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High Court action still possible after Hackney Council’s “unsafe and muddled” Rosemary Works decision

PUBLISHED: 11:50 13 September 2011 | UPDATED: 11:23 14 September 2011

The artist's impression of the initial Rosemary Works application. There is no image available of the plans which have been approved.

The artist's impression of the initial Rosemary Works application. There is no image available of the plans which have been approved.

Archant

A waterways campaigner is urging Hackney Council to recall its “unsafe and muddled decision” to demolish heritage warehouses on a peaceful stretch of the Regent’s Canal - or he may take High Court action.

In July the planning committee approved housing association Family Mosaic’s application to build three blocks of flats up to seven storeys high, overhanging the water in Branch Place.

But the decision was brought back to the agenda last week to be “re-approved.”

Del Brenner from campaign group Regents’ Network and a member of the Waterways Commission had threatened to take the council to the High Court, criticising them for not taking the London Plan’s Blue Ribbon Network (BRN) policies into account.

They govern all of London’s waterways, protecting these open spaces in the same way as parks.

During last Wednesday’s meeting, the council’s planning officer admitted the BRN policies were not referred to in the “flawed” planning report, although claimed the BRN objectives had been met.

The application was put to the vote a second time and passed.

“They are trying to patch up their unsafe and muddled decision, but under the circumstances it is not a patch-up, but more a stitch-up,” said Mr Brenner, who is still considering High Court action.

This would be a costly exercise, but Mr Brenner already successfully challenged Haringey Council there when it ignored BRN policies.

Half of the Rosemary Works building is now scheduled for demolition, and long-established businesses in the conservation area will have to find alternative workspace.

Just 36 per cent, or 19 of the 52 homes available will be made available as affordable housing, while the remaining 33 will be sold on for profit.

Naomi Newstead, who is running against Jennette Arnold in May’s GLA elections, said she believed the application contravened planning policies, which require

a “significant improval” if change of use from “employment” to “mixed space” is to be granted.

“It’s delivering 36 per cent affordable housing, your own policy requires 50 per cent, why can’t it deliver affordable workspace?” she asked.

“If you are going to allow this you need to push for a lot better solution for Hackney.”

A spokesman for Family Mosaic said they could not guarantee affordable workspace to the existing tenants because they had sold back the commercial space to the developer: “It’s Family Mosaic’s aim to put back what’s on site at the moment, but to provide new homes over and above that.

“There will be large windows so commercial users can benefit from being close to the canal,” he said, adding that existing commercial tenants would receive statutory compensation.

During the meeting, the planning officer told councillors the seven-storey development would cause less shadow than the current two-storey structure.

He failed to show them an artists’ impression image of the new development at both meetings.

Filmmaker Thomas Napper speaking on behalf on the Rosemary Works’ Community Association said they collected 1,200 signatures for a petition to save the heritage building within four hours.

“It was easy, everyone can see with their naked eye that it sits beautifully on the dog’s leg of the canal, now it’s going to be knocked down and replaced with some faceless development,” he said.

“We object to the way developers are steamrolling us and steamrolling our landscape, the development is offensive.

“We’ve been there for 20 years and have been overlooked and not consulted in the development of this building, in fact we were told our opinions did not matter the first time we met Family Mosaic.”

Cllr Barry Buitekant who voted against the development at the first meeting said he still objected to it because of its scale, bulk and mass.

“I’ve heard nothing tonight that convinces me to vote for this,” he said.

Mr Brenner wants the decision to be called in properly, and he would like to personally brief all councillors on the planning committee about the Blue Ribbon Network.

A council spokeswoman for the council said the BRN had been omitted from the documented list of policies on the planning application because of a “typographical error,” but that BRN objectives had been referred to in the officer’s presentation to the planning sub-committee.

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