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Unit Architects drops 28-storey tower from Whitechapel plans

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Unit Architects has substantially reworked plans for a retail and residential scheme in east London backed by Sainsbury’s after the proposal was refused last year

The rejected plans for One Cambridge Heath Road in Whitechapel in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets included 559 flats in eight buildings, including a 28-storey centrepiece tower, and the demolition and replacement of the existing Sainsbury’s supermarket. 

A report for the planning committee in December 2016 warned that the scheme would cause substantial harm to the the Grade I-listed Trinity Green Almshouses, rumoured to have been designed by Christopher Wren, and impact on ‘the character and appearance of Stepney Green Conservation Area […] the Whitechapel Market Conservation Area [and] the Grade II-listed Albion Yard building’.

The proposal, part of the area’s ongoing regeneration and linked to Whitechapel’s new Crossrail station, was also criticised by historian, TV presenter and local resident Dan Cruickshank, who described the scheme as ‘just wrong’.

Now Unit Architects has come back with revised plans, reducing the height of the tower to just eight storeys. 

A letter from Michael Adenmosun, Sainsbury’s portfolio development manager, explaining the changes to the Friends of Trinity Green, said: ‘Since the planning refusal we have taken stock of the decision and reflected on the views and feedback from the community and council. We have therefore reviewed our proposals and intend to resubmit the application without the 28-storey tower, which has now been reduced to only eight storeys.

‘As you can see from the image [below], this will entirely remove the visual impact on the Trinity Green Almshouses and the surrounding area.’

A spokersperson from Historic England, which objected to the previous scheme, said: ‘We are currently involved in ongoing discussions with Sainsbury’s and Tower Hamlets Council.

‘We are hopeful a scheme can be brought forward which will remove any harmful impacts from the exceptional almshouses at Trinity Green.’

Thomas Antoniw, a resident in one of the Trinity Green Almshouses, said the revised plans are a ’fantastic opportunity to create affordable housing while regenerating Whitechapel and being sensitive to its historic character’.

Barbara Weiss, co-founded of the Skyline Campaign, said: ’The original design would have damaged forever the setting of some very special Wren almshouses, doomed to be dwarfed by the new building.’

She added that the revised plans will benefit the developer by allowing it to ’build a more straightforward and less expensive project’.   

Before and after

Before and after

The refused scheme (left), and the revised scheme (right), by UNIT Architects

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