, Leyton and Walthamstow, is made up mostly of dense, terraced Victorian streets of low rise housing served by the Central and Victoria lines.
The north of the Borough was mostly built after the First World War and is a much more suburban area, with homes built for families with cars and more local high streets which have grown up serving this slightly different clientele.
It’s similar politically. The south and centre mostly votes Labour, returning Jon Cryer and Stella Creasy, the north votes mostly Conservative, returning Iain Duncan Smith. I suppose the old adage of people becoming more “Tory” as they get older may be borne out by this, as people tend to move to Chingford as they get married and have kids because of the type of housing and lifestyle. I suspect this is the case across a lot of London.
So what does Zac need to do to persuade people across this diverse Borough to vote for him? There are two key issues: transport and housing. On both, he’s more in touch with ordinary people than Sadiq Khan – and Khan’s supporters in our Labour Council.
On transport, Khan is offering a bribe – no more, no less. His fares freeze is paid for by raiding TfL’s reserves and that threatens TfL’s investment programme. That means a threat to improvements to the Chingford to Liverpool Street line, recently taken over by TfL, and which has suffered from a lot more than “teething troubles”. New trains are planned for 2018, but will they survive a Khan mayoralty?
Zac is right to reject the easy option and to stick with TfL’s investment plans so that services can improve on both the overground and the tube network.
We need this investment because Waltham Forest is getting bigger. The Council is planning for 20,000 new homes across the Borough and here again, Zac has the better ideas. Unlike Khan, who has ruled out comprehensive redevelopment of run-down council estates, Zac backs this where the schemes are designed in concert with residents and their neighbours and they deliver a guaranteed replacement home for tenants and leaseholders.
Waltham Forest has already redeveloped some of its worst estates. Chingford Hall and Oliver Road were redeveloped in the ’80s and ’90s with Housing Action Trust money from Margaret Thatcher’s Government. Now it is starting on a further round of projects to provide residents with new homes in streets rather than behind walls and security doors. Homes which are energy efficient and in a mixed community rather than expensive to heat flats in balcony-accessed estates which have become concentrations of deprivation.
Would Khan stop this and condemn residents to continue to live in squalor? Once again Zac is right to push for redevelopment of the worst post-war estates, which can provide significant numbers of new homes alongside improved homes for existing residents.
One further thing he could do to cement support in the suburbs is to make it very clear that he recognises that families want to live in a family home. Which to them is a house, with a garden and parking, not a three bedroom flat on the upper floors of an apartment block with space for two bikes in the basement.
Of course, with good transport infrastructure and family homes comes a need for viable local high streets where those who need to can park their car to go shopping. In Richmond, Zac helped win the fight to bring 30 minutes of free parking to local high streets and here in Waltham Forest we’re currently fighting proposals from our Labour Council to remove the 15 minutes of free, short-stay parking, which the local Conservatives secured in 2012.
I’m pleased to say Zac was here on Saturday supporting our efforts to oppose this and many people in Station Road, North Chingford gave him a very warm reception.
What does Zac need to do to win? More of the same!