Plans to develop a prominent riverside site neighbouring Canary Wharf look set to go ahead despite consternation from neighbours.
Leamouth South currently comprises undistinguished warehouses, largely inaccessible, but there is still a concern that regenerating the area will prove tricky.
The site is at the mouth of the River Lea next to the cultural cluster of Trinity Buoy Wharfand will act as an extension to Ballymore’s City Island development to the north.
Tower Hamlets Council deferred a decision on Thursday (March 10) for clarification on a technicality but members indicated they were likely to approve the scheme for 804 homes across 16 blocks on Hercules, Castle and Union wharves.
Developer Ballymore wants to open up the waterfront and have agreed provisional terms with Thames Clippers for a new pier and service.
However, the site might not be the kind of peaceful riverside haven that many Dockland residents are used to.
Trinity Buoy Wharf can be a noisy affair, according to Eric Reynolds – head of Urban Space Management , which manages the facility – but that is nothing compared to the currently vacant Orchard Wharf where the Port of London Authority is keen to place a waterborne freight handling operation. It has strongly objected to the scheme.
Trinity Buoy Wharf
Mr Reynolds told councillors that, in principle, he welcomed the idea of developing the site to the west of the creative cluster but felt where the two sites met there was potential for conflict.
He said: “These historic buildings have been workshops since 1875 and their current use includes potentially noisy creative activity including sculpture and woodwork. It is quite misleading to suggest the residents of the proposed blocks would be unaffected.
“We do feel a concern for potential residents who may be woken early in the morning by artists working in the way artists do and we’re also concerned for the future of Trinity Buoy Wharf because it will clearly be blighted on that [western] edge.”
For the developer, planning agent John Rosher said: “We hope that the new redevelopment site will bring benefits to Trinity Buoy Wharf, in terms of opening up public routes and opening up the riverside – indeed some of the design is entirely led by some of the design on Trinity Buoy Wharf and linking it better to Canning Town and East India Dock.”
Ballymore finds itself in an awkward position over the potential of an industrial use next door at Orchard Wharf.
The PLA pointed out that, in a separate attempt to halt a concrete batching plant on the site, the applicant had told a planning inquiry “noise and disturbance from an industrial processing plant would discourage potential buyers and, despite controls, air quality would be a concern”.
However, with that argument lost – at least temporarily – the developer has had to change its thinking and make allowances for a noisy neighbour.
Mr Rosher said: “We’ve done a lot of work with PLA to understand what might happen and what we’ve done is build in a huge package of mitigation measures.”
However, the PLA objects to the scheme suggesting that any new use could produce more noise than the developer had allowed for. It also suggested that “the noise assessment was incorrectly undertaken”.
It concludes: “The PLA considers that robust testing of the relationship between Leamouth South and Orchard Wharf has not yet occurred.”
Chairman of the planning committee Cllr Marc Francis said: “I haven’t seen this kind of strength of objection from the PLA to an application before [but] I recognise that the applicant has taken considerable steps to ensure that even if the concrete batching plant goes ahead that wouldn’t necessarily have an impact on this scheme.”
But, while deferring a decision over the technicality, he added: “Overall I am really positive about this scheme.”
Battle for Orchard Wharf
■ Orchard Wharf is not currently operational but it is listed as a Safeguarded Wharf – reserved for industrial port and harbour services by the Port of London Authority.
■ The London Plan says that development proposals “adjacent or opposite safeguarded wharves should be designed to minimise the potential for conflicts of use and disturbance”.
■ Plans by Aggregate Industries/London Concrete to reactivate the wharf for a concrete batching plant and waterborne cargo handling were rejected by Tower Hamlets Council in 2011. An appeal against the refusal was rejected.
■ The PLA decided to buy the site by compulsory purchase order in 2014 to secure its future for waterborne freight handling.
■ That decision was quashed by the High Court in 2015 and a challenge to that High Court ruling will be heard in the Court of Appeal in May.