Khan steps in on Desmond’s Westferry Printworks plans

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has called for revisions to Richard Desmond’s EIA application for the regeneration of the former Westferry Printworks on the Isle of Dogs, E14.

The media tycoon’s property division, Northern & Shell Investments, is looking to double the number of homes on the site as well as significantly increase the height of the buildings compared with the earlier proposals.

However, the mayor said the application for the 15-acre mixed-use redevelopment is not London Plan compliant and has asked for a review of the transport and infrastructure impact and affordable tenure split. In particular, the Greater London Authority suggested the scheme may not be appropriate given the current capacity of the Docklands Light Railway.

As a result, John Finlayson, head of development management at the GLA, has written to Tower Hamlets Council flagging that the application “does not fully comply with the London Plan, draft London and draft Isle of Dogs OAPF [opportunity area planning framework]”.

Northern & Shell’s EIA application proposes 35% affordable housing, comprising 30% affordable rent, 28% London Living Rent and 42% shared ownership. This does not meet Tower Hamlets’ preferred tenure split. The council requires a 70:30 affordable split in favour of rented, and GLA officers will work with the council and Northern & Shell to revise this.

The revised planning documents, which were submitted in April 2018, include proposals to double the number of homes from 722 to 1,537 flats and introduce 85,000 sq ft of commercial and leisure space.

The new plans also envisage increasing the general building height from eight to nine storeys, as well as including five towers of between 19 and 46 storeys. In the original proposals, the landowner had suggested towers of between eight and 30 storeys.

Any decision by Tower Hamlets will require consultation with the mayor, and Khan will decide whether he will approve the council’s decision, direct the council to refuse or assume the role of local planning authority and bypass the council.

The site was previously home to the presses of the Daily Express and Daily Star newspapers, which Desmond sold to Trinity Mirror in February last year.

The original scheme gained consent for 722 homes in 2016 from then London mayor Boris Johnson, via a call-in.

Desmond bought out the Barclay brothers’ half-share of the Westferry Printworks in 2008.

Northern & Shell is working with development managers Mace on the project. DP9 is advising on the planning application.

Several major tower schemes on the Isle of Dogs have fallen foul of both Tower Hamlets planners and politicians. Last year, Ashbourne Beech Property withdrew its EIA for 2,000 homes, a supermarket and primary school after Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs formally objected to the scheme.

At the end of 2017, councillors began pushing back on housing developments, saying the borough was taking on an unfair share of London’s housing need. Refusals included included Cubitt Property’s 336-home scheme at Marsh Wall and Meadow’s 319-home Millharbour scheme.

The full EIA application can be viewed on the Tower Hamlets planning application portal, application number PA/18/01877/A1.

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