The Limehouse Triangle Then and Now




In the lead up to 2000 Tower Hamlets Council started focusing on the environment and biodiversity.   The Limehouse Triangle was included as part of plans to improve the local area and borough. This included setting up recycling and litter picking initiatives. Recognising the importance of this project Tower Hamlets Council, the Metropolitan Police and local businesses provided funds to work towards a Limehouse Triangle Green Corridor status. 

Cllr Denise Jones (now a Cabinet Member for Adults, Health and Wellbeing) was the Mayor for Tower Hamlets at the time who  presented local resident Christine Phillips with an award as recognition for her the work on this council project.  Many others Tower Hamlets residents also received awards of recognition at the time for the areas they helped with during a ceremony at the town hall.  

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The campaign paid off, local resident Christine Phillips, neighbours, local businesses, the Metropolitan Police together with Tower Hamlets  Council raised and donated enough monies for the Limehouse Triangle to come to life. 

Many bulbs were planted and paid for including Snowdrops, Aconites, Bluebells, Daffodils/Narcissus, Wild Summer Snowflakes and Anemone.


Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park helped the council with planting ideas and 50m of native hedge including Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Crack Willow, Dog Rose, Dog Wood, Field Maple and Hazel was planted.

These are some pictures which gives an idea of how the Triangle used to look when the initial hedge planting took place and when the area was maintained regularly by the council.  

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How the same location looks today, the council haven't continued to maintain its beauty.  As we all know Mother Nature is a wonderful thing. What you see below is her magic at work today, overgrown and abandoned but still breathing oxygen into the neighbourhood, refusing to give up on her duties.


Since 2016 residents have repeatedly objected to the council applications to build on this land. On 1 April 2019 the Development Committee decided 17 properties in a block ranging from five to eight storey high should be built here. The development will block out the natural daylight for existing residents young and old. Many who have lived beside the triangle of over 30 years! Existing residents will be directly overlooked, creating a vulnerable and hostile environment to an area that the councils biodiversity office said in 2016, had the council NOT cut all the Trees down - this area would of been seriously considered in a review of 'sites of significant importance for nature conservation’ known as SINC.


Instead the council came along without warning and bulldozed most of the trees! Their conduct was so brutal and savage it made it onto London Live news at the time. Cllr Andrew Wood and locals fought back.

Credit: https://www.londonlive.co.uk/news/2017-01-30/tower-hamlets-council-accused-of-breaking-their-own-planning-rule

It's not too late to still have this site as a nature conservation, unique to the area – help address climate change. It's not too late to save the Limehouse Triangle as although they have planning permission - the council can actually decide not to go ahead and build.

We had and still have a lot of ideas for the site.   We had and still have a lot of support from those willing and generous enough to donate benches and bulbs.   Volunteers to help with the restoration of the site (even though it is the council who should maintain this site). These included:

Canal and Riverside Trust
Mile End Cemetery  
Stepping Stones Farm
City Farm
NarrowBoat World
Friends of the Earth

Our wish has always been to enhance this natural habitat and work with the local community,  ideal for encouraging the local children of Sir William Burrough Primary School, Stepney Greencoat Primary School and Stephen Hawkins School among others to learn first hand about their urban environment as well as encouraging and sustaining a solid community amongst residents. 

All the planting plans and ideas were on the table. Tower Hamlets council ignored us, instead they allowed the site to be unkept turning it into a rubbish dump.

Although it was chopped and butchered down by the council digging up the very biodiversity site they gave money to enhance, the bulldozers they used weren't enough -  nature grows again which should tell the council something!

Below are some photos of the Triangle from May 2019 and examples of the wild flowers we have, they are important because along with other spring flowering plants, they feed the early bumblebees. We've had plenty of bees visit the Triangle over the years which is great as we desperately these them to pollinate our crops.


Red Campion (Silene dioica) , Greater Periwinkle (Vinca major), Dog Rose (Rosa Canina) with Common Hawthorn (Crataegus Monogyna), Cut-leaved Cranesbill (Geranium dissectum), Spring Vetch (Vicia lathyroides), Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) foliage

Some of these part of the native hedge, planted during the earlier environmental project (supported and funded by the council).

Why bulldoze the area again?

With some careful pruning and removal of the overgrown brambles, it has so much potential to make the air even cleaner, greener  going some way to addressing pollution levels in the borough.


The few trees they suggest they will plant will never replace what has been lost but some of the mature trees still remain. The triangle in its current neglected state already gives more benefit than the new Cherry tree the Mayor has planted outside Sir William Burrough primary school. What remains has more biodiversity than the suggested planting the Council are promising when the development is built.
This is what it looked like in 2015 before the unannounced butchering!  (Credits:  Google)


In a recent Tower Hamlets Homes magazine 'Open Door', which is delivered through the doors of residents homes they mentioned how important trees are for improving air quality in urban areas!  How a mature tree can provide enough oxygen in a year for the needs of 10 people. They also say they aim to replace every lost tree with a new one. At least 18 have been cut down on the Triangle!  

A contradiction!
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As part of the latest application and to address the biodiversity loss, the council said they will develop an EXISTING wildflower meadow at Ashpark House. The Council stated to the Development Committee that is was a disused herb garden!


But those that live here know this site 
has always been used as a dog fouling area!

How will it be maintained! By who? It's a feeble and unworkable alternative.

The same location was one of five sites looked at by the council as a potential area to develop into properties. This site is a better location for a new development for security, safety, privacy, there are only two existing trees, minimal wildlife so there would be minimal impact on the biodiversity as there currently isn’t much BUT it is not overlooking the Regents Canal! Money cannot be made!



The consultation process by the council and how the Local Residents responded to support

The Limehouse Triangle 

August 2016 first application submitted. Planning Application Number: PA/16/02295

January 2017 planning committee meeting where members indicated it wouldn't be approved because of:

1) the loss of a publicly accessible open space

2) the impact on the setting of the Canal Towpath and the Regents Canal Conservation Area

3) the impact on the properties at Parnham Street due to the separation distance

4) over concentration of one housing type.  

February 2017 application withdrawn as development committee indicated it wouldn't be approved

June 2017 second planning application submitted by the developers. Planning Application Number: PA/17/01618

October 2017 planning committee meeting where members again did not accept the recommendations to approve the development. (The application was deferred so the council could highlight the implications of rejecting it).

November 2017 the development was again refused because:

1. The application still resulted in a loss of open space and the loss was not adequately off-set by the public benefits of the development.

2. Conflicted with policy SP04 of the adopted Core Strategy which seeks to protect open spaces.

3. By virtue of its height, design and sitting with a lack of setback from the Regents Canal failed to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the Regents Canal Conservation Area and the Blue Ribbon Network.

4. The application failed to accord with 134 of the National Planning Policy framework, policy 7.24 of the London Plan, policy SP10 of the adopted Core Strategy and policies DM12 (water spaces) and DM27 (heritage and the historic environment) of the Managing Development Document.

THE COUNCIL THEN CLAIMED AMENDMENT TO THE DESIGN WERE MADE TO FINALLY ADDRESS THE CONCERNS RAISED.

Suddenly one year later in November 2018, without any further consultation the council informed residents the application had been submitted again. The concerns highlighted at the 2017 Committee meeting STILL had NOT been addressed!

Residents were given 21 days to comment on the plans although nothing could be changed because the Planning Application had already been submitted!

We exercised our right for the consultation that never happened which took place in January (as mentioned above)

Do you believe the council were really interested in what the public thought? Or were they just ticking another box! You decide! 

Again, the residents came out in force 42 (some old names and some new names adding to the already 200+) people objecting to the planning application. This meant it had to go to committee again! Even though the issues highlighted in 2017 were NOT addressed!

The council website has guidance notes for these committee meetings :

The committee determine applications for planning that have triggered over 20 representations (in support or against) or that exceed a particular threshold with regards to size amongst other issues. 

The guidance lists examples of material considerations that the committee must have regard to when making decisions to grant planning permission. These are: 

Siting, design, layout, external appearance and landscaping 

Impact on the neighbourhood e.g. noise, loss of light or overbearing impact 

National planning policy framework 

Consistency of decision making 

Viability

We say the decision making was consistent - the building was always rejected.

Apart from two committee members all the members below were NEW to the Committee.

Chair Abdul Mukit MBE

John Pierce – always voted for the build

Helal Uddin -always voted against the build

Sabina Akhtar

Gabriela Salva Macallan

Mufeedah Bustin 

At the meeting on the 1 April 2019 all the Councillors above voted FOR the development?!

Other councillors present at the meeting were:

Cllr Andrew Wood who spoke to object to it.

Cllr Rachel Blake and Puru Miah who spoke for it.

Cllr David Edgar who is the Cabinet member for environment was not present.

All the Councillors (except Cllr Wood) were not concerned that the eight storeys building will be overbearing on the canal, Salmon Lane and on the Parnham residents.

Were not concerned about the loss of natural daylight and lack of privacy for Parnham Street, Rhodeswell Road and Carr Street residents. (remember the block will face Sir William Burrough Primary School!).

No mention or concerns about the Air Pollution it will create!

How does this fit with the material considerations??

The development still conflicts with policy SP04 Core Strategy which seeks to protect open spaces.

The development still fails to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the Regents Canal Conservation Area and the Blue Ribbon Network.

The development still fails to accord with the same policies it did in November 2017, as above.

134 of the National Planning Policy framework, policy 7.24 of the London Plan,

Policy SP10 of the adopted Core Strategy and policies DM12 (water spaces) and DM27 (heritage and the historic environment) of the Managing Development Document.

It is a real concern that smaller planning applications are dealt with by officers under delegated powers. If 20 people don't speak up, then there is no committee meeting! You can see what happened when planning permission was given for the block of flats right on top of the Sir William Burrough primary school on this website.

The deterioration of the Limehouse Triangle.

The sorry state of the Limehouse Triangle has been down to the council who have completely neglected it - we say - on purpose. 

this site would be a thriving oasis of environmental beauty benefitting many if the council had maintained it.   Instead our fight to keep this green corridor a natural biodiversity site has been ignored and dismissed!

It's become a dumping ground for rubbish. Some of the local residents have tried to keep it tidy, even though the council contractors Tower Hamlets Homes are supposed to do it.

It is amazing that in and amongst the food waste, nature still wants to grow! These photos were taken in March 2019 but it has become even more overgrown now so the rubbish is buried, but it is still there. The tyres have lived here for years!



Part of this wall by the existing Parnham Street flats fell down in February 2019, residents repeatedly asked for it to be repaired for obvious safety and security reasons. It wasn't fixed until May 2019!

Existing residents some living here for over 30 years don't seem to matter to the council!

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Below on the left is the private gardens for the Parnham Street residents  (this will be removed to make way for the new development).  On the right you can see how the council have left the Limehouse Triangle to become overgrown and derelict.  The Victoria building you see in the background is Sir William Burrough Primary School another building that will be overshadowed by the development.

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There are so many policies and government initiatives at the moment, Tower Hamlets Council  contradicts them here.

On 13 March, the chancellor announced that the upcoming Environmental bill will state that new developments must deliver an overall increase in biodiversity, can you read it here:https://www.gov.uk/government/news/spring-statement-2019-what-you-need-to-know

DEFRA the department for environment, food & rural affairs also published this article:  

It isn't law yet but the councillors will likely have known about it when they voted for the development on 1 April 2019.

This development doesn't deliver an overall increase in biodiversity!  It will result in less! A LOT LESS!


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