Tower Hamlets ‘rejects’ five-tower Docklands development ahead of inquiry
Tower Hamlets council has resolved to reject PLP’s supersized Westferry Printworks scheme, which would deliver 1,524 new homes as part of a five-tower scheme on east London’s Isle of Dogs.
The practice’s proposed towers range in height from 19 to 44 storeys, but the scheme also includes a further six buildings of up to 14 storeys on a 5ha site to the north of Millwall Outer Dock, owned by former Daily Express and Daily Star proprietor Richard Desmond.
In addition to the new homes the latest incarnation of the Westferry Printworks scheme would deliver 1,730sq m of restaurants and bars; 1,048sq m of flexible commercial space, plus residential management space, healthcare space, a crèche and a community centre.
PLP’s client, Westferry Developments, has consent for a smaller-scale version of the scheme – featuring 722 homes in four towers of up to 30 storeys, a community hub and a crèche. That approval was granted by then-mayor of London Boris Johnson in 2016 after he used his planning powers to determine the scheme instead of Tower Hamlets.
This week’s resolution by Tower Hamlets councillors to refuse the supersized scheme is academic because Westferry has already appealed the council’s non-determination of the application and secured a planning inquiry – meaning the power of refusal no longer rests with the authority. The final decision will go to housing secretary James Brokenshire.
Nevertheless, the reasons underpinning the decision made by members of the council’s strategic development committee will form the council’s core case at the inquiry.
The scheme approved by Johnson in 2016 includes a 1,200-pupil secondary school on an adjoining 1.2ha site. PLP’s reworked proposals, allow for the school to be delivered in line with the consented scheme or the revised plans lodged last summer. It is not included in the footprint for the new scheme – nor is it part of the appeal.
Recommending Tuesday’s meeting of the borough’s strategic development committee to issue a formal resolution indicating they would refuse the proposals if they had the power, Tower Hamlets planning officers said there was a list of reasons that could support such a decision. Among these were the scheme’s height and mass, its mix and quantity of affordable housing, and its effect on the nearby Docklands Sailing Centre.
Councillors resolved to defend their opposition to the latest proposals on the grounds of the location of the scheme’s tall buildings, townscape and visual impact; “unmitigated wind impact” on the sailing centre; a likely affordable housing offer of less than 35%, following the withdrawal of a previous offer by the developer; and a residential tenure mix expected to be non-compliant with the borough’s development plan.
The project will be the latest in a long line of planning inquiries the borough has faced in recent months.
In February, the authority admitted that “unusually high” numbers of planning inquiries had cost it close on £1m in barely more than a year.
Councillors’ refusals for a 49-storey Make Architects tower and a 319-home 3DReid development were overturned at appeal by planning inspectors.
And other schemes given the go-ahead at appeal include PLP’s Whitechapel Estate redevelopment project and an apartment hotel at Aldgate designed by Grzywinski & Pons Architects.