Redevelopment plans for Westferry Printworks could potentially “devastate” the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre (DSWC).
DSWC chairman Martin Younge has raised concerns over the positioning of these blocks, saying they would seriously disrupt the wind that sailing boats use to launch.
He said: “The effect of the buildings would be to whip the wind around and render it difficult to board and get sailing – that’s the problem.
“We think if the plans were to go ahead, our charitable operation would cease to exist. It’s an existential threat to community sailing, but we’re working on it."
An environmental statement commissioned by the project’s developer London and Regional Properties admits the buildings would have an “adverse and significant” effect on the wind at the north west of the dock - the boats’ launch site.
The study, carried out by engineer consultants Rowan Williams Davies and Irwin, showed there could be a reduction of up to 37% in quality of sailing for novices.
The document says: “With the completed development, over the entire sailing season, the results show a reduction (based on a percentage of total time) in the sailing quality in the north-west corner of the dock.”
However, the Royal Yacht Association (RYA) said in response to this assessment: “The criteria that have been used are relatively meaningless as they are not based on the real situation.”
Martin said: “The developers are showing an interest in trying to sort us out and they recognise the development would be detrimental to the centre.
“We understand the need for residential units to pay for things like the new secondary school, which we very much welcome, but we just want this all to be scientifically tested so we know where it is and how it will affect us.
“The young people around here need to be able to use these docks because there’s little for them to do otherwise, other than places like Mudchute Farm.
“People have gone on to glorious things who have sailed here. Just last year we had a visit from Princess Anne and we’ve had Ben Ainslie visit on a number of occasions.”
The decision is now out of Tower Hamlets Council’s hands after the Mayor of London’s planning unit “called in” the application. It cited the borough’s failure to meet housing targets as one of the reasons for the overrule.
The council had previously expressed its concerns over the “reliability of the assessment of the environmental impacts” regarding the wind assessment.
Canary Wharf councillor Andrew Wood told Boris Johnson’s planning team: “The Printworks is a good development that I largely support but it has [this] one big problem that you can help to resolve.
“Every day on the Isle of Dogs we see the impact of planning failures and you need to avoid making things worse by approving this without change.”
A spokesman for the Mayor of London said: “London’s population boom means there is a growing need for housing, secondary school places and open space across Tower Hamlets, all of which will be delivered by this scheme.
“The mayor has called in this application to take a detailed look at the proposals and will take all views from concerned parties into consideration before making a decision in due course.”
The current development proposals:
- The former Westferry Printworks would be demolished and a mixed use site containing four to 30 storey buildings (tallest being 110 metres high) would be built.
- This would include a secondary school, 722 residential units, shops, restaurants, office space, community facilities, a park and car and cycle basement parking.