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Developers make their move on Rampart Street

friends of rampart street | 11.11.2007 14:49 | Culture | Free Spaces | Social Struggles | London

In the last few rampART newsletters it was mentioned that a planning application had been submitted to Tower Hamlets Planning Authority for the redevelopment of properties in the rampART block. It should be stressed before rumors start that this proposed development refers only to the four houses in the block and not the rampART social center itself. However, the gentrification of the street can only hasten the eventual end for the social center which has now been open for three and a half years.

There is some potentially good news (although not for those of us that live in the houses now threaten with demolition). The alleged owner of the houses is no longer the same as the alleged owner of the warehouse occupied by the rampART social center and this suggests that the developers were not interested in the warehouse. Looking at a copy of the complete planning application (available on the Tower Hamlets Website;jsessionid=F3534B49358DB04B27372E04DAACD287?postcode=E1+2la&action322=Search) it can be seen that there have been previous redevelopment schemes explored for the block, all of which did include the warehouse and all have been shelved.

Rampart Street is in a conservation zone and consent for demolishing building of heritage value is not normally granted. While the developers would like to have been able to knock down the whole block and build some kind of high rise block of luxury apartments, that's just not on the cards. With redevelopment of the warehouse unattractive, the developers have had to be content with the easier prospect of the houses and have put in a proposal to demolish the back half of all four and build three new houses facing the back street.

The statutory notification and public consultation required seems to have been somewhat buggered. The application on the councils website states that the consultation period started on the 28 Sep and ended on the 19 Oct 2007, before anyone in the street was made aware of the application. A call to the council led to letters finally being delivered to the houses stating 14 days to get in objections. On the 31st Oct, almost a week after the letters, notices were finally put up in the street and they gave three weeks for letters of objection.

There are several grounds possible for objection. Perhaps most significantly in terms of planning issues, the new houses will also almost double the number of tenants in the block but without any provision for new parking. Without conditions prohibiting car ownership from new tenants, the development would add significantly to the already dire traffic issues in the narrow streets.

Rampart Street is used as a rat run for cars avoiding the lights at the Junction of New Road and Cannon Street Road. Pedestrians are already endangered by the poor condition of the pavement combined with the narrow cobbled street which is effectively a single lane due to parked vehicles. The proposed development will make the situation much worse, especially during the demolition and construction phase.

There will be significant disruption to those living, working and studying in the area during demolition and construction. The pupils studying in the school adjacent to the proposed construction site will suffer a great deal of noise during working hours and those in the street will suffer from noise, dust, vibration and traffic chaos caused by large plant vehicles trying to navigate the narrow congested streets.

If built, the new properties facing Kinder Street could not adequately be serviced by the emergency services. Emergency vehicles find it very difficult to get to the back street at the best of times. Even when there are no vehicles parked in the way (which there normally are) fire engines find it impossible to make the turn.

The planning application indicates that the properties will be wheel chair accessible and suitable for the elderly, the infirmed or young families. However, the council would need to completely renovate the pavements of both Kinder Street and parts of Rampart Street if wheelchair users, push chairs or elderly people were to require daily access to the back street.

The development will significantly change the character of the block which is one of the few unmodernized terraces in the conservation area. Additionally, the rare 'back street character' of Kinder Street will be lost forever, another part of East End history wiped out and sanitized.
Additionally, three new houses built onto the back of the existing houses will mean no windows at the back of those properties which contravenes the right to light of those living there now and in the future.

The expensive new flats already built in the street during the last decade are under utilized and have a high turn over of tenants, doing little to contribute to the local community in any meaningful way. The development is not needed and the four existing houses are already housing many people. There is no indication that the new houses will contribute to much needed affordable social housing in Tower Hamlets and those made homeless by the proposal will need to be rehoused somewhere.

Objections can be made by anyone who lives, works or makes use of amenity in the area. You can see the plans and application forms in person at the planning department offices during normal office hours or view them online (here;jsessionid=F3534B49358DB04B27372E04DAACD287?postcode=E1+2la&action322=Search).

Objections should be made in writing to the department either by letter or email. You should refer to the site or address of the proposed development (7 to 11a Rampart Street, E1 2LA) and include the application reference number PA/07/02707 and your own name and address.

If the Planning Application goes through to the panel you have the right to attend and in certain circumstances make your views known on the proposal to those Councillors present.

Letters should be sent to Tower Hamlets Planning Team
Mulberry Place (AH)
PO Box 55739
5 Clove Crescent
London E14 1BY

Tel: 020 7364 5009
Fax: 020 7364 5415

Other relevant council documents:
Having your say in local development
The Unitary Development Plan
Local Development Framework
Conservation areas and listed buildings

friends of rampart street