The proposal comprised 1,524 residential units, shops, offices, flexible workspaces, financial and professional services, restaurants and cafes, drinking establishments and community uses. Fundamental in the secretary of state’s decision was the reduced weight he gave to the harms arising to the area’s appearance and character from the tall buildings in the scheme and the increased weight he gave to the benefits of market and affordable housing provision in the overall planning balance. He also compared the scheme to an extant fallback permission allowing 722 residential units, including 20 per cent affordable, a secondary school and other uses.
In terms of impact on local appearance and character, the secretary of state agreed with the inspector that the proposal would not "step down" and would be seen from various viewpoints as an extension of the Canary Wharf cluster or as a new and separate cluster of tall buildings. He found that it would have an adverse impact due to the transition in scale to adjoining residential areas, as well as on the street scene. Unlike the inspector, however, he afforded these harms only moderate weight, citing the attractive overall design as an ameliorating factor.
The secretary of state placed greater weight than his inspector on the benefit of an increase in affordable housing provision from 140 units in the fallback scheme to 282 units in the appeal proposal and the fact that more market housing was proposed overall. He reached this view despite recognising that the level of affordable housing proposed fell short of what could be provided on-site, the market housing types proposed were contrary to existing and emerging local plan policy and the council could show a five-year supply of housing land.
Weighing the planning balance, the secretary of state agreed with the inspector that the proposal conflicted with policies in the London Plan and the adopted local plan, so was not in accordance with the development plan overall. However, in the absence of any other scheme on the table or evidence of any coming forward that would provide policy-compliant affordable housing, he gave substantial weight to the appeal scheme’s overall housing benefits.
In his view, the combined benefits of the market and affordable housing and additional construction jobs were material considerations outweighing harm to the area’s appearance and character and less than substantial harm to the settings of Tower Bridge and the Royal Naval College.
Inspector: David Prentis; Inquiry