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Fish Island plan for River Lea luxury flats sinks below water line

PUBLISHED: 15:41 16 December 2015 | UPDATED: 16:54 16 December 2015

Lea Navigation... facing threat of development [picture: Malcolm Tucker]

Lea Navigation... facing threat of development [picture: Malcolm Tucker]

2010 Malcolm Tucker

A controversial luxury housing scheme which is feared could set a precedent for a frenzy of developments encroaching along the River Lea has been halted–for the time being.

A seven-storey block and a commercial building right on the Lea Navigation waterfront at east London’s Fish Island, opposite the Olympic Stadium, has failed to get the green light.

What developers want to put up on Lea waterfrontWhat developers want to put up on Lea waterfront

The 10 members of the London Legacy Development Corporation, chaired by Lord Mawson, voted by nine-to-one last night to defer London & Quadrant Housing’s proposal for luxury apartments and a commercial ‘employment’ block next to it.

They will now go on a site visit to see the effects that the scheme at Dace Road would have on the historic Old Ford Lock next to it, where the Lea Navigation joins the Hackney Cut.

It is in a conservation zone stretching from Old Ford to Hackney Wick, which campaigners fear is being encroached on by developers.

East End Waterways Group, led by local historian Tom Ridge, is worried that conservation areas next to the Lea would be “developed out of existence” stretching north from the Olympic Park.

Objector Tom Ridge at Legacy Corporation's meeting with artist impression of proposed waterside building on the Lea [photo: Mike Brooke]Objector Tom Ridge at Legacy Corporation's meeting with artist impression of proposed waterside building on the Lea [photo: Mike Brooke]

“The public realm by the lock is outweighed by the height of the proposed buildings,” Tom fears.

“This is a dangerous precedent because it’s the only site that’s been cleared in the conservation area, which happens to be in the most attractive part of the Hackney Cut with the Old Ford Lock.

“It’s an important site that has to be extremely well-developed, but this is not exemplary architecture.

“The worst is the employment building clad in steel—in a conservation area! No building at Fish Island has steel cladding.”

Local historian Tom RidgeLocal historian Tom Ridge

Historic England has also been concerned about the height of the two residential blocks and the scale of the steel-clad building.

Campaigner and resident Pam Henson, who was at last night’s Legacy Corporation meeting at Stratford, said earlier: “The seven-storey block would set a precedent for the rest of the river frontage.

“Old Ford Lock itself is an historic gem, a wide, double lock at the confluence of the river and the Lea Navigation, possibly the oldest canal in London.”

The two-and-a-half acre scheme proposed by London & Quadrant has only 20 per cent earmarked as ‘affordable’ housing in the planning application–below the 30pc guideline, campaigners point out.

Historic Old Ford Locks... encroachment by developers, the conservationists fearHistoric Old Ford Locks... encroachment by developers, the conservationists fear

Another resident, Frank Luke, said: “We are being offered huge slab-blocks of unaffordable accommodation in return for this carnage, pressing right up to the canal edge.

“This precedent will be used all the way along the Lea, wrecking its ecology and heritage, never to be restored, while driving prices further beyond the reach of those who most need housing.”

Most of the tallest surviving Victorian industrial wharves on the Lea Navigation are four storeys at most, East End Waterways group points out.

The conservationists fears the “sense of open space” along the canal will be completely destroyed if the development ever gets the green light.

A decision is being made by the Legacy Corporation in the New Year.

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