Plans for office space, shops and restaurants on the site of the Old Truman Brewery have been given the go-ahead by councillors despite thousands of objections.
A proposal put forward by Old Truman Brewery Ltd includes a part five-storey office building with ground and first floor commercial space and a basement gym at 140 Brick Lane, commercial units in the neighbouring building at 146 Brick Lane and refurbishment and extension of 25 Woodseer Street for a shop and office space.
The scheme is planned to feature more than 3,500 square metres of new office space, 15 retail units and two restaurants.
The plans have seen more than 7,000 objections and protests have been held against the scheme, including last Sunday (September 12).
TV historian Dan Cruickshank also addressed a rally in June attended by hundreds of opponents to the plans.
– Credit: Mike Brooke
A decision was deferred from a development committee meeting in April over concerns about affordable workspace, the amount of independent retail and community cohesion.
Negotiations between planning officers and the applicant saw a new offer to provide affordable workspace at 45pc below market rent for 15 years, up from 30pc for 10 years.
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A council report said there are also plans to prioritise the workspace for prospective ‘local’ occupiers – businesses within three miles of the development, Tower Hamlets council tax or business rate payees.
– Credit: Mike Brooke
During a development committee meeting on Tuesday (September 14), Shahi Mofozil, senior business growth manager, said: “The approach taken goes a step beyond what we would usually negotiate through affordable workspace strategies.
“Those discounts that have been secured and those indicative rents will still be affordable even after a 15 year period because those rates are unprecedented for that area.
“What that will allow for is a group of businesses to come in, start, trade and grow and add value to existing businesses in the area.”
The site, which was formally the world’s largest brewery, is now home to dozens of arts businesses, independent shops, galleries, market stalls and restaurants.
The Spitalfields Trust and Save Brick Lane coalition submitted documents to committee members ahead of the meeting.
They felt the plans would harm Brick Lane because of “large office floorplates” and not provide affordable rental space.
The planned development is “out of scale”, would obscure the brewery’s chimney and would also cause noise and overlooking for nearby residents, they claim.
Concerns have also been raised by Bethnal Green and Bow MP Rushanara Ali and 90 Brick Lane traders and businesses sent a letter of objection to Tower Hamlets Council in April.
– Credit: Old Truman Brewery
During the meeting, the council’s development manager Paul Buckenham said: “Brick Lane has an absolutely fascinating and rich cultural history.
“It has changed and evolved over time and what this application tries to do is meet the full range of planning policies and try to provide a development that is contextually sensitive to Brick Lane.”
Committee chair Cllr Abdul Mukit felt that no improvement had been made on the issue of community cohesion.
“We don’t want our community cohesion and community small businesses to disappear because of corporate companies.”
But planning officer Patrick Harmsworth said while “it’s a big scheme for Brick Lane”, the office floor plates were “not that big”.
“One can never say categorically what type of businesses that space would accommodate but there are some really important design moves that I believe doesn’t make it an attractive scheme for large corporations.”
The application was approved by two votes to one, with Cllr Mukit voting against.
Cllrs Kevin Brady and Kahar Chowdhury voted in favour, with the pair feeling that there were no planning reasons to object.
Cllr Chowdhury said: “When this application previously came about, councillors raised various reasons for deferral.
“Now the applicant has come back and exceeded those issues we raised.
“It is quite clear to me if the applicant comes back, addresses those reasons and exceeds the planning requirements, it is very difficult to say we are going to refuse it for x, y, z.
“I hear loud and clear what our residents and businesses are saying and we need to take them along with that journey so they benefit from this development.”
Reacting to the approval on Twitter, Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs said: “I understand the concerns of residents and business owners that increasing development threatens the character of the area and the viability of our small business community. I share these anxieties.”