With house prices in Tower Hamlets growing at between 10% and 20% over the last two years, we should all be concerned about building more housing to stem the upward flow of prices. However, given the range of historic housing stock that still remains in parts of the borough, building new residential accommodation in densely populated areas was at some point bound to clash with the need to preserve old buildings.
As the Standard has reported last week, Sainsbury’s is proposing to build a large residential block in Whitechapel, near to the Crossrail station. This block is going to be built very close to the historic Trinity Green almshouses and the residents are upset that the views from their homes are going to be obscured by the new Sainsbury’s building.
It is fair that the residents are upset the views will be obscured – the views from their property are part of their value and this is going to be eroded by construction of the new building. If the proposal were such that the fabric of this historic landmark was to be jeopardised, then clearly there would be an overriding argument for changing the design of the new building.
However, with just the views being affected, the need for more housing must be prioritised in this instance. We support the right of the Trinity Green residents to oppose this development, but we believe that Christopher Wren, the commissioner of the buildings in the 17th Century, would be the first person to argue that a city needs to flex and change to meet the needs of its citizens.
We also hope that both Sainsbury's and the Tower Hamlets planning committee support our proposal to make all new developments include 50% social housing and truly affordable homes for East Londoners to live in, not "safe investments" for foreign investors.