Help protect our common right to light

Local charity the Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park is leading a public campaign against plans for a major development that threatens the future of a widely treasured urban woodland nature reserve.

Campaigners say the development would permanently damage wildlife and ecosystems in and around Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, and place unsustainable pressures on local greenspaces.

Proposals for the Bow Common Gas Works development submitted by St William Homes (a joint venture between the Berkeley Group and National Grid) include 14 very tall, densely packed tower blocks consisting mostly of luxury housing. Eight of the blocks would rise between 48 and 89 metres high, four of these directly bordering Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park (THCP), a designated Local Nature Reserve.

The buildings would plunge large areas of the Cemetery Park into shadows by day and pollute it with light by night. Changes in light and temperature would disrupt the park’s unique habitats and its carefully balanced ecosystem. A critical site for regional biodiversity, THCP is home to many species of birds, bats, insects and plants. Among these are rare and threatened species which risk further decline if the plans go ahead.

As well as being a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) and a Site of metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC), the Cemetery Park is designated Metropolitan Open Land, which entitles it to the same protection as the Green Belt. Ken Greenway says:

The problem with these protections is that they’re effectively meaningless unless people fight to uphold them. We have the opportunity to set a precedent for planning systems to recognise the impacts of developments on neighbouring greenspaces. But we need public support behind us.

The charity leading the campaign is encouraging members of the public to sign a petition and submit objections to the planning authorities and local councillors. They’re asking the developers to reduce the height and scale of the proposed buildings to minimise the detrimental effects they’ll have on wildlife and the local community.

In response to the campaign, St William has offered to reduce the heights of the blocks directly bordering THCP by a few stories. Ken Greenway says:

Although we’re pleased to see this step in the right direction, we think local residents deserve a lot more. We understand the need for new homes, but the impacts of the plans are still completely unjustifiable. We plan to continue our campaign and hope to show the developers the strength of public feeling for protecting Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park.


♦  Planning Application Details:  Bow Common Gas Works – PA/19/02379
♦  Find it online here

Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park offers everyone a breathing space in the heart of East London. This 31-acre nature reserve is London’s most central urban woodland and one of its ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries. It’s a people’s park, a sanctuary for wildlife, a place for remembrance and a site for festivals, community events, field studies and forest schools. Always changing with the seasons and rooted in the unique heritage of the East End, it’s a place full of history, discovery and possibilities for all.

Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park (FoTHCP) is an award-winning local charity working to protect, preserve and care for the Cemetery Park. Our passionate staff and volunteers share their energy, expert knowledge and vision to shape the future of the park for everyone’s benefit.

Images courtesy of FoTHCP