Letter to planning consultants on Wapping High Street development

A letter (email) sent to Cunnane Town Planning on proposed new development. See here for background from WiW.
Dear Paul,
I’d like to express my gratitude for the developer consulting the local community on the proposed planning application. Unfortunately I was not able to attend the session at Tobacco Dock yesterday, but I have reviewed the consultation boards. As some background I write a hyperlocal blog called ‘pootling around’ – I am happy to disseminate any information and any additional mockups online, as well as sharing them with my friends at whatsinwapping and LoveWapping (copied in).

My comments are those which I would express if this was a full planning application and I appreciate that at this stage you may not have considered all of the points I have raised, or included on the boards.

Overall, I think the proposals are of a high standard. My comments on each development are as follows:

Phoenix/King Henry

Whilst appreciating the limitations of the buildings, I am against space being used for ‘studio apartments’ as I don’t see how they contribute to developing a settled community and as they aren’t ‘affordable’, they are unlikely to have any great benefit to assisting people getting on the property ladder (the river view doesn’t help with affordability). I would be in favour of fewer, larger units.

In respect to replacing beams and joists, I have no issue, though think it sensible to retain cast iron features where practical, even if not for a structural purpose. I have no issue with the thinning out of the ‘forest’ in Phoenix.

Where window frames and panes are to be replaced, I think samples should be provided.

I have no issue with the removal of the loading bay/doors in King Henry or the reinstatment of windows in Phoenix (subject to the design of those windows).

Swan

I support the design of the building based on the limited information in the 8 page pdf.

‘Landside’

I have two main concerns. The first is the relationship of the building to the existing width of the pavement. The pavements at this point of the Wapping High Street are very narrow, as is the road itself. You will probably be made aware of a very recent incident involving a delivery van and a bus becoming stuck. Although most of the building is set back from the existing pavement, the boundary and planting at the front maintains the width of the current pavement and is further enforced by the proposed entrance on the High Street. If the door to the building (even if not the portico itself) was set back from the pavement this would aid in reducing congestion. Looking at the plan this appears to be the case.

My second concern is the size/form of the windows. This is particularly the case when looking at the mock up labelled ‘View of the proposed development from Wapping High Street facing west’ and the window on the south-easterly corner, which doesn’t complement the other historic buildings.  It would be useful to provide a photorealistic mockup of the front (even if in reality this view is not replicable on camera) of the building head on. The windows on the rear and side of the building look to be of a smaller size than those on the front. The design brief refers to responding to the ‘almost dutch scale’ of Old Tower Buildings windows. It’s odd then  that the windows at the back facing those windows appear to be smaller than the ones at the front. I have no issue with larger windows, but the form and proportions should be more in keeping with neighbouring buildings.

I would actually support a genuinely ‘Dutch Window’ on the southern aspect given that the design of these arose because of the use of canal fronting buildings as workshops and warehouses and the need to hoist in loads via the window and thus would possibly be a compromise of having large windows for light. Whether these would complement the design may be challenged, but at present, the proposed windows look very generic. If samples of the frames could be shared I might be convinced. I do however appreciate the desire to avoid architectural pastiche.

I am strongly supportive of the overall use of London Stock Brick and Portland Stone as well as the proportions of the building (specifically in the context of New Tower Buildings). In summary though, the view from the West is more aesthetically pleasing than the one from the East. I’m pleased there is at least one four bedroom flat.

General

You will probably be made aware of the significance of the ‘Stepney lamppost’ – I see no reason this can’t be retained and assume that it not being included in the mock-ups was an oversight. Were the lamppost removed I would formally object to the proposed application.

From a public relations perspective, I would be interested in more information about Bridewell Thames. Their choice of incorporation as an unlimited private company with the only directors being from a law firm (which I assume is acting as company secretary) does not scream transparency and you may find that local residents may express reservations.

This may have been available at the consultation, but more photos of the materials would be useful, principally, window frames and the appearance of the metal balconies.

I believe planning consent should be contingent on the freeholder not challenging the potential use of the pier for commuter services and on addressing how construction/redevelopment work will impact on pedestrians, road users and parking in the area.

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