Social landlord Poplar HARCA has denied it is forcing businesses and social tenants out of its Brownfield Estate properties.

A petition has been set up to save social housing in Balfron Tower, which is managed by the association.

The Grade II listed building, designed by pioneer architect Erno Goldfinger, is set to be refurbished with Poplar HARCA planning to sell many of the flats privately.

But a petition to keep social housing in the building has been set up by resident Stephen Halsey. It has received more than 800 signatures in a week.

The petition states: “Instead of returning the refurbished flats to former social tenants they will be sold off as luxury apartments on the private market.

“This will see a loss of 99 social homes despite Poplar HARCA boss Steve Stride claiming no development should see a loss of social housing.

“Ernö Goldfinger specifically designed the block to give tenants on low incomes a decent standard of living.

“Residents cherish the light and space in their homes and the extraordinary view from them. Now HARCA deem them too valuable for the local community.

“We demand that Balfron stays at least 50% social. Please help us in achieving this by writing in objection to the plans by October 10 and by signing and sharing the petition.”

Developer Baily Garner, which was chosen to take on the £23million project, was explicit about the plans on its website, stating: “The majority of (homes in the building) are affordable housing.

“The proposal is to refurbish the building and create homes for private sale.”

Poplar HARCA’S director of development Neal Hunt said: “The allegations made in the Balfron Social petition are untrue. Every Balfron Tower tenant has been offered a move to alternative social rent homes, many newly built, with by far the majority staying with Poplar HARCA as their landlord.

“The sale of Balfron Tower has enabled Poplar HARCA to massively improve the wider Brownfield area. We have invested £32 million ensuring 505 social homes more than exceed the Decent Homes Standards. This includes the regeneration of Grade II listed Carradale House as well as dramatically improving the immediate environment with first class landscaping, pavements and a new play area. The regeneration has recently won an award for its street landscaping.

“Through our partnership with Balfron Tower Developments we will substantially improve currently underused public space around Balfron Tower, restoring it to benefit the whole of the local community.”

Meanwhile, fears were expressed at a Tower Hamlets Council cabinet meeting on Monday, October 6, with suggestions businesses might be told to pay more or leave units in the Aberfeldy Estate, which makes up part of the Brownfield Estate.

Plans have been submitted to demolish 14 blocks on the former, replacing them with 619 new homes, 529 of which will be up for private sale and 63 for social rent.

A planning officer at the authority told the meeting Poplar HARCA would offer the businesses premises after the rebuild.

But mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs asked whether businesses currently based at the estate’s units will be offered units back at higher rents.

Poplar HARCA spokesman Tony Draper told the meeting: “We will be warming people up for this eventuality.

“The population will increase and so will the footfall into these shops.”

Poplar HARCA has since claimed the new rents would match the probable footfall the new development would bring.

A spokesman said: “Poplar Harca is committed to working with local businesses and traders. Traders who wish to leave will be given every assistance to find new premises and will be properly compensated for the costs of moving.

“Traders that wish to stay will be given the opportunity to lease one of the new shops at a market rent that reflects the size of the shop and the likely foot fall created by the new development. It should be noted that the majority of shops on the estate now are boarded up and empty.

“The planned regeneration will revitalise the shopping parade, bringing greater choice to residents and creating a lively, attractive heart to the Aberfeldy Estate.”

The units contain a mix of different types of businesses, including takeaways, a clothes shop, newsagents, a pharmacy, a furniture store and even a mosque.