Repeated 'Brexit-style votes' kills off Limehouse Triangle green space by Regent's Canal
PUBLISHED: 09:26 02 April 2019 | UPDATED: 10:07 04 April 2019
The controversial ‘Limehouse Triangle’ scheme to put up a tower block on what was once a nature preserve next to the Regent’s Canal has finally got through on its fifth attempt.
An eight-storey tower for 17 families now goes ahead after a third vote by last night’s Tower Hamlets Council planning meeting.
It follows two previous rejections and two flawed bids since 2016 that had to be withdrawn.
Last night’s final push was “like Theresa May’s attempts to get her rejected Brexit deal passed” time and again.
The council’s Tory opposition group leader Andrew Wood, giving evidence to the Labour-run planning committee, recalled protocol being breached by Tower Hamlets Homes hurriedly clearing the site before their application to build on it was made and before it could be listed as an asset of community value.
“One day the council turned up and cut down every single tree and left it like a desert,” he said.
“The scheme has been before the committee three times and rejected on a cross-party basis.
“Now, like Theresa May and her Brexit ‘meaningful vote’, the council is trying again and again and again for its own ‘meaningful vote’ in favour.”
He urged rejection “if we really believe what we say about air quality” in the East End with the council acknowledging children with reduced lung development in some areas.
But committee members were having none of it. Cllr John Pierce saw it as a conflict of “housing versus trees” and wanted to reduce the housing waiting list, despite Cllr Gabriella Salva Macallan’s concern that “the height of the development hasn’t been addressed”.
Key issues were the “over development” being too tall, that its “affordable” housing was too expensive, that it endangered the rich wildlife forming part of the ‘green corridor’ from Limehouse to Victoria Park and that the East End had a chronic shortage of green space.
The Canal and River Trust had objected to the scale of the tower overshadowing the waterway.
The town hall received 21 letters and a petition objecting and just one supporting the plan. But all was brushed aside when the five planning committee members voted unanimously to get the scheme through, led by its chair Abdul Mukit who was first to vote.
The decision flies in the face of the council’s own policy of maintaining a ‘green corridor’ along the canal from Limehouse to Victoria Park.
Last Wednesday’s cabinet chaired by the mayor endorsed a biodiversity programme for the ‘green corridor’ drawn up on March 12 to “improving health, environmental, economic and social outcomes through open spaces”. The review urges all social housing providers to “maximise these spaces to improve health and wellbeing”.
The council’s own biodiversity officer concluded in 2016 that the site had “significant biodiversity value in a local context”, it emerged in a letter to the mayor from the planning applications office.
“It would have been included as a possible ‘site of importance for nature conservation’ had it not been cleared before a council review commenced,” the September 2016 letter leaked to the East London Advertiser reveals.
“The loss of 50 metres of mixed native hedge is a negative contribution to the target to create new mixed native hedge.
“Had the site not already been cleared, the biodiversity value may have been among reasons to resist the application.”
A reference was also made about the Triangle site listed as ‘an asset of community value’, but this never happened.
The original Limehouse Triangle biodiversity scheme to create a wildlife habitat was part of the council’s own Locksley Environment project funded out of town hall coffers. Council leader Denise Jones handed community awards in 2000 to those involved in planting the tress in the canal-side green space in Salmon Lane, which were torn down 16 years later by Tower Hamlets Homes.
The original project was even filmed by a Channel 4 crew. Cash came from the Met Police crime prevention funding to plant a hedgerow with 18 native species to protect the site from intruders, rather than putting up a wall.
But the site fell derelict over the years by lack of council maintenance and the gates kept firmly locked.
A delegation of families from the Locksley Estate were visibly up set last night, some in tears, seeing their three-year campaign to save the Limehouse Triangle come to nothing.
They were never against housing to help the East End’s shortage, but argued that there was more suited ‘brownfield’ land available that would “not be at the cost of quality of life or local biodiversity”.
Now all hope was lost to get the Triangle returned to its original community status as part of the Limehouse to Victoria Park ‘green corridor’.