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Overcrowding fears and potential loss of historical site scupper accommodation plans

PUBLISHED: 17:41 15 August 2011

Plans for university accommodation were rejected by councillors after residents raised fears about student overcrowding and the loss of historical railway coal drops at the site.

The strategic planning committee at Tower Hamlets council last week voted down the proposal by Network Rail, which owns the land, to build two apartment blocks at Westfield Way, by Queen Mary University, in Mile End.

The blocks, up to 10 storeys high, with 412 students rooms, would mean the demolition of railway arches north of Pooley House, an existing nearby student block by Regents Canal.

Objecting to the plans, Labour ward councillor Amy Whitelock said: “Having Queen Mary in the area is of course something to be proud of, but it does bring problems for the community, such as high levels of population churn, tensions between permanent and temporary residents, and increased levels of antisocial behaviour, noise disturbance, alcohol misuse and crime, often targeted at not just perpetuated by students.”

Residents were also concerned about increased pressure on local services from more students, and the height and scale of the project and its affect on residents’ views and the natural surroundings by Mile End Park. The accommodation would also be too close to the railway line carrying trains into Liverpool Street, some residents felt.

Local historian Tom Ridge feared the loss of the Victorian coal shoots formerly used as a coal depot belonging to the Great Eastern Railway.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “The buildings are no higher than surrounding buildings and have been designed sensitively with existing residents in mind. The derelict railway viaduct has not been used since the 1970s and is in a poor state of repair.”

Network is currently considering whether to appeal the decision.

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