Crossharbour scheme for 2,000 new homes on Isle of Dogs is halted

Crossharbour town centre plans on Isle of Dogs

How proposed Crossharbour centre would be seen from Cubitt Town neighbourhood on Isle of Dogs - Credit: Ashbourne Beech

A controversial scheme for a new Crossharbour district centre on the Isle of Dogs that has been raging on-and-off for a decade has been kicked into the long grass again — for the time being. 

The fourth application for 2,000 new homes and a new shopping precinct at the Asda supermarket site was adjourned at Tower Hamlets Council’s June 9 strategic development committee meeting after a four-hour debate. 

Crossharbour scheme would Tower over Isle of Dogs neighbourhood

How a proposed Crossharbour centre might look - Credit: Ashbourne Beech

The issue was too big to be decided at a single hearing, council members decided, after facing 122 letters and four petitions with objections to the scheme. 

Pressure on Isle of Dogs' already-overstretched services, especially mains water and drainage, as well as daylight and sunlight being obscured in neighbouring properties, still need to be resolved. 

Cllr Peter Golds... fears Crossharbour scheme is over-development for crowded Isle of Dogs.

Cllr Peter Golds... fears Crossharbour scheme is over-development for crowded Isle of Dogs. - Credit: Mike Brooke

“This overdevelopment doesn’t even provide an acceptable level of affordable housing,” Conservative group leader Cllr Peter Golds told the meeting. "It doesn’t consider the shadow effect on Mudchute Farm and Millwall Park with loss of daylight.” 

One objector, a young mum from Cubitt Town, pleaded with councillors to scrap the plan: “My child one day will come home from school and ask why there’s no more sunshine.” 

Another said: “We moved here 40 years ago to a nice and peaceful environment with a unique community spirit that’s now under threat of being boxed in by tall towers. A dark cloud is hanging over us.” 

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Four tower blocks clad in natural green slate, with 25 per cent of their capacity classed as “affordable” housing, are on the drawing board.

However, this was calculated on a "bedroom count” which councillors pointed out included five-bedroom social-rent family homes which they said brought the ratio down to 10pc. 

The £1billion Crossharbour scheme adds almost 2,000 flats to the Isle of Dogs, which already has a population of 45,000 and rising.

Central Square envisaged for Crossharbour centre

Central Square envisaged for Crossharbour centre - Credit: Ashbourne Beech

It was designed by architect Piers Gough who created Mile End’s famous Green Bridge as well as Dundee Wharf and Millennium Harbour developments. 

He told councillors: “Asda is the most important scheme to make a new centre on the Isle of Dogs where none exists.

"We have some grand ideas, a big town square surrounded by shops with many trees, pavement fountains, platforms for performances and an underground car park. All transport services would be out of sight.” 

Thames Water, however, has raised fears about the area's mains supply three times in the past year, with low pressure already dogging other new developments, councillors heard. 

The Crossharbour scheme also makes no reference to the Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Plan, which passed by an 85pc vote in last month’s public referendum to control developments in Britain’s most-densely populated area per square mile, it was noted. 

The project was first mooted in 2011 and got the green light in 2014 for shops, cafés, offices and 850 new homes. 

But Ashbourne Beech developers then came up with an even more ambitious idea to double the number of homes. This was rejected in 2014, then withdrawn, and is now in front of councillors for its fourth attempt.

Tower Hamlets Council's own planning officers have recommended approval, but what turned the green light to amber was a “lack of detail” in some areas which were presented only in outline and needed further study. 

Asda previously pulled out of the plans in 2017, around the time mayor John Biggs formally objected to the "oversized plans”, which he said did not meet the needs of local people. 

Visit Mudchute Farm and this is the skyline view you'd get if Crossharbour town centre plan goes ahead on Isle of Dogs

Visit Mudchute Farm and this is the skyline view you would get if Crossharbour centre plan goes ahead on Isle of Dogs - Credit: Ashbourne Beech