The Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs has responded to the announcement that the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has disagreed with the Planning Inspectorate’s conclusions and decided to grant planning permission for the Westferry Printworks planning application.

Mayor John Biggs said:

“I’m extremely disappointed that the Secretary of State has approved the Westferry Printworks planning application.


“I’d strongly objected to the revised plans due to their increased height and density as well as the lack of affordable housing.


“By ignoring the concerns expressed by the council and residents as well as the Planning Inspectorate decision it sets a worrying precedent for developers to get decisions approved behind closed doors ignoring local democracy.”

The Mayor also proposed an urgent motion at a full council meeting on Wednesday 15th January. The motion was unanimously agreed and secured support from all political parties.

The motion is as follows:

Urgent motion regarding Westferry Printworks

Proposer: Mayor John Biggs

Seconder: Cllr Kyrsten Perry

This Council notes:

  1. That the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has gone against the views of the council, many local residents and the Planning Inspectorate and granted planning permission for redevelopment of the Westferry Printworks site;
  2. That the proposed development was initially refused by Tower Hamlets Strategic Development Committee in March 2016. This was then overturned by Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London in April 2016;
  3. In 2018, the developer submitted a new application more than doubling the amount of housing, increasing further the density and heights of buildings and reducing the amount of open space, with no significant change in the proportion of affordable housing. The developer appealed before the Council was able to make a decision. However the SDC agreed clear and robust planning reasons for refusal. A public inquiry took place last year. The Conservative Secretary of State has now granted planning permission, against the recommendation of his appointed inspector, who broadly supported the Council’s case and despite clear opposition of the Council, Mayor of London and local residents;
  4. That the Secretary of State’s decision comes only 24 hours before tonight’s meeting where the council will vote on the new Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) charging schedule. By doing this the new development avoids the CIL liability and hence the Secretary of State has deprived the council of an estimated £30m-£50m in CIL contributions.

This Council believes that:

  1. Developments on the Isle of Dogs – which has seen decades of intensive development – must be sensitive to ensure developments strike a balance between realising opportunities for growth and respecting local context;
  2. The plans for the site are unacceptable due to their height and density as well as the low level of affordable housing;
  3. The decision by the Secretary of State to grant planning permission goes against the considerable views and professional opinions that were presented in opposition to the permission being granted;
  4. Decisions of this magnitude should not be taken by the Government behind closed doors and this decision completely disregards local democracy.

This Council resolves: 

  1. To condemn the unilateral decision taken by the Secretary of State and to ask council officers to examine what options are available to the council to challenge this decision, including the option of a judicial review.
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