'Nightmare' plans could see Hackney Wick leaseholders living under a building site

Residents living at a block in Leabank Square

Residents living at a block in Leabank Square, Hackney Wick, are opposing plans to build two more storeys on top of their building while they are living in it. - Credit: Laura Mackay

Residents living in and around a block in Hackney Wick are opposing plans which could see their roof "ripped off" to make way for two new storeys. 

The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), which acts as the planning authority for Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and parts of the areas surrounding it, has already given prior approval for the proposed two-storey extension to the existing three-storey development. 

The extension, which would see 12 residential flats added, is pending consideration and residents have until this Friday (August 27) to comment.

Ellie Simpson, a Hackney Wick resident who lives in the block in Leabank Square, is, like many other leaseholders, worried about the disruption caused by the proposed construction work. 

She said: "The disruption the work would cause to our everyday lives is seriously worrying, especially during a time where home has become both a prison and a sanctuary during lockdowns. 

"We understand that there is a housing crisis in our city, but to force residents to live on a building site while they literally lift the roof off from above us is a step too far."

Laura Mackay, a resident who lives in the block in Leabank Square says the planning application, which she was made aware of over a week ago, has given her "nightmares". 

Laura Mackay, who has lived in the Leabank Square block for 11 years, with her dog Innes. 

Laura Mackay, who has lived in the Leabank Square block for 11 years, with her dog Innes. - Credit: Laura Mackay

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Laura found out new government policy introduced last year has given freeholder's the power to extend some buildings upwards.

She said: "Yes it may go with what the planning approval process is and the government's push to increase housing stock, but its not ethically very fair on the people who have to live on a building site with their roof being ripped off."

The architectural lights designer, who has experience in planning, says residents have not been told how long the construction could last.

She worries that more freeholders, like Southern Land Securities Limited who own the freehold to the Leabank Sqaure block, will look to extend buildings in Hackney while they are occupied.

She believes people should "be made aware of this". 

She added: "The London plan is about increasing affordable homes but this is building 12 one bed flats that are going to be privately let. 

"I can't imagine that they are going to be cheap and I don’t really feel that it is going to help increase housing stock in London."

Leaseholders are also concerned that the plans do not include additional parking, an extra waste or recycling area or any intention to improve services to the building's drainage system. This is described as "over capacity" due to the "huge number of developments in the area". 

Yang Zhao, who lives on the ground floor of the building, says the building's waste pipe is so "overloaded" her flat flooded during the pandemic.

Other residents worry that the extension, which will make the building taller than four neighbouring blocks, will overshadow nearby flats, houses and a communal square, altering the community feel fostered in the development since it was built in the 1980s. 

Cllr Chris Kennedy also weighed in on the plans, via a written objection to the approval of the application. 

He said he believes the application should be "rejected in its entirety" and the increase in massing would not be "out of context" in an area made up of largely two or three storey buildings. 

The councillor said: “The overly simple plans, which do not set back either of the two additional floors, lead me to suspect that the application may simply be testing the planning authority's appetite for any additional massing.

"For the reasons laid out above you should have none whatsoever. I also cannot conceive of a construction management plan, if these outlandish designs were approved, that would meet the legal requirements of preserving the amenity of existing residents.

"Construction would take at least a year and much employment has pivoted to involve work from home so you would be condemning many households, several with small children, to living in a building site for up to two years"

But the LLDC says it continues to assess the proposal against the criteria set out in the Planning legislation that the government recently introduced for extensions on top of blocks of flats. 

An LLDC Spokesperson said: "We have received objections from the local community which have raised a range of both Planning and non-planning matters, which will be considered as part of the report to the Legacy Corporation’s Planning Decisions Committee at one of its meetings in September or October.”

A Ministry of housing, communities and local government spokesperson added: "Making effective use of already-developed land – including making it easier to extend some buildings upwards – will help us deliver much needed homes while reducing the need to build on greenfield sites."

Residents can comment on the application to extend 94-111 Leabank Square until August 27, by emailing planningenquiries@londonlegacy.co.uk and using the reference 21/00328/PRNSDB