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Go-ahead for St George’s ‘Fortress Wapping’ London Dock scheme

PUBLISHED: 12:00 14 January 2014

Tower soon to dominate skyline at Wapping

Tower soon to dominate skyline at Wapping

St George Central London

The green light has been given for one of London’s biggest developments which is to rise on the site of the once-notorious ‘Fortress Wapping’.

Entrance to News International's once-notorious 'Fortress Wapping'Entrance to News International's once-notorious 'Fortress Wapping'

Planning approval has been given in the East End for redeveloping London Dock off The Highway, which had been the headquarters of Rupert Murdoch’s News International for more than 30 years.

The scheme, with its centrepiece tower 25 storeys high, a new civic square and water gardens, has up to 1,800 new homes including 486 low-cost affordable units.

It has 200,000sq ft of commercial space for 1,200 new jobs and a new six-form entry secondary school.

But the ambitious plans for the 15-acre site approved by Tower Hamlets council’s Strategic Development committee last Thursday have had to be modified after objections to its scale.

Plans for London Dock developmentPlans for London Dock development

The new owners, St George Central London, originally wanted a 33-floor tower, now clipped at 25 storeys.

They have also had to double the ratio of low-cost housing from 15 to 30 per cent, after 18 months of Town Hall negotiations and public consultations.

“The development breaks down the barrier of the former ‘Fortress Wapping’ into a distinctive masterplan,” the developers’ spokesman said.

“We are creating public routes through the site and varied landscapes inspired by the heritage of the historic London Dock. Over half the development will be open space, most of it publicly accessible.”

The latest consultation led to 41 letters of objection, including English Heritage opposing the height of the tallest tower.

The developers are giving more than £7 million towards the Crossrail scheme that passes through Whitechapel and Liverpool Street, little more than a mile away. Another £4m is earmarked towards a secondary school for 1,200 pupils and £500,000 to improve bus services.

Work on the first phase is due to start in the spring. The whole scheme will take 10 years.

The Grade II-listed Pennington Street Warehouse is at the heart of the development with cafés, restaurants and small offices.

The site with its high walls and barbed wire was labelled Fortress Wapping when Rupert Murdoch moved production of The Times, Sun and News of the World out of Fleet Street in 1986, to smash the powerful print unions and escape astronomic City rents.

But it caused anger when 5,000 employees were sacked for refusing to move to Wapping.

The sacked workers besieged the plant in Pennington Street for four weeks. Things got nasty on February 15, 1986, when violent clashes erupted between the protesters and police.

MPs debated in Parliament whether the barbed-wire erected around the plant was actually legal. The ‘siege’ lasted another 12 months, with 1,262 arrests and 410 police injuries recorded.

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