A major housing estate regeneration programme in east London is set to continue after Sadiq Khan’s deputy for planning reversed an earlier decision by local councillors to block it.
Jules Pipe, to whom the Mayor had delegated his power to take over and determine the demolition and rebuild scheme in Poplar, Tower Hamlets, gave a green light to the application by local housing association Poplar HARCA and commercial developer EcoWorld London, following a public hearing held earlier today.
City Hall planning officers had recommended approval of a revised version of proposals for knocking down 330 existing dwellings and eventually replacing them with more than 1,500 new homes, of which 39 per cent will be of “affordable” tenures, the great majority for social rent. These will rehouse current residents who wish to stay, including those in need of more bedrooms than they have at present.
The strategic planning committee of Tower Hamlets council unanimously rejected the application last February, even though 93 per cent of residents who would have to leave their present homes had voted in favour of the scheme going ahead. The ballot was held as a condition of the joint applicants, who have formed a joint venture company called Aberfeldy New Village LLP, receiving funding support from Mayor Khan’s affordable homes programme.
Tower Hamlets planning officers had recommended approval of the application, despite objections to a road underpass being converted for cycle and pedestrian use, feared effects on car parking provision, and concerns about the height of the buildings, one of which is intended to be 100 metres and 28 storeys tall. There were also allegations that the regeneration would cause “gentrification” with poorer residents replaced by “richer middle-class people”.
Planning successful applications deemed to be of strategic importance to London have to be approved by City Hall, which can also require councils to reject or make changes to them if they don’t conform to the Mayor’s London Plan policies or, as in the Aberfeldy case, take them over and determine them themselves if they chose.
The application had to undergo significant revisions to conform to new, second staircase, fire safety standards set by Khan and then by Secretary of State Michael Gove, which further slowed the process down.