Jenrick overrules inspector to allow 1,500-home east London appeal

The housing secretary has allowed an appeal for a 1,500-home development in Tower Hamlets, rejecting a government inspector's conclusion that the scheme's benefits were outweighed by its harmful impact on nearby heritage assets, including Tower Bridge.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick (pic: Getty)
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick (pic: Getty)

Westferry Developments Ltd had appealed against the London Borough of Tower Hamlets’ failure to decide upon its application for 1,524 homes on the former Westferry Printworks site on the Isle of Dogs, within the statutory timescale. 

The 44-storey development would include shops, offices, restaurants and cafes on a site at Westferry Road.

Inspector David Prentis recommended that the appeal be refused.

His decision letter said the proposal would fail to preserve the settings of the Old Royal Naval College, Tower Bridge, and the setting of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site.

Prentis said this was a "matter of considerable importance and weight", adding that the "public benefits of the proposal would not outweigh the harm to these assets so the proposal would not accord with the [National Planning Policy Framework] as it relates to the historic environment".

The inspector also found that the scheme would conflict with London Plan policies "which together require development to have regard to scale, proportion and the character of surrounding buildings".

It would also conflict with emerging Tower Hamlets and London Plan policy "in that it would not be of an appropriate scale, height, mass, bulk and form and would not enhance the local context", the inspector said.

In favour of the scheme, Prentis attached "moderate weight" to the delivery of additional housing (including affordable homes) and to the creation of employment opportunities during the development’s construction.

But he concluded that these "benefits are still not sufficient to outweigh the conflict with the development plan that I have identified".

However, a decision letter issued on behalf of housing secretary Robert Jenrick this morning said the minister had reached a different conclusion.

The letter said Jenrick agreed with the inspector that, with regards to height, mass and scale, the proposal would not be consistent with the approach contained in the council’s development plan and emerging policy "as it would be seen from various viewpoints as an extension of the Canary Wharf cluster or as a new and separate cluster of tall buildings".

But, the letter added, Jenrick found the inspector’s identified ‘less than substantial’ harm to the significance of Old Royal Naval College, Tower Bridge and the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site was outweighed by the public benefits of the proposal, including the provision of new homes, to which he attached "substantial weight".

The letter said the secretary of state concluded that, "even according considerable importance and weight to the identified harm to the settings of the two listed buildings, the identified harms when taken together are outweighed by the benefits of the proposal in terms of additional housing units (including affordable housing units) and additional employment during construction."

In May last year, the council’s strategic development committee resolved that, were the authority able to determine the application, it would have been refused.

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