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Gateway overrule a 'real concern'

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Government support for a residential-dominated scheme in London's Hackney has triggered major concerns over the future make-up of the Thames Gateway.

The project by Gardner Stewart Architects - the new name for Tibbalds TM2 - was rejected by both the local planning authority and a public inquiry, only for these decisions to be overruled by the ODPM.

Local groups and SAVE Britain's Heritage have warned that John Prescott's decision to back the scheme sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of the Thames Gateway.

They are concerned that the project - which was originally dismissed because the practice failed to provide sufficient design details - could mean that Prescott is determined to give the green light to as many residential schemes as possible.

'This decision is seen by local planners as a test case for the local area and the massive development proposed in the rest of east London, ' said Hackney Society director Malcolm Smith.

'The major problem is that there is a lack of design details in the application. The government's Sustainable Communities Plan says that only the best design will do, ' he added. 'But this is far from apparent in its decision to overrule the inspector's report.'

When the project, proposed for a 5.3ha site on the bank of the River Lea, is completed it will include a series of medium-rise buildings that will provide 613 new residential units.

But SAVE's director Adam Wilkinson warned that the scheme fails to match the requirements of the area.

'The ODPM's decision is a real concern, as we think that it is setting the planning atmosphere for the Thames Gateway development, ' he told the AJ.

And he warned that the area would also be losing an important part of the local heritage when the scheme is constructed.

'We are very keen to save an interesting Belfast-trussed hangar that is being used as a timber yard at the moment, ' he added. 'There seems no reason why it could not be converted into a community sports hall.'

However, Gardner Stewart's project architect Warren Hawling said he was pleased to have finally won planning and was 'excited' to be starting on site.

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