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City set to 'invade' Tower Hamlets

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London's Tower Hamlets is readying itself for the widespread 'invasion' of the City of London through its eastern border. With as many as four skyscrapers already in the pipeline, the council's planners are set to publish a new tall buildings policy that will open the floodgates for developers.

Several developers are already eyeing up land in Tower Hamlets close to the City's eastern border, known as the City Fringe. The council's planning department is dealing with the second highest number of applications for any local authority in the UK.

The AJ has learnt that Broadway Malyan is developing a scheme for the Royal Bank of Scotland on Goodman's Field in Whitechapel, likely to include a substantial tower development in its second phase. Council insiders have also seen a secret 70-storey skyscraper planned for the area that has already won support from the mayor's office.

Other schemes include a huge four-phase project by the Millbank Tower developer Tishman Speyer, which has two major new skyscrapers proposed for later stages. And another major developer is also believed to be considering a record-breaking tower for Aldgate High Street.

The City of London has long seen the land east of its borders as potential for development, especially on the controversial Spitalfields site, which it owns.

But the need to find new space for the City to colonise has gained renewed urgency due to the publication of Ken Livingstone's draft London Plan. The plan urges developers to invest in the distant Thames Gateway area, a policy that threatens the City's future development.

And Tower Hamlets planners are determined to use the City's expansion into areas adjacent to the Square Mile as a tool to trigger local regeneration.

Tower Hamlets' head planning officer Keith Simmons stressed that the borough is prime for development because of its proximity to the City.

'Make no mistake, this is a massive opportunity for the local area and the council will be in the driving seat encouraging economic growth. As a result, we will ensure that we gain as many new jobs and new homes through planning gains and the use of section 106 agreements, ' he said.

However, Jemima Broadbridge, a campaigner against the development of Spitalfields Market, dismissed the benefits, saying City spread would have a 'horrific effect' on locals. 'It seems that the government and local authorities will only listen to the interests of business, not the general population.

'The trouble is that Tower Hamlets is so poor that it has to agree to give planning permission and take the planning gain as a way of improving its social housing, ' Broadbridge added.

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