Friday, 16 August 2019

37 Pubs Saved in Tower Hamlets

Lord Morpeth, Old Ford Road

Over the last 300 years or so the East End has welcomed successive waves of immigrants,  whether that be the french-speaking Huegenots in the 18th Century, the Jewish immigrants of the mid-19th Century, the Bangladeshis in the 20th Century or indeed the largely unacknowledged wave of Italians of the past decade.

One feature of our urban landscape that has existed throughout most of this time is the East End Boozer.

Our pubs have tried to evolve to keep the punters coming in: Sky Sports; Pub Quizzes; free roast potatoes at the bar of a Sunday have been replaced by all manner of Sunday Roasts. Some have lost the fight and been converted into curry houses, one or two afghani restaurants, burger or pizza joints or converted into flats (many still adorned with glazed tiles embossed with the brewery logos of Toby, Whitebread, Truman, Charrington or some other soon to be forgotten name).

Tower Hamlets Council have recently recognised the social significance of some 37 of our pubs and awarded them with locally listed status which offers some protection against development. The pubs were listed for the following criteria:

  • Local character and distinctiveness
  • Architectural significance
  • Historical significance
  • Artistic significance
  • Age, rarity and integrity
  • Social significance

The Morgan Arms, Lord Tredegar or Coborn Arms which all lie within MEOTRA don't feature for some reason? Neither do the nearby Palm Tree or Victoria or the recently boarded up New Globe. Perhaps the Greedy Cow (formerly the Prince of Wales) which serves as good a beer as many locals and has a formidable range or spirits should be on the list? What do you think should they be added - email and let us know. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

URGENT SUPPORT NEEDED: Object to Plans to redevelop the Greedy Cow

Front Elevation showing proposed extension
The owner of 2 Grove Road (where the Greedy Cow is located) has applied to Tower Hamlets Council for the "Erection of additional two storeys to accommodate two new residential units." The planning application number is: PA/19/01089/A1 This application would bring the building up to the level of the Pizza Room and four storeys higher than the Subway building which is locally listed and a former Toll House.

*** Just to emphasise the development is being proposed by the landowner NOT the owner of the Greedy Cow***

The application was submitted some time ago, but as of 13/08/2019 is still open to comments (ie objections). Please do urgently submit any objections if you are able. If we can reach the threshold of 20 objections it will go to a planning meeting and our Councillor, and MEOTRA, will be able to speak to object. 

To find out more about the application go to the Tower Hamlets Planning Page and search for application PA/19/01089/A1 or "2 Grove Road"

Personally, I think the proposed development will greatly affect the look and feel of this row of shops which have existed unchanged for at least a century. It is thus a historic townscape. The scheme will make the restaurant less viable too.

The Greedy Cow restaurant was previously The Prince of Wales Public House and many locals have historic connections to it, with one Lichfield Road resident telling me recently he used to be the resident DJ back in those days of vinyl. Even further back the pub was (from the 1880s?) The Prince of Prussia, but unsurprisingly that name was changed at the start of the Great War. 

The developer's own heritage statement suspects the building was built sometime in the early 19th century.

1915: Prince of Prussia obscured by a 277 tram

Reg Kudhail, the Managing Director of the Greedy Cow, has single-handily brought 2 Grove Road back to life, with a little help from The Ginger Pig his first-rate  suppliers up in "the village". In doing so he has acted as a catalyst to rejuvenate this row of shops which now is fortunate to have Pamela Tironi's Coffee and Pizza Rooms too. Take a look at the before and after photos below. What a transformation!

Why should you object?

The application has 17 documents associated with it and it is best if you read these and make your own mind up, but if you are short on time then the heritage statement is a good start. I disagree with most of the assertions in it: How on earth this two-story extension can "offer an enhancement to the setting of the locally listed building" I just don't follow. Other aspects you may wish to consider are:

  • The row of buildings along this part of Grove Road form a historic skyline and lie within the Tredegar Square Conservation Area. The undulating nature of this roof skyline from the single-storey locally-listed former Toll House on the corner along to 12 Grove Road has been unchanged since their construction in the 19th Century. The Greedy Cow site, in particular, forms a key element of this streetscape and has many historic and cultural local connections being formerly the Prince of Wales Public House and the Prince of Prussia before that. This proposed development will effectively double the height of this historic building and lead to it being “lost” in the streetscape and destroy this historic local skyline.
  • The redevelopment will significantly affect the viability of the Greedy Cow business by reducing the seating area on the ground floor considerably (around 10 seats). The applicant’s assertion that office space on the first floor can be converted to extra dining space does not take into account that this will require extra staffing (transforming the business to one operating primarily on one floor to one over two floors. In an already financially challenging sector, this will affect the viability of the business considerably. The current business is a great success and has played a vital role in regenerating this small row of shops. Before this, the building was unoccupied for several years and was an eyesore. If this business were to close it would likely return to its previous dilapidated state (as the rental is so high to make it a difficult let), the vicinity would cease to be a restaurant destination and the area would deteriorate. 
  • The construction management plan is inadequate. This area has a very high footfall and forms the way many pedestrians travel from the north of the borough to Mile End Station (including the hundreds alighting daily at the nearby bus stop). Additionally, the new Hackney-Isle of Dogs Cycle Route passes the site and no mention of this is made. The Mile End Junction redesign, in particular, removes a car lane which the developer has stated is essential for their construction plans. 
  • The residential bin store location, as detailed in the DAS, outside within inches of where diners sit is obviously unworkable. Customers will not want to sit next to a bin store. This bin store will also partly remove a distinct element of the frontage, namely the glazed brick tiles. 
  • The lack of detail in the application concerning connection to the main’s sewer, that the applicant states that two residential units will be created, but fails to state the number of bedrooms one of these will contain gives me concerns about how well the development has been thought through.

How to object

  1. Send an email to
  2. State your name and address
  3. State clearly that you OBJECT to application PA/19/01089/A1 | Erection of additional two storeys to accommodate two new residential units. (amended description) | 2 Grove Road, London, E3 5AX
  4. Give details of why you object. A number of uniquely written letters of objection carry more weight than the same number of standard (cloned) letters; which in turn carries more weight than a petition with the same number of names on it.

Further guidance on objecting is on our planning page

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Breaking News: Benjy's Towers Developer Loses Appeal

The long-running saga of the redevelopment of the 562 Mile End Road and 1a, 1b and 1c Burdett Road site (aka Benjy's Towers) reached a milestone today as the Planning Inspectorate dismissed an appeal by BestZone Ltd.

Over four or so years, the developers have tried it on with a succession of schemes of varying heights: 43-, 25-, 15-, 13-,  and lastly 12-storey. With each planning application, or piece of pre-planning advice, the building has been reduced in height as if Tower Hamlets were swinging an imaginary hammer.

Not to scale
To recap, the development "proposed the demolition of existing buildings and construction of a mixed-use development comprising part 3-storey, part 8-storey and part 12-storey, 46 residential units, up to 832sqm (GIA) flexible commercial floorspace (A1, A2, B1 and sui generis nightclub) , landscaping, public realm improvements, access and servicing (including 1 disabled car parking space; 92 cycle spaces; and associated highway works) and other associated infrastructure".

The main issues considered by the planning inspectorate were:
  1. whether the location would be appropriate for a tall building;
  2. the effect on the character and appearance of the area;
  3. the impact on heritage assets; and
  4. whether measures to protect the living conditions of future residents from noise and disturbance could be achieved so that there would not be conflict that would harm the long-term provision of a night club that serves the LGBT+1community.
Julia Gregory, the planning inspector, has indicated the proposed development's height is too tall for Mile End which is defined as a Neighbourhood Centre in planning terms; that it would be of very limited waymarking use; that the height, scale and massing of the building would harm the character and appearance of the Tredegar Square and Clinton Road Conservation Areas; and that proposals would harm the long-term provision of [the Backstreet] night club that serves the LGBT+ community.

The inspector concluded:
"Having considered the balance carefully, I conclude that the public benefits that I have identified do not outweigh the great weight I have attached to the less than substantial harm to designated heritage assets. Furthermore, I am not satisfied that the future of the club is protected."
The appeal decision is well worth a read, although some of the abbreviations used (UU anyone?) aren't self-explanatory. Oddly the only one deemed worthy of explanation is "LGBT+". (this reminds me of my late dad getting LGBT confused with a BLT sandwich - he thought the "G" was Gherkin).

Although the appeal has been dismissed, it is still disappointing to see LBTH did not defend two of the reasons for which it rejected the scheme:

  1. The adequacy of the loading bay in Burdett Road
  2. Air quality.
The proposed TfL Hackney to Isle of Dogs Cycle route eliminates the loading bay completely (see image below) and so the development looks to have no space for residents or the three retail units to receive deliveries. Consequently, any new schemes put forward will have to allow for this significant accessibility restriction.

The proposed TfL junction redesign sees the loading bay site removed (labelled "pavement widened")

Reactions to the Decision

David Berridge who led MEOTRA's campaign against the development commented: 

"This is a welcome decision.
At least the Conservation Officer at Tower Hamlets strenuously objected to the tower, whereas other officers at TH & GLA were in favour in pre-application discussions.
The negative Impact on Heritage Assets i.e. the 3 Conservation Areas was probably crucial in the Inspector’s thoughts.
Other points also contributed, such as the Inspector not being persuaded that adequate provision for re-siting of the Backstreet Club was made.
In conclusion, a significant change will need to be made to the project before another application is made, not least in persuading TfL that the developer can build so close the the Underground line."

Nigel Whitfield who campaigned to protect TheBackstreet as an LGBT space tweeted:

"The case made for @BackstLondon by the council officer Ms Gawne was brilliant; I have told her so, and not so many years ago, the idea of a public servant making such a case for an LGBT venue would have been unheard of. Much praise to Tower Hamlets!"

John White, Chairman of the Friends of Mile End Park whose parents first dated at La Boheme back in the day commented:

"The greed of the developers shouldn't come as a surprise I suppose, but now instead of  the 43-storey skyscraper they at one point hoped for, all they have is pie in the sky."


Since this article was written I have been informed the council only pick some of the reasons to defend to limit any costs that may be awarded. If they lose on any items they have to pay the appellant's costs.