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Benjy’s nightclub reprieved as Tower Hamlets Council rejects high-rise block for Mile End

23:40 16 February 2017

Rejected... Bengy's tower block plan for Mile End

Rejected... Bengy's tower block plan for Mile End

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Controversial plans for a tower block to replace a popular nightclub in London’s East End have been booted out tonight.

Mock-up of how campaigners say proposed 'Benjy's Tower' will dominate Mile EndMock-up of how campaigners say proposed 'Benjy's Tower' will dominate Mile End

The decision by Tower Hamlets council spells victory for campaigners who have been fighting plans since 2007 by developers to put up a block of flats on the site of Benjy’s club which has been established at Mile End for 30 years.

Members of Mile End Old Town Residents’ organisation feared the 15-storey block that developers want to put up at the busy junction of Mile End Road and Burdett Road would open the floodgates for other schemes which they said would destroy the character of the neighbourhood.

Councillors agreed with them after strategic planning committee chairman Marc Francis said it would set a precedent and would be against the wishes of the community.

“I’m concerned about the height and the density and impact on the community,” he said.

Marc Francis listens to developers' plans for Benjy's TowerMarc Francis listens to developers' plans for Benjy's Tower

“Mile End probably can support a slightly higher density, but not quite as much as this.

“There is evidence of over-development with this scheme.”

Some councillors said the 150ft tower was far too high for the neighbourhood where few buildings are above four storeys.

Even the busy ticket hall entrance to Mile End Underground station next door to the site is only a single storey building.

Cllr Peter Golds (right) and cllr David Edgar give evidence against Benjy's TowerCllr Peter Golds (right) and cllr David Edgar give evidence against Benjy's Tower

There were also fears that the foundations could affect the Central and District lines running through Mile End which are not deep-level at that point, but only just below street level.

Tory Group leader Peter Golds told the committee: “It bears a hideous similarity to Galliard’s Lincoln Plaza on the Isle of Dogs which won the ‘Carbuncle of the Year’ award in 2016.

“This is also directly above the Underground which would mean it would have to be reduced in height, so we would lose the ratio of social housing in the scheme.”

Labour’s David Edgar, who lives in Mile End, acknowledged there was a need for more housing, but there was much opposition to the scale.

Reject... Tower Hamlets Strategic committee votes to throw out Benjy's TowerReject... Tower Hamlets Strategic committee votes to throw out Benjy's Tower

He pointed out: “It’s out of proportion and much bigger than all the buildings around it and would set a precedence for Mile End.”

Cllr Andrew Wood—normally quite used to high towers in his Canary Wharf ward—objected to the “constrained site for road access” with just one parking bay for deliveries trying to service the commercial units and many flats all at the same time. He didn’t see how it could work or make “a livable place”.

The committee voted unanimously to reject Benjy’s Tower, which was welcomed by the Mile End residents’ organisation which has been at loggerheads with the developers for almost 10 years.

Residents’ chairman John White told the East London Advertiser after tonight’s Town Hall planning meeting: “The fear is setting a precedent with other sites ripe for redevelopment if that tower went ahead.

John White from Mile End Old Town Residents welcoming councoil decision to reject Benjy's TowerJohn White from Mile End Old Town Residents welcoming councoil decision to reject Benjy's Tower

“We have no tradition of tower blocks at Mile End. Everything is two storey which makes the neighbourhood something special.”

A new neighbourhood forum, meanwhile, has been recognised in the area as a legal consultation body on all future planning issues.

Roman Road Bow Neighbourhood Forum joins fiver others at Shoreditch, Spitalfields, Wapping, Limehouse and the Isle of Dogs already recognised by the council.

But ironically its approved boundary cuts along the A11 Mile End Road which would have excluded Benjy’s on the south side anyway.

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