Planning report states that decision by council to reject British Land scheme could be difficult to defend

Planning officers at Tower Hamlets council have cast doubt on the ability of the local authority to defend any appeal of its decision to reject British Land’s Norton Folgate plans.

Tower Hamlets’ planning committee voted against the 35,550m² scheme last month against the recommendation of planning officers, following a high-profile campaign to save the estate from what some had dubbed a ‘damaging’ redevelopment.

The council refused planning due to the ‘unsypmathetic alteration’ to a number of heritage assets and the low proportion of housing compared to office and retails space in the new scheme, which was designed by prominent architecture practices AHMM, Duggan Morris, DSDHA and Stanton Williams.

The council also refused planning due to the scale of the new scheme, stating: “Their replacements, by reason of the scale, mass and design would be harmful to the character and appearance of the conservation area. As a result, the proposal would cause ‘less than substantial’ harm to the Elder Street Conservation Area and the Brick Lane and Fournier Street Conservation Area.”

However in a report produced ahead of a council committee on August 27 planning officers stated that the decision would be difficult to defend.

The consideration by offiers said: “It is the professional view of officers that the above reasons for refusal could be defended at appeal, however the likelihood of success may be limited, particularly with regard to the low proportion of housing within the scheme.”

In a warning to the council, the report stated that though local authorities are not bound to accept the recommendations of their officers, the authority needs to show ‘reasonable’ planning grounds for taking a contrary decision to the professional advice or could face paying the costs of any appeal.

British Land has not stated whether it will consider appealing against the council’s decision.