Subject: Bow Wharf Redevelopment - who are the winners and losers?
We have been invited, at a very late stage, to comment on some redevelopment plans at Bow Wharf, where the Hertford Union Canal meets the Regent's Canal. This is a mixed use scheme that could breathe new life into an underutilised site, but there is also a risk that it could harm the character and charm of one of the most popular green corridors on the Regent's Canal.
The scheme comprises 3 housing blocks (A, B and C) and a public piazza. Blocks A and C overlook the towpath while Block B is set further back. Many people have argued that Blocks A and C are too intrusive and that their design is insensitive to the conservation area. Please see the photographs and images on our website if you want to understand what we are gaining and losing.
I believe that the canal users who will be the most affected by these plans are recreational walkers, because they will lose a valuable open space that links Victoria Park with Mile End Park. The planning sketches suggest that the cobbled towpath will be replaced by a smooth surface that merges with the neighbouring piazza; and the open sky will be replaced by tall buildings with balconies overlooking what currently feels like a country lane.
Please note that there are very good reasons for choosing to redevelop this brownfield site. There is an unused warehouse with no interesting features; this area can attract anti-social behaviour after dusk; and this is not a site that we would earmark for loading/unloading water-borne freight. The main criticism I would expect from canal supporters is the height and style of Buildings A and C and their proximity to the towpath; and I am sure that most people's concerns could be addressed if these buildings were "stepped back" away from the canal.
The proposed piazza could complement the towpath in a very positive way if the two areas keep their separate identities. However, some of the planning sketches show that the historic towpath will be absorbed into the piazza, and if these sketches are accurate then I feel that the piazza will be devalued and the towpath experience will be harmed irreversibly.
I do not think it is appropriate to submit any responses to this application in the name of the Friends of Regent's Canal, since our interests are diverse and we have not had a chance to discuss this as a group, but we can perform a useful role in facilitating enquiries and raising awareness of these plans while there is still a chance to improve the design.
I understand that this planning application will go to committee on 11th April, so please contact me if there is anything you want to discuss. Please also visit the following dedicated area on our website:-
Chair, Friends of Regent's Canal
4th April 2013
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