Whitechapel office block plans refused by councillors

The proposed tower in Whitechapel seen behind the Victorian frontage, which would be preserved.

A CGI shows the tower appearing behind the Victorian frontage - Credit: South Street Asset Management

Plans for a 14 storey office block in Whitechapel that included the part demolition of a primary school have been rejected by councillors.

Buildings at 2-6 Commercial Street and 101 Whitechapel High Street would have been bulldozed as part of the proposals, as well as the relocation of the playground at Canon Barnett Primary School.

Under plans submitted by Alliance Property Asia, the application site would have been redeveloped for office and retail space in a tower up to 14 storeys high.

The application was heard by councillors at Tower Hamlets' strategic development committee last week.

A consultation on the scheme, which sits in the Whitechapel High Street Conservation Area, received more than 200 objections.

Unmesh Desai, London Assembly member for City and East, backed the plans.

The objectors included nearby charity Toynbee Hall, which tackles poverty, and Whitechapel Gallery.

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The gallery said the tower was "monstrously" out of proportion with the gallery, school and Whitechapel High Street, while it also believed the gallery's offices would suffer from a loss of light.

Objectors that spoke during the meeting included Andrew Allen, who told councillors: "A large glass and concrete box is not the answer for a complex and fragile conservation area."

South Street Asset Management is managing the planned development and its co-founder Adnan Shaikh hailed the proposals at the meeting.

"This application has the potential to totally transform the site, which is the gateway to the borough."

Mr Shaikh said the office block would create around 2,650 jobs and would support the borough's recovery from the impact of Covid.

Regarding the impact on the school, he added: "The relocation of the playground will significantly reduce pupils' exposure to air pollution. We'll provide a new, larger playing area."

Daniel Maddox, from GIA Surveyors, said reduction in daylight for neighbouring properties was "unavoidable" but added: "The level of effect is broadly comparable with other development sites in the City Fringe Opportunity Area."

Council officers had recommended the scheme for approval but councillors voted five in favour, with one abstention, to refuse the plans.

Reasons given for refusal included the height of the building, demolition of heritage assets, adverse impact on the conservation area and daylight and sunlight impact on neighbours.

Cllr Val Whitehead said: "I think we all know Whitechapel is going to get some regeneration.

"But I think we're not persuaded this is the right development for this location at this time."