Chrisp Street redevelopment passed by Tower Hamlets Council unanimous ‘yes’ vote
- Credit: Mike Brooke
The controversial redevelopment of Poplar’s Chrisp Street Market area got the green light from Tower Hamlets council tonight.
Scores of rival demonstrators turned up at the town hall as Poplar Harca housing organisation’s chief executive Steve Stride presented his scheme to the council’s strategic planning committee.
The public gallery was packed with opposing protesters.
A well-organised lobby of residents dressed in uniform ‘Poplar Harca’ green T-shirts waving ‘yes’ banners were facing protesters against the scheme organised by market traders fearing for their livelihoods if priced out of the development and a ban on car-parking that would discourage shopping.
“We are completely open to car-parking and have potential solutions to the traders’ concerns,” Steve told the East London Advertiser at the end of the meeting.
“But we have to comply with council and City Hall policy to reduce cars on the road—our hands are tied.
“We’ll work with shopkeepers and market stallholders and go back to the council if there’s evidence of shoppers staying away because there’s no parking. That’s my pledge to the traders.”
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His organisation says it wants to keep independent shopkeepers and market stallholders with promises on freezing rents.
“They get four years’ no rent increase—then eight years no increase,” Mr Stride assured. “There’ll be 20 per cent increases a year over five years after that if income goes up.”
Scores of rival demonstrators both for and against the scheme were left outside in the lobby unable to get into the planning meeting.
The ‘yes’ votes had it as the council’s newly-elected committee, meeting for the first time since Labour’s landslide at the polls on May 3, finally passed the scheme unanimously more than a decade after it was first mooted.
Cllr Dan Tomlinson told the meeting: “This is a difficult decision balancing the needs of the people of Chrisp Street with the 20,000 people on the housing waiting list. I am voting in favour. The way things are set up is that developers will make a lot of money by this scheme.”
Tonight Steve Stride got his victory—but the market stallholders and shop owners have vowed to fight on, declaring “the battle isn’t over”.
A defiant campaign organiser Ammar Hasanie, a DIY shopkeeper in the market for 15 years, insisted: “I wouldn’t say we’ve lost. We are going to legally challenge this decision on grounds of policy breach because there hasn’t been a ballot on demolishing the market or the housing.
“There was a lot of wool pulled over councillors’ eyes. This has been going on for 15 years, but Poplar Harca insists it’s a fresh application which means it must go to a ballot—they can’t have the best of both worlds.
“Now it goes to City Hall and our legal team will be challenging any breaches—the fight isn’t over yet.”
He fears rent rises will make it difficult to trade and “we’ll have to pack up and leave”.
The controversial scheme was deferred in February when hundreds of protesters on both sides of the argument lobbied the planning committee. But this time the change of committee membership after May’s council elections got it through.
Now the large ex-council housing estate is set to be bulldozed and replaced with 643 new homes, a new shopping centre and cinema complex without any parking facilities.
Poplar Harca now has the green light to refurbish shops, build a new market with new stalls, but pledging to support existing traders to remain with no rent increases for shops during the refurbishment works and for 12 months afterwards.
It wants to encourage a mix of independent retailers with a new cinema and restaurants, new supermarket and some high street names.
Poplar Harca has had to raise the ratio of “affordable” homes to 35 per cent from 124 to 200, including 136 at social rent, 27 at ‘living’ rent and 37 shared ownership. Another 443 homes are to go on the private sale market.
Two small parks are also planned, along with a children’s centre, community hub and restoring the iconic 1951 Festival of Britain clock tower.