East London towers criticised as ‘too bulky’ thrown out by councillors | News

Councillors in east London have flown in the face of advice from planning officers and rejected proposals to replace their current town hall with a scheme that includes two SimpsonHaugh-designed residential towers.

Tower Hamlets council’s strategic development committee voted 5-2 to refuse the practice’s designs for a 36-storey student housing block and a 30-storey build-to-rent block on the site of the borough’s Mulberry Place headquarters and a neighbouring office building in Blackwall.

Tower Hamlets is due to move out of its current town hall, which is leased, and into a new base at the grade II-listed former Royal London Hospital building in Whitechapel, which has been converted to designs by AHMM.

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Last week councillors dismissed SimpsonHaugh’s proposals as “bulky” and a negative impact on the nearby Naval Row Conservation Area, which includes a stretch of the grade II-listed East India Dock wall.

They also expressed concerns about the mix of affordable housing proposed under the scheme, which was drawn up for developer EID, which is a subsidiary of LaSalle Investment Management.

The rejected application proposed a total of 716 student rooms and 150 apartments and also sought outline consent for two further buildings, a 35,000 sq m data centre and a smaller building featuring 5,940 sq m of commercial space and up to 660 sq m of space for community use.

At their meeting, strategic development committee members appeared to decide to reject the proposals without discussing the scheme’s pros and cons, prompting planning officers to ask what their reasons for rejection would be.

Abdul Wahid, of Tower Hamlets’ ruling Aspire Party – set up by elected mayor Lutfur Rahman, who returned to power in May’s local elections – said the proposals were too “bulky” and out of keeping with the neighbourhood.

“I don’t think the design fits in right with the character of the local area,” he said. “It seems exceptionally dense. I believe it looks out of place within the conservation area and the grade II-listing that we have.”

In their report recommending the plans for approval, officers had said SimpsonHaugh’s tower proposals were of “high quality and interesting design” and would complement the surrounding built context.


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