Westferry Printworks controversy: Development refused in new ruling

Scheme for 15,000 new homes on Isle of Dogs' former Westferry printworks. Picture: Mace developers

Scheme for 15,000 new homes on Isle of Dogs' former Westferry printworks. - Credit: Mace developers

The controversial Westferry Printworks development on the Isle of Dogs has been rejected by a new inspector.

Former housing secretary Robert Jenrick approved the building of 1,500 new homes in 2020 against the advice of the planning inspector and Tower Hamlets Council.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick... exchange of messages with tycoon Richard Desmond. Picture: Parli

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick... exchange of messages with tycoon Richard Desmond. Picture: Parliamentary TV - Credit: Parliamentary TV

Questions were raised about the timing of the approval, just one day before the local authority adopted changes to its community infrastructure levy, which would have resulted in the developer paying between £30-£50 million to the council.

The homes were due to be built by Mace Developments on behalf of Northern & Shell, a company owned by former Express proprietor Richard Desmond, who made a £12,000 donation to the Tory party just weeks after Mr Jenrick’s decision.

It later emerged Mr Desmond and Mr Jenrick had also exchanged texts, although the former housing secretary has denied any link between the events. The final decision has now been made by the junior minister for rough sleeping and housing, Eddie Hughes, on behalf of the new secretary of state Michael Gove.

In his decision letter, Mr Hughes said the "benefits of the appeal scheme are not collectively sufficient to outbalance the identified ‘less than substantial’ harm to the settings of the Maritime Greenwich WHS, the Old Royal Naval College and Tower Bridge”.

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs described the debacle as “the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of Tory sleaze": “There were allegations he (Mr Jenrick) ignored forceful reasons for refusal and rushed through the decision to save the developer money and deprive local services of millions of pounds in the process.

“I’m pleased that now, after many months and two public inquiries, both the inspector and the new secretary of state share the council’s view that the larger scheme should be refused permission."

Isle of Dogs councillor Peter Golds added: "This is a victory for the people. After years of campaigning the inspector and secretary of state have turned down the application which would have doubled the size of the consented development, caused strains on our local infrastructure and damaged the historic views of Greenwich.

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"The applicant has a major development which was granted consent in 2016 - he should stick with this."

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