Inspector backs Tower Hamlets local plan's tall buildings restrictions

Local plan policies proposed by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, including restrictions on tall buildings and measures to secure affordable workspace, have been approved by a planning inspector.

One Canada Square. Image: Flickr / dewet
One Canada Square. Image: Flickr / dewet

The Tower Hamlets Local Plan was submitted for examination in February last year. Once adopted, it will replace the borough’s 2010 core strategy.

Inspector Christa Masters found that the plan provides an appropriate basis for the planning of the borough, subject to a series of main modifications.

In her examination report, Masters noted that an increasing number of tall buildings was "one of the particular challenges facing Tower Hamlets".

The report states: "Tower Hamlets has become a focus for tall buildings, with 77 buildings of 20 storeys and above in the pipeline, equating to 17% of all proposed tall buildings in London."

There have been several battles over proposed skyscrapers in Tower Hamlets in recent months.

In May, the council announced its opposition to plans for a 44-storey tower in the Docklands. Last December, an inspector overturned the council’s refusal of a 30-storey tower.

The plan's policy on tall buildings, policy D.DH4, introduces new criteria against which applications are assessed. It states that such buildings are "only acceptable" within the borough's five "identified tall building zones".

They must also be "of a height and scale, mass and volume that are proportionate to its location and in keeping with the positive character of the local context of its surroundings, including the predominant building heights".

Masters said the tall buildings building struck a "fine balance" between the "development situation on the ground" and the council’s "aspirations as to where future tall buildings should be directed".

The inspector proposed a modification to the policy relating to development within the Canary Wharf cluster.

It states that building heights within the Canary Wharf cluster should "step down" from the central location of One Canada Square, rather than "drop away" as in the submitted version of the plan.

In addition, she proposed new wording on the definition of a tall building, defining them as "buildings of more than 30 metres, or those which are more than twice the prevailing height of surrounding buildings (whichever is less)".

Referring to a proposed requirement that at least 10 per cent of new floorspace should be provided as affordable workspace within major commercial and mixed-use schemes, the inspector said: "Given the very pressing need for affordable workspace provision identified by the evidence base, the policy is justified and sound."

The plan proposes a series of measures to help meet the council’s target of delivering 3,391 homes a year, in accordance with the adopted London Plan, such as securing higher-density development and construction of council housing.

Masters said: "The approach to housing delivery within the plan is based on a robust and up-to-date evidence base which is consistent with both national policy and the adopted London Plan."

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