The development is on the west side of the Isle of Dogs, away from the Canary Wharf cluster of buildings (image: Mace)

Tower Hamlets Council has said it will go to war with the government over a controversial application for 1,500 homes on the Isle of Dogs that was approved by the Secretary of State this week.

Last night councillors signed off an emergency motion that stated they would examine “all available options, including a judicial review” in order to stop the Westferry Printworks scheme near Crossharbour station going ahead.

The application for 1,500 homes with six towers, the tallest of which is 46 storeys, was rejected by Tower Hamlets last year because of its impact on local amenities and lack of “affordable” housing at just 21 per cent.

Greenwich Council was among the objectors, saying the development – on the west side of the island, on the site of the former Daily Telegraph printing works – would damage the view from Greenwich Park because it would be a distraction from the cluster of tall buildings around Canary Wharf.

The developer’s view of how its scheme would affect the view from Greenwich Park (image: Mace)

But on Tuesday, Robert Jenrick, the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, approved the plans after the developer appealled. He said “the identified harms are outweighed by the benefits of the proposal in terms of additional housing units and additional employment”, overruling a planning inspector’s advice.

On the view from Greenwich, the inspector, David Prentis, said: I consider that the proposal would fail to preserve the setting of the Old Royal Naval College (and the world heritage site) because it would distract from the ability to appreciate the listed building in certain views from Greenwich Park. The impact relates to a Grade I listed building which has a very high level of significance.”

However, Jenrick said the benefit of jobs and homes from the scheme would outweigh the harm caused by damage to views from places such as Greenwich and Tower Bridge.

Northern & Shell, the former owner of Channel 5 and the Daily Express, is behind the scheme. The company, founded by Richard Desmond, sold its media interests in the 2010s and is now concentrating on property development.

An emergency motion against the decision was unanimously supported by all parties at Wednesday’s full meeting of Tower Hamlets Council.

The Conservative councillor Peter Golds, who represents Island Gardens ward, said: “We have been slapped around the face with a wet fish by a minister I should be supporting. I represent the Isle of Dogs and I will not be pushed around by anybody in my unwavering support of the people of the island.”

His fellow Conservative, Andrew Wood, who represents Canary Wharf, added: “I was deeply shocked. The planning inspector listed all the reasons why it should be rejected. I’m mystified by the Secretary of State’s decision here.”

The original Westferry Printworks scheme for 700 homes and a 30-storey tower was thrown out by Tower Hamlets in 2016 but later approved by the London mayor at the time, Boris Johnson. Developers then submitted plans that more than doubled the density of housing.

The timing of the Secretary of State’s decision also means the loss of £40million to Tower Hamlets, as the decision came 24 hours before the council adopted a new Community Infrastructure Levy scheme to charge developers.

A Conservative councillor said Tower Hamlets had been “slapped around the face”

Tower Hamlets Council is run by an elected mayor, Labour’s John Biggs. He said: “It is a massively tall and dense development. Something of 40 floors on the island is an outrage.

“By making the decision on Tuesday we also lose a massive sum of money. This development will place a huge impact on the island. It is a scandal and outrageous. We will be doing everything in our power [including] seeking a judicial review.”

Jenrick is yet to make a decision on two major planning appeals in Greenwich borough – for a 27-storey tower in Woolwich town centre and the controversial Rockwell scheme by the riverside at Charlton.

Additional reporting by Darryl Chamberlain

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Rachael Burford is the Local Democracy Reporter for Tower Hamlets. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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