PUBLISHED: 10:11 16 October 2017 | UPDATED: 10:50 16 October 2017
Limehouse Triangle by the Regent's Canal where council housing developers want to put up a tower block. Picture: LBTH
Original tower block proposed for Limehouse Triangle green space that Tower Hamlets has once again thrown out. Picture: LBTH
The scheme for a tower block on what was once an award-winning biodiversity garden before council bulldozers flattened it last year was thrown out again by the development committee with a hairline majority.
The vote last week was the third victory in 12 months for protesters to stop the council’s own housing organisation building on green space after it had uprooted a native hedgerow months before even lodging a planning application.
Opposition councillors backed campaigner Alicia Joseph and her neighbours on the Locksley estate in Salmon Lane who want their green space back, in the face of Labour support for a tower block of 17 flats.
Cllr Chris Chapman... "A tower block would contravene local planning guidelines to retain green spaces. Picture: Mike Brooke
The plans were already postponed last October, then rejected outright in January when councillors learned that Tower Hamlets Homes had breached protocol by clearing the land before formally applying to go ahead with the development.
The housing organisation was back again on Wednesday with a slightly modified proposal to build the block slightly further away from the canal towpath and slightly lower than originally suggested.
But it cut no ice with opposition members calling for the land to be returned to its original biodiversity status of 2000 when it won the authority’s backing as part of a ‘green corridor’ project between Mile End and the Limehouse Basin.
Cllr Andrew Wood called for Limehouse Triangle tyo re returned to biodiversity status when Tower Hamlets planning committee rejected tower block earlier this year. Picture: Mike Brooke
“Our conduct into the site is regrettable,” Tory Cllr Chris Chapman told the meeting. “The site was never marked in the council’s biodiversity plans, so it was allowed to degenerate into the mess that has meant having to be cleared.
“A tower block would be a contravention of local planning guidelines to retain green spaces.”
Fellow Tory Andrew Wood accused the council at January’s planning meeting when the scheme was initially rejected of “years of mismanaging the land” and said it should be restored to a publicly-accessible open space with trees and flowers.
Cllr Creegan calling for 'Limehouse Triangle' to be returned to its award-winning biodiversity status. Picture: Mike Brooke
Objectors want the lost open space restored, last week’s meeting heard. Trees had been removed “in an underhanded way” to prepare the way for the first proposal rejected in January, Cllr Andrew Cregan pointed out.
He added: “The Triangle is ‘de facto’ open green space, which should not be lost to another high rise development.”
But Labour’s Danny Hassell wanted the land to ease the waiting list and suggested the next time a family with “a horror story about their housing” came to Cllr Chapman’s surgery “he would be able to look them in the eye”.
Labour's Danny Hassell callinng for housing on Limehouse Triangle to shorten East End's long waiiting list.Picture: Mike Brooke
Lib Dem Andrew Cregan was furious that trees had been removed “in a very underhanded way” to prepare for the original proposal to the planning committee.
Labour’s John Pearce, chairing the meeting, spoke in favour of a tower block, but lost the vote, three to two against.
The Locksley estate neighbours were cautious about celebrating any victory, however, fearing that the council housing body was likely to come back in a few months to try and get the scheme approved.
The East End has many ‘brownfield’ sites more suitable for housing development, campaigners argue, rather than destroy unique biodiversity open space.