The rising cost
A skyscraper is cleared for the Island, small by Marsh Wall standards. But is it the straw that breaks the camel’ s back?
Even its critics concede that the tower planned for 54 Marsh Wall is not, in itself, excessive. At 41 storeys, it is a pygmy compared to the monoliths ranged along the Isle Of Dogs boundary with Canary Wharf.
Look at the storey heights of its neighbours – 58, 63, 75. And the number of them as well with nearly a dozen such towers abutting the the north of the island, creating a Hong Kong skyline.
So 54 Marsh Wall is not excessive and, even offers a generous 36% affordable housing. It is not even the straw that breaks the camel’s back, say critics. It is, though, another straw.
And opponents and residents argue Tower Hamlets planners appear powerless to stop the tide of development that has turned this small bit of an island into Western Europe’s most densely packed parcel of land.
Cllr Andrew Wood told the planning meeting on Thursday: “You can walk seven minutes along Marsh Wall in my ward and you have 1,000 apartments for every minute you walk, roughly 7,000 new apartments within 3.5 minutes of this site. The question I’ve got is: ‘Can such a small area cope with such a high density of development?’.
“You have enormous numbers of people moving into this area with three to four thousand extra children. Is there enough park space? No there isn’t.”
Planners are required to look at individual applications on their merits and not on the cumulative impact of a collection of applications. The net result is Marsh Wall as it will be; high rise towers built upon roads and infrastructure built for a low-rise community.
Cllr Wood said: “You need to know where the school places are, where the GP surgeries are, where the park space is going to be. It works in Shanghai and it works in Manhattan but are we coping with those kinds of densities? The answer, so far, is no.”
While 54 Marsh Wall is in itself too small to provide space for, say, a school or health centre, it relies on other, larger, planning applications coming through to provide this social infrastructure. But, Cllr Wood argues, these applications may take years, or may remain undeveloped. He uses the example of GP surgeries to highlight the scale of the need.
He said: “There will be a new surgery in Wood Wharf but you have tens of thousands of apartments feeding off that one surgery.
“The Isle Of Dogs and South Poplar had a population of 47,000 in 2011. If you add up all the known developments you get a population of 115,000. That means roughly an extra 36 GPs.
“We know where 14 are going but where are the other GPs going to go. No-one’s got an answer to that. We don’t have a plan for this level of density.”
But councillors conceded their hands were tied. The capital needed housing and, when they did make a stand, three times the then Mayor Of London Boris Johnson overruled their decisions. It is unlikely that Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has made provision of housing the litmus test of his mayoralty, would be less likely to arrest the flow.
Cllr Wood said: “This is not the worst scheme on the Isle Of Dogs. But it is another 200 apartments.”
Philip Dunphy, of Rolfe Judd, on behalf of the applicant pointed out that the development had more than the minimum level of play space, a public square and the developers were providing £3.5million in contributions, which would help to improve the bus service. He said the GLA and council agreed it offered “high quality residential accommodation”.
The scheme was approved.
A CGI of 54 Marsh Wall once it is developed