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Plans for east London towers tumble as Tower Hamlets council gets tough

PUBLISHED: 13:00 28 November 2017 | UPDATED: 12:11 29 November 2017

Withdrawn... tower block planned at Limehouse, spells victory for Locksley Estate families. Triangle. Picture: LBTH

Withdrawn... tower block planned at Limehouse, spells victory for Locksley Estate families. Triangle. Picture: LBTH

LBTH

Another giant developer has thrown in the towel in the face of east London’s “people power” with the a fourth big building scheme within just six months being withdrawn.

Withdrawn... 28-storey tower overlooking Wren's 1695 Grade I-listed Trinity Green almshouses — but could reappear with Sainsbury's appeal to the Secretary of State. Picture source: Sainsbury'sWithdrawn... 28-storey tower overlooking Wren's 1695 Grade I-listed Trinity Green almshouses — but could reappear with Sainsbury's appeal to the Secretary of State. Picture source: Sainsbury's

The latest to tumble is the tower block planned at the Limehouse Triangle open space next to the Regent’s Canal, with confirmation by Tower Hamlets Council that its own housing organisation’s planning application “has been withdrawn and hence no planning decision will be issued”.

It joins three mammoth projects scrapped this year by developers themselves, just days after councillors on November 8 booted out the Limehouse scheme for the third time in 10 months.

The cards began tumbling when Sainsbury’s withdrew plans in the summer for its 28-storey Whitechapel Square luxury tower that would overshadow Christopher Wren’s 1695 Grade-I Trinity Green Almshouses at Mile End Gate—although the company now appears to be taking an appeal to the Secretary of State.

Next to go in a flap was Swan Housing which finally withdrew plans for a luxury block on the old Stepney’s nightclub site slap up against the historic George Tavern in Commercial Road, after a 10-year battle by pub landlady Pauline Forster.

Withdrawn... Swan Housing's scheme up against Pauline Forster's historic George Tavern in the Commercial Road. Picture: Mike BrookeWithdrawn... Swan Housing's scheme up against Pauline Forster's historic George Tavern in the Commercial Road. Picture: Mike Brooke

Pauline heard just this week that she’s being given the John Young Memorial award at ceremony on December 5 at Hackney for her decade campaigning to save a traditional East End boozer from developers’ encroachment—and for her real ale.

Then came the biggest scheme of them all to tumble, 2,000 homes planned at Asda supermarket’s Isle of Dogs site, which would have overshadowed Millwall Park and Mudchute city farm, withdrawn after a five-year controversy over services and infrastructure being overwhelmed if it went ahead.

The Limehouse triangle scheme is now the latest to join the tumbling pack of cards because councillors are “emboldened” in realising they can stop schemes they believe would destroy their communities.

The application for an eight-storey block of 17 rented flats next to the Regent’s Canal was formally withdrawn on November 13, according to a letter from the council’s planning and building control director seen by the East London Advertiser.

Withdrawn... Asda's Isle of Dogs massive scheme as it would have been seen from Mudchute city farm. Picture source: AsdaWithdrawn... Asda's Isle of Dogs massive scheme as it would have been seen from Mudchute city farm. Picture source: Asda

Planted hedgerows and matured trees on the ‘triangle’ in Salmon Lane had all been uprooted last year by the council’s own Tower Hamlets Homes organisation—even before the first of its three failed planning applications, reported by the paper in October, 2016.

The daring housing gamble that went against the council’s own planning protocol galvanised families on the Locksley Estate and infuriated Opposition councillors on the town hall’s planning committee.

“People power is just part of the reason all these massive schemes are tumbling,” Opposition Cllr Andrew Wood told the Advertiser.

“Councillors now realise we can say ‘no’ to the big developers. We have suddenly realised what we can achieve through accumulative experience and are more willing to challenge these schemes.”

Cllr Andrew Wood... Cllr Andrew Wood... "People power and councillors realising we can say ‘no’ to big developers is the reason these schemes are tumbling." Picture: Mike Brooke

Cllr Wood is backing the families’ bid to get the ‘triangle’ declared official parkland in the Tower Hamlets Local Plan and to return it as a nature reserve which was the council’s original plan in 2000.

“Limehouse has a shortage of green space, which I pointed out to the mayor during the Local Plan consultations,” Cllr Wood added. “The community programme to maintain the triangle started 17 years ago must be restarted with tree and hedge planting so it can be used by three schools nearby for wildlife education.”

Council funds were handed out in 2000 for planting native-species hedges to increase the East End’s chronic lack of biodiversity.

But the now-hardened Locksley Estate families aren’t taking their open space for granted, fearing the ‘triangle tower’ scheme could reappear after next May’s local elections.

Christopher Wren's Grade I-listed 1695 Trinity Green almshouses at Mile End Gate could still be in danger from  developers encroaching. Picture: Mike BrookeChristopher Wren's Grade I-listed 1695 Trinity Green almshouses at Mile End Gate could still be in danger from developers encroaching. Picture: Mike Brooke

One campaigner said: “We are not naive enough to think this will be the last we’ll hear from the planning committee. They have lots of unused or derelict sites they could use instead, one just a few yards down Salmon Lane that only dog owners have access to—as a ‘doggie’ toilet!”

There is no guarantee developers won’t return, like residents of Wren’s Trinity Green almshouses have found over Sainsbury’s Whitechapel Square development.

The council refused to make a decision within the statutory period on the “modified” eight-storey application, the company claims.

So it is appealing both the original 28-storey and revised eight-storey schemes to a planning inspector to make a decision—despite Historic England being against the tower overlooking the 1695 armshouses.

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