Government ‘green light’ for Isle of Dogs skyscrapers rejected by Tower Hamlets Council
PUBLISHED: 17:35 15 January 2020 | UPDATED: 18:10 15 January 2020
The controversial Westferry housing scheme is going ahead on the Isle of Dogs after the Secretary of State overruled Tower Hamlets Council’s objections and gave developers the green light.
Tower blocks are now being allowed on the Millwall Docks waterfront, one up to 46 stories high, which critics fear is going to lead to the Isle of Dogs becoming "the Manhattan of Europe" as the densest urban area anywhere in the UK or the Continent.
The decision to allow the 15-acre scheme has brought scathing attacks from both the Labour mayor and Conservative opposition as an attack on local democracy.
"I'm extremely disappointed that the Secretary of State has approved the Westferry scheme," Mayor John Biggs said in a statement to the East London Advertiser.
"Ignoring the council and residents as well as the Planning Inspectorate decision (against) sets a worrying precedent for developers to get approval behind closed doors. This ignores local democracy."
It also means the loss of £40million planning levy to pay towards utilities and other public services which Tower Hamlets is missing out on by just 24 hours.
The levy exempted the old Westferry printworks site in exchange for a high ratio of "affordable" housing.
The levy rules are being changed at tonight's full council meeting, scrapping all cash-for-cheap-homes deals.
But the developers escape the clause because the Secretary of State gave the go-ahead yesterday (Tuesday), with the old levy exemption, it has emerged. They have, meanwhile, reduced the ratio of "affordable" from a third to a fifth.
Mace can now go ahead with the scheme almost doubling its original proposal which was agreed in 2016 by Boris Johnson in his last week as London Mayor.
Throwing- up skyscrapers also ignores the "step down" rule of gradually decreasing building height coming away from Canary Wharf, in the council's planning convention.
"This opens the floodgates," Tower Hamlets Tory Group leader and Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Forum secretary Andrew Wood told the Advertiser.
"It's a bad decision which makes it harder to restrict building heights from now on in what is already the densest urban area anywhere in the UK, making the Isle of Dogs the 'Manhattan of Europe'.
"There is a bunch of other planning applications waiting to go ahead. The whole 'step down' principal has been brushed aside."
The original scheme for 700 homes and a 30-storey tower, originally thrown out by Tower Hamlets, has been expanded 1,500 homes with six towers, one now stretching to 46 storeys.
This led to protests in 2018 by families on Millwall's Barkantine estate who were hit by clouds of dust when the old printworks were being bulldozed that summer. They now face seven more years of pollution and construction noise.
Other schemes coming out of the woodwork include Asda supermarket's controversial Crossharbour site which was withdrawn in 2018 after seven year campaign by objectors worried by the "wall of skyscraspers". that would overshadow Mudchute Farm, Millwall Park and hundreds of homes at Cubitt Town.
The developers actually got their original scheme approved for 800 homes, then put in another application for 2,000 homes instead, which tipped the balance against.
The abandoned scheme has now reappeared, boosted by the Secretary of State's green light for the Westferry project.