Largest urban wetland park in Europe to be created in Walthamstow

A £6.5 million project has been drawn up to reinvent Walthamstow as the largest urban wetland park in Europe, reveals Ruth Bloomfield
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The £6.5 million scheme would link Walthamstow's 10 Victorian reservoirs with nature trails and wildlife habitats
Plans are being drawn up to reinvent Walthamstow as home to the largest urban wetland park in Europe. The £6.5 million project for this poorly regarded stretch of east London will set estate agents’ hands rubbing with the thought of substantial price increases soon to come.

The Walthamstow Wetlands scheme is spearheaded by Waltham Forest council and centres on 10 Victorian reservoirs. Under the proposals a 200-hectare water works site will be threaded through with nature trails and dotted with play areas and wildlife habitats.

The council has already been granted £288,000 Heritage Lottery Fund money to work on the scheme and is currently consulting with residents. It plans to bid for £3.4 million of lottery funding in January 2014 to make the project a reality. Thames Water is committed to offering a further £1.5 million towards the plans. Work is due to start next August and the new wildlife reserve could be up and running by summer 2016.

At present average property prices in Waltham Forest stand at £263,627, up 3.4 per cent in the last year, according to the Land Registry. Councillor Clyde Loakes, deputy leader of Waltham Forest Council, believes the project will make Walthamstow a tourist attraction. “At the moment it is a bit of a hidden gem,” he said. “But we have got gastro pubs moving into the area, and good restaurants in Walthamstow Village, and we have got some good sites which are being redeveloped.”

Mahmood Faiz, manager of James Williams estate agents, said buyers who have been priced out of trendier Islington and Hackney and are already moving in on Walthamstow, attracted by swift transport links to the City (Victoria Line services plus overground trains to King’s Cross, Euston, St Pancras International and Victoria in around half an hour) and value for money.

Three-bedroom period terraces sell for around £350,000, and turn of the century purpose built two-bedroom flats for around £250,000. “The market is very good at the moment,” said Faiz. “The only real problem is lack of stock.” The imbalance of supply and demand means Faiz predicts prices will rise by 8.5 per cent over the next year.

As well as the Walthamstow Wetlands the area is being boosted with millions of pounds worth of building work. The award winning William Morris Gallery opened last year, and work has started on The Scene, close to Walthamstow Central station. This development will include a cinema, shops and 121 flats and is due to be completed within two years.

Meanwhile housing association L&Q is working on £50 million plans to transform Walthamstow Stadium, the former greyhound racing track, into almost 300 new homes. Commencing September 16, permission was given for 486-unit student block on Blackhorse Lane.

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