Councillors block concrete plant

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Councillors struck a blow against what they see as an attempt to reverse the regeneration of the Docklands by plans for a concrete batching plant in the shadow of Canary Wharf.

Residents mounted a successful bid to have the application halted presenting the plan for Orchard Place, next to Virginia Quay, as a return to an anachronistic industrial past.

They argued that the creation of a concrete plant, with 200 traffic movements a day, would be a blow to the neighbouring nature reserve in East India Dock basin.

Cllr Tim Archer told a planning meeting: "This application is completely inappropriate. The site is just 100m from Virginia Quay, directly opposite Orchard Place and it also next door to the East India Dock Basin nature reserve something which we in this borough should be particularly proud of."

But the victory - by four votes to three - may prove hollow.

The land, empty since the 1990s, is a "safeguarded wharf", designated in a raft of strategic plans precisely - and solely - for the purpose of aggregate haulage and processing.

The decision will have to go to the Mayor of London Boris Johnson who will see that its status was reviewed only last year and the designation re-confirmed.

Even Tower Hamlets Borough Council, whose officers had recommended the scheme, failed to promote any other use than industrial during the review leaving residents clinging to the slim hope that their campaign to show how the geography has changed can gain traction.

Resident John Gordon said: "We were encouraged to buy into the area on the basis of the urbanisation works planned. Re-activating the wharf for aggregates handling was never mentioned as a possibility.

"Leamouth is a superb example of sustainable urban renewal. The Safeguarded Wharves review ignores the residential renaissance of the area.

"If design features to eliminate noise, dust and other pollutants fail to deliver the plant threatens to reverse the urbanisation. Residents may move out, local business may have to relocate."

Another resident, Julian Hilton, said: "We question how a concrete batching plant can add value to the neighbourhood, how a 19th century industry can be parachuted into a 21st century community without damage or friction.

"This proposal is offensive and feels like an attack - it attacks common sense, it attack community, it is unfair."

Orchard Wharf is one of three across London that has been earmarked for "reactivation" by the Port of London Authority with the aim of increasing the amount of aggregate brought into the city by river, as opposed to lorry, creating a "green highway".

A spokeswoman for the company behind the concrete plant said: "The application calls for the reactivation of the wharf which is part of London and local plans. The review is designed to protect the Wharf from non-wharf activities."

She said the developers had proposed a number of measures, including screening and double glazing for nearby homes, to mitigate the impact of dust and noise.

Previous attempts to change the designation of these safeguarded wharves have failed.

In 2007 plans to turn Peruvian Wharf in Newham into a residential development were dismissed, a decision ultimately supported by the Secretary of State for Local Government.