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Limehouse Triangle tower block rejected a third time by Tower Hamlets Council

PUBLISHED: 10:11 16 October 2017 | UPDATED: 10:50 16 October 2017

Limehouse Triangle by the Regent's Canal where council housing developers want to put up a tower block. Picture: LBTH

Limehouse Triangle by the Regent's Canal where council housing developers want to put up a tower block. Picture: LBTH

LBTH

Controversial plans to build a tower block on the ‘Limehouse Triangle’ nature preserve next to the Regent’s Canal in east London have been rejected by Tower Hamlets councillors yet again.

The scheme for a tower block on what was once an award-winning biodiversity garden before council bulldozers flattened it last year was thrown out again by the development committee with a hairline majority.

The vote last week was the third victory in 12 months for protesters to stop the council’s own housing organisation building on green space after it had uprooted a native hedgerow months before even lodging a planning application.

Opposition councillors backed campaigner Alicia Joseph and her neighbours on the Locksley estate in Salmon Lane who want their green space back, in the face of Labour support for a tower block of 17 flats.

The plans were already postponed last October, then rejected outright in January when councillors learned that Tower Hamlets Homes had breached protocol by clearing the land before formally applying to go ahead with the development.

The housing organisation was back again on Wednesday with a slightly modified proposal to build the block slightly further away from the canal towpath and slightly lower than originally suggested.

But it cut no ice with opposition members calling for the land to be returned to its original biodiversity status of 2000 when it won the authority’s backing as part of a ‘green corridor’ project between Mile End and the Limehouse Basin.

“Our conduct into the site is regrettable,” Tory Cllr Chris Chapman told the meeting. “The site was never marked in the council’s biodiversity plans, so it was allowed to degenerate into the mess that has meant having to be cleared.

“A tower block would be a contravention of local planning guidelines to retain green spaces.”

Fellow Tory Andrew Wood accused the council at January’s planning meeting when the scheme was initially rejected of “years of mismanaging the land” and said it should be restored to a publicly-accessible open space with trees and flowers.

Objectors want the lost open space restored, last week’s meeting heard. Trees had been removed “in an underhanded way” to prepare the way for the first proposal rejected in January, Cllr Andrew Cregan pointed out.

He added: “The Triangle is ‘de facto’ open green space, which should not be lost to another high rise development.”

But Labour’s Danny Hassell wanted the land to ease the waiting list and suggested the next time a family with “a horror story about their housing” came to Cllr Chapman’s surgery “he would be able to look them in the eye”.

Cllr Chapman’s response was that families at his surgery also complained at lack of open space for their children.

Lib Dem Andrew Cregan was furious that trees had been removed “in a very underhanded way” to prepare for the original proposal to the planning committee.

Labour’s John Pearce, chairing the meeting, spoke in favour of a tower block, but lost the vote, three to two against.

The Locksley estate neighbours were cautious about celebrating any victory, however, fearing that the council housing body was likely to come back in a few months to try and get the scheme approved.

Their delegate, fashion stylist Alicia Joseph, told the East London Advertiser after the meeting: “The developers are going to keep pushing and pushing and pushing to try and get this through, so we have a way to go to save our Triangle, which is now just seen as real estate backing onto the canal. I hope the council will now listen to the community.”

The East End has many ‘brownfield’ sites more suitable for housing development, campaigners argue, rather than destroy unique biodiversity open space.

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