Planning Wrap: Pride and Island Point green-lit

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Island Point scheme granted after deferral

Chairman casts tie-breaking vote after Pride Row

Bow Safeway site housing scheme approved, but St Katharine's Dock plans blocked

Tower Hamlets councillors faced angry heckles from frustrated Islanders as two controversial schemes were approved.

Strategic Development Committee members were harangued by shouts of "shame", and Labour members were accused of being "in bed" with developer Glenkerrin after plans for the Island Point and Pride developments were cleared on Wednesday night.

The meeting had been put off for two weeks due to concerns about a clash with the G20 world summit, affecting the ability of residents to attend. But the crowd that made it to the Town Hall were outraged as committee chair Cllr Shafiqul Haque placed his casting vote in favour of the 62-storey Pride scheme to break a 4-4 tie.

The Island Point development - a 189-unit development at 443-451 Westferry Road - had been approved earlier by a vote of four to two, following its deferral at a previous meeting in February.

Lockesfield Place resident Gill Crawford rounded on committee members including Cllr Haque, who was widely mocked in the chamber for adjourning for legal advice before laying down his vote on the Pride. The confusion which arose from a query about grant funding on the Island Point scheme also bemused many watching residents.

Committee members had eventually decided to opt for an Island Point plan that was not reliant on Glenkerrin receiving a grant to help off-set the cost of affordable housing, a move which Cllr Tim Archer claimed would leave the application "on quicksand". Cllr Marc Francis later moved successfully to seek such funding for the Pride scheme.

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Ms Crawford said: "We're reviewing the situation because of what's gone on here tonight.

"As a resident, I found the ineptitude of the committee mindboggling. Here they are, voting on things that leave a lasting legacy for a community, and they haven't got the first idea what they're doing."

Ms Crawford had previously called on the committee to listen to the hundreds of residents who had objected to the linked schemes.

She announced she had collected 700 objections to the Pride, and that another 700 had barely missed the council's submission deadline.

She said: "There's a massive objection to these developments. We residents have united for the future of the Island and voiced our objections like never before. Tower Hamlets Council says it wants its borough to be a great place to live. Now prove it."

Glenkerrin reportedly paid £64.9million for the two Westferry Road sites, a derelict area at 443-451 and the site of the City Pride pub. It linked the two schemes to enable it to locate 91 per cent of the affordable housing at Island Point, with just five per cent in the Pride Tower.

Residents in communities such as Lockesfield Place, Chapel House Street and St Davids Square were battling Island Point due to fears that the affordable and social housing split would create "ghettoisation" in the area, and that the buildings rising up to eight storeys would result in a loss of light for existing homes. A total of 296 letters of objection were raised against the application, with 152 supporting.

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Along Westferry Road, neighbours of the Pride feared the effect that the densely-populated tower would have on the area.

Speaking on behalf of the residents, Blackwall and Cubitt Town councillor Phil Briscoe revealed the density of the 430-unit tower would be nearly four times the council's own guidelines. He claimed the scheme even trumped developments in traditionally-dense areas such as Mumbai, Shanghai and Sao Paulo.

He said: "The Pride would represent a level of residential density not seen before in London."

Development control manager Stephen Irvine admitted that this "wouldn't be acceptable everywhere in the borough", but argued that the site was exceptional due to its proximity to upcoming tall developments such as Riverside South and Heron Quays West.

He mused that he was aware of a denser development in Elephant and Castle, and some in Hong Kong.

Opinions differed on the merits of the Pride, which will also feature a nine-storey hotel with 203 rooms.

Jim Pool, of planning consultants DP9, claimed it would provide benefits for residents and locals alike, offering facilities such as a public bar.

He said: "We believe the scale of the development is contextual, and fits in with the emerging Canary Wharf cluster."

However, Alpha Grove community centre director Rhys Johnson claimed the area would "struggle to cope" with further high-density development.

He said: "The gains have not been shown throughout the community. There's been no improvement in the quality of life for people suffering from deprivation."

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Committee members were also split. Cllr Archer described the Pride as "a shocking application", while Cllr Shahed Ali was concerned that any problems with the hi-tech car parking facilities would turn Heron Quays roundabout into a "taxi rank". Cllr Josh Peck observed that the building was smaller than One Canada Square while featuring 20 per cent more floors, but development control manager Mr Irvine admitted the council "doesn't have a policy" on minimum ceiling height beyond that dictated by building control.

Cllr Francis argued that there was "sometimes a price to be paid to get extra affordable housing", and praised the "exceptional design" on the "narrow" site. He was eventually backed by chair and Labour colleague Cllr Haque as the meeting moved past 10pm.

Beyond the Island, Bow residents were also angered when the committee granted permission for the redevelopment of a former Safeway store in Gladstone Place by a vote of six to two.

A claim has already been made for a judicial review on the council's previous decision to green-light a five-building development on the site last November, offering 2,687 square metres of retail including a Tesco superstore and 208 residential units. But the majority of councillors opted to grant permission for a second time, this time to a scheme with featuring on-site open space.

St Katharine's Dock residents were happier as they left the Town Hall. Their objections to plans to redevelop the dock were unanimously upheld by committee members, who felt that they did not fit in with the "calm and peaceful" area.

St Katharine's Investments LP hoped to make several changes, including the redevelopment of Commodity Quay, the construction of an extension to International House for food or drink establishments and alterations to Tradewinds including a glazed western elevation, as well as pedestrian boardwalk and public space additions.

Longtime Marble Quay resident Colin Mitchell said: "The proposal is to use glass and wood in an area of brick-built character.

"Is it good conservation to demolish a building that's less than 30 years old so a bigger and uglier one can be put in its place?"

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Council case officer Richard Humphreys argued that the new development at Commodity Quay "would be superior to the existing building". And Spencer Colman Fine Art manager Alex Miles urged councillors to wave through the scheme to create "a cathedral, not just for the select few".

He said: "The dock itself provides little of interest. It's become one of those places that you go to to get to the other place.

"We have a chance to put our best foot forward and make a positive difference to what should be a jewel in London's crown."

Committee members were not impressed, however, choosing to reject on the grounds of "design, form, scale, mass and use of materials". Cllr Shahed Ali said: "The design they've put in for Tradewinds is blasphemous.

"People come to these docks to enjoy the historical relevance it has to this area."

As officers recommended approval, it will now be deferred so that reasons for refusal can be officially formulated.

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There was no time to hear Island applications such as the two-tower residential scheme on the Trafalgar Way McDonalds site, and Angel Group's residential tower to be built on the site of its Marsh Wall office. These will be heard at a later date.

3 Comments

Victoria said:

This is an absolute disgrace. The scheme should never have been allowed. The Island is already extremely overpopulated and there is not enough tramsport and facilities to cater for all the residents. The Tower Hamlets councillors should be ashamed of themselves. Once again, the greedy developers win.

Steve Green said:

City Pride is an impressive building and will complement the emerging Docklands skyline very nicely.

henrik said:

How convenient to just ignore the voice of the residents - the area is already struggling to cope with the amount of people and the prospect of a ghetto across the road is not exactly appealing - at least there should have been an even split of affordable housing in the two developments. 91% vs 5% - utter shambles

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