The independent London newspaper

A new battle is looming for the canal site

06 December, 2019

Regent’s Wharf 

• PROPERTY developers need to be lucky only once, but citizens of London and conservationists need to be lucky always.

Last week’s news about the revised Regent’s Wharf planning application demonstrates how heavily the planning laws are loaded in favour of the applicants. (Fears over new plans for Victorian warehouses, November 29).

There were enough flaws in the original Regent’s Wharf planning application to offend a whole cross-section of the community.

Residents were being robbed of daylight, commercial boat operators were snubbed in the construction plan and industrial heritage supporters were insulted by the hideous contemporary redesigns.

Curiously none of these shortcomings deterred the council officers from recommending the plan but, thankfully, the planning committee stepped in at the last minute to ditch the plan (in December 2017).

Like night follows day the developers appealed to the planning inspectorate and then we were held in suspense for 20 months before hearing the good news (in August 2019) that the appeal was being dismissed.

However our celebrations lasted only three months before being alerted about a fresh application. How on earth could the villains bounce back so quickly after suffering such a humiliating defeat?

One explanation is that the failed appeal was actually a cunning plan to accelerate rather than scupper the redevelopment project.

After all, the government inspector didn’t rubbish every aspect of the plans; he merely drew some red lines to constrain heritage changes and he played down the negative impact of light deprivation.

In effect he gave the developers a green light to intensify the footprint of the site provided that they left the heritage alone.

The net result was a variation on the original scheme that will mollify some of the canal campaigners while infuriating those who will live in its shadow.

Whether by accident or design the developers have emerged from the appeal decision with confidence for another fight. This time, the main focus will not be on the canal but on basic human rights to light and open space.

If this new plan goes unchallenged it will make a mockery of planning laws and agreed standards, because it breaches guidelines on unacceptable harm.

If the affected residents are not compensated then we are on a slippery slope as it means our health and wellbeing is secondary to business development. I urge everyone to watch the progress of this application with keen interest.

Chair, Friends of Regent’s Canal


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