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At its meeting on Tuesday 15 December, the LLDC Planning Decisions Committee agreed to defer its decision on the Bream Street application.  This would allow the applicants, London & Quadrant, to work with LLDC officers to resolve the several issues raised by the committee members.  

Five objectors were given the chance to speak: starting with two local residents, followed by Del Brenner of the Regent’s Network, Tom Ridge (EEWG) and Lucy Rogers.

Mike Brooks of the East London Advertiser interviewed us afterwards and his story will be on page 5 of this Thursday’s ELA 17 December (also the website from Tuesday 16 December).

Most members of the committee expressed concerns about affordable housing, density and poor local transport.  Two in particular were also concerned about the impact on the Fish Island & White Post Lane Conservation Area: 
  • Lord Andrew Morton OBE talked about the need for the development to respect the historic significance of the waterway; and referred to Omega Works as a “disaster”. 
  • Cllr. Ken Clark of Newham had very fond boyhood memories of fishing along the Hackney Cut and was most unhappy about the height of the proposed canalside blocks; he accused the applicants of not keeping to the guidelines and trying to get away with providing as little affordable housing as possible. 
Cllr. Rachel Blake of Tower Hamlets questioned the applicants very closely on affordable housing and children’s playspace, but the applicants failed to give satisfactory answers.

We were shocked to hear committee member and architect, Piers Gough, speaking and showing slides in favour of the development.  In particular, its “warehouse architecture” and the arrangement of the blocks in relation to the amenity spaces; and stating that the height on the canalside blocks was appropriate given the width of the canal.  

His remarks should be compared to some of the points made in EEWG’s last-minute letter to the chairman Philip Lewis.  The letter was probably too long and too late, but your correspondent hopes that it will be considered by LLDC officers and London & Quadrant.  Unfortunately, Anthony Hollingsworth (Director of Planning Policy and Decisions), in summarising the issues, persisted in referring only to the height of the seven-storey block.  

LLDC uses independent consultants and, clearly, what is needed is for an independent heritage consultant to advise them on the validity or otherwise of our view on the significance of the “doubly-protected waterway” (LLDC in designating the conservation area not only included this section of the Hackney Cut with Old Ford Locks but also made the canal and Old Ford Locks non-designated heritage assets.)  

Although Cllr Rachel Blake called for a policy-compliant development, your correspondent fears that built heritage matters are at the bottom of the LLDC’s agenda.  One way of raising its position is to support EEWG’s two proposals:
  • The two canalside blocks should be reduced to four storeys and each four-storey block divided into two shorter blocks, with open spaces between all four blocks.  This would provide a canalside setting with some traditional ‘sense of space’; and allow some direct afternoon sunlight into the canalside public realm, and some direct morning sunlight into the central gardens; and for at least one “affordable” canalside block. The height of the Stour Road Building (corner of Bream Street and Stour Road) could be increased to maintain the proposed overall number of flats.
  • The transverse pitched roofs should be removed from the proposed employment block in Dace Road, and provided with the original floor-to-ceiling heights on its four floors; and its design and materials should relate to the three-storey stable block at Swan Wharf and the other mostly three- and four-storey industrial non-designated heritage assets in Dace Road.

EEWG was notified by the DCMS on 10 December 2015 that the Secretary of State has decided that the two historic gasholders on the Regent’s Canal should not be added to the statutory list and that a Certificate of Immunity from Listing “should now be issued”.  There are two documents to view:

Letter from Andrew Doidge (DCMS)

Review response from Historic England

Our thanks to all the people who signed the EEWG petition for retaining the two gasholder guide frames in the LBTH-proposed park and using them for playspaces.

The petition is mentioned in the penultimate paragraph in the letter from DCMS.  The statement about the “local heritage” not being of sufficient interest to merit national listing is deeply offensive because the petition was supported by notes on each gasholder, which demonstrated that they are of national interest. 

Your correspondent is also saddened to note that (whilst our appeal is mentioned in the introduction to the review response from Historic England) the simple expedient of issuing a single decision has allowed them to avoid having to address most of our valid criticisms of the English Heritage advice report.

Obviously, we have to accept the decision but not without noting that Tower Hamlets has made representations against listing the two historic gasholders, which it had included in its Regent’s Canal Conservation Area. 

Tom Ridge
East End Waterway Group
Picture by Ed Ram - BBC
new eewg logo East End Waterway Group
Local residents, schools, community groups, amenity societies and businesses working with the Canal & River Trust, Tower Hamlets Council and others for the protection and beneficial use of the six mile waterway ‘ring’, its historic buildings, structures and habitats.
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