Plans for a 56 storey tower on the Isle of Dogs have been withdrawn, in a sign that Tower Hamlets planners may finally be getting the upper hand over residential skyscrapers.
Developer Cubitt Property Holdings withdrew its application for the project, just as it was scheduled to come to the borough’s planning committee with a clear recommendation for refusal.
The move follows last month’s committee decision to refuse Berkeley Homes permission to build a residential tower of 56 storeys, further along Marsh Wall. And it follows other recent decisions taken by the mayor, against the borough’s wishes, to allow tall residential-focused projects on other Isle of Dogs sites, including Alpha Square and the former Telegraph print works site.
Cubitt sought to demolish the existing four storey office block on the site, and replace it with a 186 metre high tower containing 414 flats. There would also be 663 sq m of offices, 448 sq m of community space and 307m of retail. The mix of 326 market apartments and 88 affordable units worked out to 23.6% affordable, a shortfall of 11% against the Local Plan target. The applicants planned 221 studio and one bed flats, with 154 two beds and 39 three beds, a mix that the council deemed “an under provision of family accommodation”.
Borough planning officers listed five reasons for refusal, citing overdevelopment of the site; impact on surrounding sites; an inappropriate dwelling mix; poor quality housing design; and urban design shortcomings with “an oppressive architectural typology”.
The report noted: “The proposed residential density however involves a development of such height, bulk and mass that there would be significant adverse impacts typically associated with overdevelopment in terms of residential quality, dwelling mix, inadequate amenity space and impact on the surroundings particularly sunlight/daylight including adverse effect on the development potential of adjoining sites.”
Specifically, the it was felt that the height of the block could compromise the opportunity for future development on other key nearby sites, and in conjunction with already consented tall towers on sites to the north, create a dark canyon between the blocks.
Mayor Sadiq Khan has the option of calling in major applications for a review; and it has been suggested that his predecessor Boris Johnson was supportive of the Cubitt scheme. However, with the planning application actually withdrawn, that option can no longer be considered.
LPA Perspective: Not so long ago, Tower Hamlets planners were moaning about being powerless to resist a series of residential towers proposed for sites around the Isle of Dogs. Precedent was one problem; a mayor keen to beef up Tower Hamlets’ housing delivery targets was another.
Now, in the space of two months, the planners have turned the tide, and called time on any more tall blocks of flats south of Canary Wharf. That’s probably a sensible move, given not only the weakness in certain parts of the housing market in London, but also because it will be helpful to see what the most recent approvals look like – and their impacts on light and wind – before allowing any more.