Mayor of London gives the go-ahead to demolish historic greyhound track

The hope of ever restoring Walthamstow Dogs has been greatly diminished following the Mayor of London’s controversial decision yesterday to approve plans to build a housing estate on the site

by Natalie Glanvill on 31 October 2012 12:18

Besides being a historic Grade II listed east-end landmark, Walthamstow Stadium was more than just a neon-lit attraction for those who enjoyed a regular greyhound racing bet. It was a stadium that brought people from all walks of life together for sociable evenings, often filled with adrenaline, a mix of fine dining and fast food and good old live entertainment.

In its heyday, it had been visited by some of the world’s most famous superstars, world-class athletes and even Sir Winston Churchill.  As you walked along the stadium’s concrete corridors, framed photos hung along the walls which stood out as a reminder to many of us of how great the stadium had been for restoring English culture and guaranteeing a great night out.

I would lay awake at night through no fault of my own as flashing lights, cheers, the noise of starting pistols and white laser lights lit up East London – it was a sign that our community had something extraordinary to offer. Filmmaker Guy Ritchie used the stadium to portray scenes of London’s gritty lifestyle in his much-loved gangster film, “Snatch”.

I have lived in the London Borough of Waltham Forest my whole life and I have very fond memories of always buying a child’s ticket on a Saturday night with a group of school friends or visiting the greyhound track with my family on a Sunday afternoon. I was never old enough to legally gamble so I (among many others) would ask other men and woman to place them – in which they did every time.

“Can you put 50p each-way on dog no.4 please?” The stadium made gambling seem so innocent.

The reason I tell this story is that the hope of ever restoring Walthamstow Dogs has been greatly diminished following the Mayor of London’s controversial decision yesterday to approve plans to build a housing estate on the site which has been described by English Heritage as the “best surviving and most architecturally interesting vintage greyhound racing stadium in the country”.

Boris Johnson said losing the stadium to be an “acceptable loss” for the benefits he claimed London & Quadrant’s 294 home development would bring to Walthamstow.

“I share the sadness of many people about the demise of dog racing from this historic corner of London”. The London Mayor however defended his decision to give the go-ahead to start the demolition by adding the “proposal will provide a major boost for Walthamstow, creating new jobs an new homes, many of which will be affordable and attract desperately needed new investment in the area”.

It is true that areas such as Walthamstow, Leyton and Leytonstone are in serious need of new investment but I agree with Save Our Stow (SOS) campaigner, Ricky Holloway when he says, “the council has kindly helped give Waltham Forest another housing estate”.

Holloway said that the Mayor had overlooked a rival bid from millionaire and greyhound enthusiast Bob Morton to build a dog track and create 500 permanent jobs – double of what L&Q proposals say.

In a joint statement, local MPs Iain Duncan Smith and Stella Creasy said, “We are deeply disappointed in the Mayor of London as we understood him to be in support of the dog track and our constituents voted for him partly on this basis”.

The MPs warned that this will not be the end for the stadium and the matter is being taken to Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. 

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