Councillors shun officers’ advice and warn they are ‘minded to reject’ 319-home scheme

East London councillors have signalled they are likely to refuse 3DReid’s plans for two residential towers – just weeks after a much taller Make scheme suffered a similar fate.

Tower Hamlets planning officers had recommended approval for 3DReid’s proposals to demolish a cluster of low-rise office and retail buildings on the Isle of Dogs for replacement with towers of 30 and 26 storeys.

The scheme would deliver 319 homes and around 1,700sq m of non-residential floorspace for retail and nursery use on the 0.65ha Millharbour site, a few hundred metres south of Canary Wharf.

Designed for developer Meadow Residential, it followed the withdrawal of 2014 proposals by O’Mahony Pike and Metropolitan Workshop for a 45-storey tower and two buildings of up to 15 storeys.

3DReid said the earlier scheme, which would have delivered 484 homes, was abandoned for viability reasons.

I don’t think we’re anti-development at all

Cllr Peter Golds

At their most recent meeting, councillors on Tower Hamlets’ strategic development committee voted that they were “minded to reject” the 3DReid scheme. They cited grounds of density, height and massing, and the scheme’s impact on the “stepping” effect envisaged in local planning policy under which the tall buildings of Canary Wharf reduce in size to lower-rise buildings further south. A final decision on the application will be made at a future meeting.

Calling for the plans to be backed, officers had said they considered the scheme to be a high-quality design that would deliver 30% affordable housing, although they accepted that when viewed “within the isolated context of the existing buildings along Millharbour” the scheme did not systematically step down.

They said the “spirit” of the policies was to “achieve a more strategic step down from Canary Wharf” that could only truly be appreciated in views that “take account of the wider context”.

Millharbour massing

Massing of 3DReid’s Millharbour scheme, seen from the west

Planning committee chair Marc Francis acknowledged the 3DReid refusal was the second such decision in relation to Isle of Dogs towers in successive committee meetings but highlighted that the panel had also agreed to approve “a fair few” schemes.

“In relation to this specific application, members were clearly of the view its height and bulk were excessive and that it does not accord with the longstanding policy that developments should step down to the low/medium-rise residential developments around the edge of the island,” the Labour councillor told BD.

“Reference was made in the report to the consented scheme at Westferry Printworks, but that was approved by the former mayor of London just prior to his departure from office, not by our committee, and our own view was that we would have rejected that application if it had remained in our power to do so as it is a clear breach of the same policy.”

The scheme Francis was referring to was designed by PLP Architecure. It delivers more than 700 home in nine buildings of up to 30 storeys in height and will also provide a 1,200-pupil secondary school, retail and commercial space.

Conservative councillor Peter Golds, who is a substitute member of the strategic development committee and represents the Island Gardens ward on the Isle of Dogs, said there was frequently a “mismatch” between what officers and councillors considered acceptable.

“I don’t think we’re anti-development at all,” he said. “What we want is good development and strategic development.”

Golds said the step-down policy on building heights was designed to counteract an “Alps effect” with the spread of high-rise buildings in the area, while council colleagues’ density concerns included the impact of schemes on current Docklands Light Railway passenger levels.

In September, members of the strategic development committee went against officers’ recommendations and refused consent for Make’s 225 Marsh Wall scheme.

That 49-storey proposal, earmarked for a site north-west of the 3DReid scheme, had seen its height cut from 56 storeys following an earlier threatened refusal.

Glengall Quay, by O’Mahony Pike and Metropolitan Workshop

O’Mahony Pike and Metropolitan Workshop’s 2014 Millharbour proposals, known as Glengall Quay