Letter from Tom Ridge to the Planning Committee (14th May 2013)

Dear Cllr. Abbas,

Bow Wharf - Item 6.3 15 May 2013

I am writing to you and your colleagues on behalf of the East End Waterway Group. As you know, Bow Wharf and the adjacent canal junction is the jewel in the borough's unique six-mile waterway ring.

Last month, your committee refused the application for residential overdevelopment not only because it would be detrimental to the conservation area but would also put the listed Stop Lock Bridge at risk. It is therefore very surprising to read at 6.4 officer's report that (since the refusal) the applicant has provided an extra document "which may address Members' concerns".

Surely such a document should not be considered by your committee at this stage. If it is, then please bear in mind the following comments re the untitled and undated 7 pages which attempt to show how the scheme would protect the conservation area.

Second page

- the proposed piazza is not a "large open and useable public space". It is a small token remnant of the existing space, which would be overwhelmed by the three proposed blocks. This was not an enclosed canal junction, it was an open canal junction - as mentioned in the list description for Stop Lock Bridge.

- It is only "public" in the sense that people would be able to walk through it via the bridge (but not directly to the tow path in the SW corner of the space, as shown on the plan.

- the proposed piazza would be seriously curtailed by the large disabled parking space in the NE corner, cafe seating and delivery vehicles (and has also to serve as a very difficult turning area for a fire engine.

- passive surveillance and enhancement of the existing routes are potential improvements to the public realm but not matters relating to the character and appearance of the conservation area.

- SW corner focal point of residential block A would in fact seriously detract from the setting of the listed bridge.

Third page

- the beneficial effect of having pitched roofs like the existing buildings would be destroyed by the excessive height of the three proposed blocks.

Fourth page

- proposed materials are to be expected but do not in themselves justify the proposed overdevelopment.

Fifth page - the proposed projecting balconies are not "industrial in style", they are simply not a feature of traditional industrial buildings and have been criticised by EEWG, Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society and the Borough's conservation and design advisory group. They are there simply to provide necessary amenity space to individually small flats.

Sixth page

- the drawings cleverly minimize the apparent height of the three proposed buildings. Blocks A and B, in particular, would dominate the listed bridge. Claims about 'stepping out' and 'reflection' in respect to Block A are entirely spurious - existing visual interest does not need adding to nor does the narrow stop lock passage need to be reflected.

- Block B is not "set away from the existing warehouse", it is as close as it can be.

Seventh page

- The three drawings minimize the apparent height of the three blocks and are seriously misleading.

- Roof shapes would harmonise but not the excessive heights of the proposed blocks in relation to the existing buildings.

- Much is made of the one large tree, most of proposed Block C would be highly visible from the south and will effectively block the vital 'green chain' of small open spaces between Mile End Park and Victoria Park. This is not the same as the view of the canal and the listed bridge. Although neither would be obstructed by the proposed blocks, two of the blocks would occupy most of the existing open spac at the west end of Bow Wharf and, with the third, would be detrimental to the setting of the listed bridge.

- The view shown in the third drawing is simply not possible because of the existing wall at Royal Victor Place. It also manages to completely omit the tallest block, Block B, which is two storeys higher than the adjacent warehouse, also omitted.

Finally, as I said at the last meeting, this application contravenes the principles laid down at the 2005 public enquiry and upheld by another planning inspector in 2010.

The proposed reasons for refusal are in my view more than adequate to withstand further appeal. But the additional reason for refusal based on absence of financial contributions would be best avoided, bearing in mind that your officers agreed to this arrangement.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Ridge (East End Waterway Group)

cc: Members and deputies
Mary O'Shaughnessy
Amy Thompson

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