Plans for a major redevelopment of an east London neighbourhood have been rejected by Tower Hamlets councillors against the recommendation of planning officers.
The Aberfeldy New Village scheme, being promoted by a joint venture between housing association Poplar Harcaand Ecoworld London, would have seen the demolition of 330 existing homes on the 9.1ha site in Poplar and the construction of a mixed-use development in their place.
Outline planning permission was sought for up to 140,000 sq m of residential, retail and transport floorspace, including up to 1,582 homes, roughly 39% designated as affordable.
But councillors said the proposals would have increased traffic and reduced sunlight to neighbouring buildings, and they raised concerns about the level of affordable housing proposed and the height of the development, which lies outside of a designated tall building zone.
Officers said these justifications were not valid as the scheme complied with local planning guidelines, with a planning official saying after the vote that there would be “some issues there that, if we were in an appeal situation, would be very, very difficult to defend”.
One planning official noted that the level of affordable housing in the proposals had been made possible by a Greater London Authority grant that is set to expire in March and that if a different scheme were to come forward in future “the chances of it having any more affordable housing are quite slim”.
The scheme’s developer, Aberfeldy New Village LLP, is a joint venture between local housing association Poplar Harca and Malaysian developer Ecoworld, which is part owned by Willmott Dixon.
The new village would have expanded the ongoing regeneration of Aberfeldy Estate, which began in 2012, to include Aberfeldy West.
Architect Levitt Bernstein masterplanned the new proposals, which would have been constructed in four phases over 10 years between March 2023 and the second quarter of 2033. The detailed planning application for the first phase was drawn up by Morris + Company.
The plans include a new pedestrian route through the Abbot Road underpass, which is currently used for cars and goes under the A12 which bisects Poplar and Newham. Some councillors raised concerns about the effects of this on people with cars on the estate.
A public petition against the development, signed by nearly 800 people, cites the closure of the underpass, and its supposed effects on residents’ journey times, as the reason for opposition, as well as the potential for “high density” housing to “tarnish the existing character of the community”.
But more than 90% of Aberfeldy residents voted yes to regeneration in an October 2020 residents’ ballot with a more than 90% turnout.
Representation to the planning authority also split towards the regeneration, with 939 in favour and 97 against.
A spokesperson on behalf of the Aberfeldy New Village LLP said: “We are naturally very disappointed for the local residents who voted overwhelmingly for the new masterplan.
“From our work with the Aberfeldy community over the last 10 years, we know just how important the new affordable homes, green spaces, public areas and improved travel connections that the new masterplan would be – the fact that more than 90% of residents voted in favour of the new masterplan is testament to that.
“We will now be considering our next steps and will continue to work closely with the Aberfeldy residents and all our partners. We remain committed to delivering much needed new homes and facilities for the Aberfeldy community.”
When the phase 3b of the existing regeneration of Aberfeldy completes this summer, the scheme will have delivered more than 900 new homes. Three further stages are planned, with 275 homes yet to be delivered.