City Hall intervenes after council refuses permission for 1,582 new homes

A graphic depicting the proposed redevelopment scheme in Poplar (EcoWorld London)
A graphic depicting the proposed redevelopment scheme in Poplar (EcoWorld London)

A London council’s refusal of permission for almost 1,600 new homes to be built has been questioned by City Hall, who may overturn the decision.

The redevelopment scheme at the Aberfeldy Estate in Poplar, which would see the demolition of 330 existing homes and their replacement with 1,582 new ones, was turned down by Tower Hamlets Council in February.

Councillors on the authority’s strategic development committee had voted unanimously to refuse the planning application, despite a recommendation from officers on the council that they should approve it.

The committee justified rejecting the scheme on the grounds that it would worsen local traffic, not provide enough affordable housing, reduce sunlight for nearby buildings, and would place a tall development outside the council’s ‘tall building zone’, among other reasons.

But in a letter to the authority, London’s Deputy Mayor for Planning, Jules Pipe CBE, said the project “has the potential to make a substantial and positive contribution towards achieving local and strategic housing and affordable housing targets set out in the London Plan”.

The London Plan is a policy document outlining how the capital should develop over the coming decades, with a target of building 66,000 new homes each year to meet current and future demand.

Mr Pipe added: “As well as the new housing, and new and re-provided affordable homes, the scheme would deliver new retail and employment workspaces, including affordable workspace.

“The proposal also has the potential to improve strategic connections through the repurposing of the underpass for pedestrians and cyclists, overcoming the physical barriers to movement created by the A12.”

The Deputy Mayor said that while he recognised the “positive approach to delivering new homes” taken by Tower Hamlets Council in recent years, there remained “an undersupply of affordable housing in the pipeline” of the borough’s planning department.

Based on habitable rooms, some 38.8 per cent of the scheme would comprise affordable housing, of which 15.3 per cent would be “re-provision” to make up for the demolished affordable homes and 23.5 per cent would be an uplift in affordable housing.

The planning application was put forward by Aberfeldy New Village LLP - a joint venture between housing association Poplar HARCA and Malaysian developer EcoWorld.

Mr Pipe, using powers delegated to him by Mayor Sadiq Khan, told the authority that City Hall would be taking control of the planning application, and would hold a public hearing to determine its fate “in due course”.

At the hearing, Mr Pipe or Mr Khan will consider arguments for and against the project, before making a final decision on whether to approve it.

Jules Pipe CBE, London’s Deputy Mayor for Planning (Greater London Authority)
Jules Pipe CBE, London’s Deputy Mayor for Planning (Greater London Authority)

A spokeswoman for the council said: “We received the Deputy Mayor of London’s letter for Aberfeldy on 2 May 2023, which confirmed that they will now act as the local planning authority.

“The Greater London Authority [City Hall] will now arrange a date for a representation hearing, notifying the council, the applicant and interested parties, where we will put forward our case.”

It is understood that the council will continue to argue for the scheme’s refusal.

The redevelopment of the Aberfeldy Estate has been ongoing since 2012, with this planning application representing a major phase in the area’s overall regeneration.