Mention the word regeneration to a Walthamstow resident and you will probably get one of two reactions. They might beam with joy and tell you about all the exciting possibilities that regeneration can bring, or the mere mention of the word will strike fear in to their heart as they worry about E17 changing. Regeneration has become one of those catch-all words that is used in reference to all kinds of topics, it can describe both negative and positive changes, so what does regeneration actually mean for Walthamstow? Will it mean an end to sign posts that wear underpants?
I read an article online which said that the key indicators that show an area is being regenerated are rising house prices, investment in local business, and an increase in building activity. It’s safe to say that Walthamstow has seen all of those things. Take a look in any estate agents window and your eyes will probably begin to water at the value of property in E17, and there is no shortage of building work. The hotel and apartment complex that has risen from the car park next to central station, and the new cinema development are two very noticeable examples of increased investment and new builds in the area.
Personally I’m not a massive fan of the buildings near the tube station, but having a hotel in the centre of Walthamstow is no bad thing, it will certainly prove useful if family decide to visit on mass. For me, the building of the cinema is very exciting, I’m really looking forward to not having to travel when I want to go and see a film. It’s great to see all this new investment is coming to the area, but regeneration isn’t always a good thing. I was horrified to read that Gods Own Junkyard, a gallery and workshop full of neon art created by local artist Chris Bracey, is under threat of eviction. Located near Wood Street this local business is an asset to Walthamstow but it may have to close in order that a block of flats can be built on the land it occupies, this is regeneration gone mad. There is of course more to regeneration than new buildings, but they do impact the area in which they are built. A theory held by some planners is that when new developments and retail units are built, customers may abandon other areas of the town and those areas then fall into decline. Is Walthamstow big enough to support all these new ventures? Or are we just setting the seeds for the next generation of regeneration projects?
In order for regeneration to be successful it has to be sympathetic and appropriate to the area that is being regenerated. It could be said that the Bell and the Chequers are examples of regeneration that worked. The two pubs reopened after extensive investment by their new owners, and now they fit perfectly into the already vibrant pub scene. Both bars provided something slightly different to what was on offer before, and although they are competition for the other pubs, the interest that was created by their refurbishment has had a positive impact and raised the profile of Walthamstow’s bars. So, what does regeneration mean for Walthamstow? Hopefully it means E17 will become an even better place to live, but it needs careful planning and monitoring. The character of the Walthamstow we know and love needs to be preserved, but we also need to ensure that the area benefits from investment and the opportunities that regeneration can bring.