Historic England says TTSP proposals will harm setting of grade II* high-tech neighbour

Councillors in east London have approved proposals for a seven-storey data centre on a car park behind Nicholas Grimshaw’s high-tech former Financial Times Printworks building, despite concerns about the impact of the new development on the grade II*-listed structure.

Both government heritage adviser Historic England and the Greater London Authority expressed fears about the harm data centre specialist TTSP’s development for site owner Global Switch would cause to the Grimshaw building, which was first listed in 2016.

But members of Tower Hamlets Council’s strategic development committee unanimously approved the proposals at a meeting on Tuesday night, after borough planning officers said the benefits of the scheme outweighed the “less than substantial harm” they would cause.

Global Switch 1

Source: TTSP / Global Switch

TTSP’s data centre proposals seen from Nutmeg Lane. The rear of Grimshaw’s East India Dock House can be seen behind the footbridge

Grimshaw’s FT Printworks – known as East India Dock House – was officially opened in 1988 by then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher. While the facility won plaudits for its design the facility was only used for its intended purpose for less than a decade.

The 14,000sq m building was converted into a data centre in the late 1990s and is currently owned and operated by Global Switch, which refers to it as “London North”.

TTSP’s proposals for the new building, which will be located on a car park to the south of the Grimshaw structure, will provide an additional 27,000sq m of floorspace in a part-six and part-seven storey building. The 56m-tall building will have a bridge connecting to Global Switch’s neighbouring London East data centre at its first-floor level.

FT Printworks 2

Source: Grimshaw

Grimshaw’s FT Printworks in its heyday

In October, members of the authority’s strategic development committee blocked proposals for the redevelopment of that building and another nearby office to make way for a SimpsonHaugh-designed scheme that would have included two residential towers and a new data centre. Officers had recommended the scheme, drawn up for LaSalle Investment Management subsidiary EID, for approval.

Strategic development committee members cited the scale of the development and the mix of housing offered among their concerns.