diamond geezer

 Thursday, June 18, 2020

Sometimes I stop and read those planning notices they tie to lampposts.

Sometimes I even check them out when I get home.

This one looked quite dull, comprising one Non-Material Amendment [20/00197/NMA] and two Approval Of Details [20/00195/AOD] [20/00196/AOD] for Olympic Park Planning Delivery Zones 4 and 5. But I poked around in the 100 associated documents anyway because they're often a great way of learning things, and I duly learned things.

Planning Zone 5 is East Wick, the post-Olympic neighbourhood alongside the northern half of the park. It already contains the Copper Box and Here East, both legacies of the Games, and at present a stockade of new housing is being built directly inbetween the two. But the neighbourhood will eventually be considerably larger than that. Next on the list will be the building of a heck of a lot more housing in front of Here East, a defensive flank of apartment blocks running most of the length of Waterden Road. These are Development Parcels 5.6, 5.7 and 5.8, and will be built across what's currently lawns and trees.

They're not especially nice lawns, indeed if you walk across them you can feel the ragged quality of the soil because the custodians of QEOP knew years ago they were eventually going to be built upon. On the other side of Middlesex Way gardeners can often be seen cultivating and irrigating, because a narrower landscaped park will survive closer to the river, but the scraggy grass bordering the main road is ultimately toast. Several trees have already been moved out of the way in preparation, while others remain bordering suspiciously rectangular plots. As a resource it won't be greatly missed, but the encroachment of housing onto ten empty acres will very much impact the character of the adjacent landscaped park.

Before that happens, another space closer to the Copper Box will be filled in. I'd been wondering why a featureless plaza had appeared at the point where the link from Hackney Wick meets Waterden Road, and the answer is because they're going to put a building on it. That building is the so-called Park Pivot, a three storey red-faced structure which is the subject of yet another planning application [19/00191/FUL]. The upper floors will contain office space and a roof terrace, while the ground floor will house "a marketing suite to promote the East Wick and Sweetwater neighbourhoods" because there are going to be a lot of new flats to flog.

So many flats, in fact, that the marketing suite's proposed lifespan is 12 years! The planning committee has set a end date of "no later than 31st July 2032", by which date the sales team have to be out and a fresh retail use for the ground floor found instead. I do not understand how a capital city lacking sufficient living space can take a decade to deliver so few flats on a pumped and primed brownfield site, or two decades if you start counting from the Olympics. A telling phrase in last year's Park Pivot documentation was that "it is planned to be open and operational from summer 2020", and yet nobody's even broken the ground to start construction, so development timelines are already seriously compromised.

The road junction opposite the Copper Box is currently undergoing major remodelling, the aim being to disconnect an existing road from Waterden Road and connect a new one. The doomed road is Clarnico Lane, for a century the only route across the railway, whereas the new road follows the Olympic Park's central spine. If you remember the broad raised walkway linking the northern and southern halves of the park, it now has tarmac down the centre and will soon have vehicles. This restitching of the road network is fundamental to development in Planning Zone 4, which is Sweetwater.

Sweetwater is a separate post-Olympic neighbourhood between the River Lea and the Olympic stadium. The dividing line between East Wick and Sweetwater ought to be Waterden Road but is actually the railway running underneath because that marks the boundary between Hackney and Tower Hamlets. This week's planning documents provide a Zonal Masterplan for Sweetwater, defining which parcels of land where can be what height. How the buildings will actually look is as yet unconfirmed... so won't be this ugly, but will be this dense.

I'd been expecting the big triangular chunk of apartments at the front of this image, but not the five taller blocks at the rear. The new road will run through the middle of this quintet, which means the connection between the northern and southern halves of the Olympic Park is about to become a residential canyon. It's a tough place to build, thanks to the adjacent buried Overground tracks, but QEOP's developers seem keen to squeeze in flats at every possible opportunity. That's particularly the case with the largest L-shaped block, which is to be built across what's currently Clarnico Lane and its poppy-strewn embankment, both doomed to be eradicated.

Just not quite yet. Incredibly the planning documents suggest that the development of Sweetwater won't begin until the end of 2024 - over 50 months distant - and is then expected to last eight years. This is despite the fact that the lower plots have been vacant since the Games, and builders are currently on site storing materials for projects elsewhere. I wonder again how the hell this can be taking so long. But expect Sweetwater's road network to be up and running rather quicker than 2032 because it needs to link up to the new Monier Road bridge. According to the documentation, believe it or not, local street names will include Candy Park Walk, Trebor Street and Bassett Lane.

This is why I stop to read planning notices on lampposts.

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