A planning appeal against the refusal of permission for a 48-storey tower block on the Isle of Dogs in East London has been allowed.

The proposed building which will provide 332 new homes, of which 71 would be affordable, is proposed for Marsh Wall on the site of an existing 4-storey 1990s office building. Plans for a high-rise residential building on the site were first submitted to Tower Hamlets Council in 2008. However, three further applications were submitted, but each was withdrawn because of opposition from the local authority. The current appeal was the result of a fifth application submitted in September 2016.

On his site visit, inspector Mr C Ball used virtual reality goggles to visualise the proposal in the context of various other approved buildings nearby that have not yet begun construction, which will reach up to 73 storeys high.

Noting the importance of a plan-led approach to the location of tall buildings, Ball had regard to the local development plan, which identifies “opportunity areas” that are capable of significant regeneration, most of which are brownfield sites with good transport links. The potential of these areas must be maximised, he noted, to meet London’s strategic growth demands.

The appeal site lies within the Isle of Dogs and South Poplar opportunity area, and is identified in the council’s Marsh Wall East masterplan as a location where development is “specifically required” to complement the tall building cluster at Canary Wharf.

The council was concerned over the scheme’s impact on nearby Cubitt Town, a community characterised by two and three-storey post-war houses, shops and local facilities. Ball took a different view, commenting that “an interesting and important attribute of the town is an all-pervading awareness of the presence of nearby tall buildings”. He called this “juxtaposition” a “dramatic and distinctive characteristic of the town”.

Turning to the scheme’s design, Ball noted that the third storey of the building would be recessed so it would “appear to float above its two-storey colonnaded base”. It would clearly appear as part of the Canary Wharf cluster, he considered, but its height would represent a “clear and substantial step down in height” from One Canada Square, the 235m-tall building that local policy requires must remain the focus of development in the area.

The “elegant” tower would be “clearly articulated to human scale”, he said, and although “tall and noticeable”, it would not be “overly prominent”. There would be no harm arising from other factors that can indicate overdevelopment, such as overshadowing, loss of daylight or overlooking.

All the flats, regardless of tenure, would provide “generous, high-quality accommodation”, and said the building as a whole would be “a design of the highest architectural quality”. On this basis, he allowed the appeal.

16 October 2018