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?

The Wharf - - Front Page - Giles Broad­bent

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


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