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Tower Hamlets planners: 'Norton Folgate decision will be difficult to defend'

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Tower Hamlets’ own planners have said it would be ‘challenging’ to defend the council’s decision to reject plans for Norton Folgate

Last month (21 July) the east London borough’s planning committee went against the recommendations of its officers and threw out proposals by AHMM, Duggan Morris, DSDHA and Stanton Williams for the historic city fringe area around Blossom Street.

The 32,550m2 scheme for British Land, which would have seen parts of the Elder Street conservation area demolished, had come in for heavy criticism from local campaigners and conservationists, including the Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust, led by architectural critic and television presenter Dan Cruickshank (AJ 06.08.15).

Now, in a new document setting out the detailed reasons for the scheme’s refusal, the council’s planning officers have warned that an appeal could be difficult to defend, adding that they did not want to ‘change their original recommendation to grant permission’.

The report, which will be considered at a meeting on Thursday (27 August), puts forward two main objections for councillors to consider: the impact on the historic environment; and the lack of housing in the proposed development.

However, the borough’s planners fear both objections could be dismissed at appeal, adding that the council’s ‘likelihood of success may be limited, particularly ‘with regard to the low proportion of housing within the scheme’.

British Land promised that 30 per cent of the homes would be affordable, a level the officers were comfortable with, having gone through a viability test with the developers.

The report reads: ‘This is the maximum affordable housing that the scheme can provide and as such a refusal reason based upon the low proportion of affordable housing within the scheme would be challenging to successfully argue on appeal.’

Paul Monaghan of AHMM said: ‘We are very pleased that, after working with the planning officers for two years, they have chosen to stand by their decision to support our design so emphatically.’

Tower Hamlets planners: 'Norton Folgate decision will be difficult to defend'

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