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Whats in Wapping

A Wapping hotel at Tobacco Dock

A Wapping hotel at Tobacco Dock

The statutory consultation for comments on the planning application for a Tobacco Dock Hotel closed on 30th July.

Hotel development plans for 134-140 Pennington Street include a seven storey, 242 bedroom hotel and a 63 room ‘apart-hotel’ with retail space and a public piazza on the ground floor.

The lack of Wapping consultation is clear – most residents are unaware of the proposals or that the statutory consultation period began on 1st July.

Tower Hamlets Planning Department must however accept and take into consideration all comments received until the application is presented to a planning committee in the autumn on a date to be confirmed. It’s not too late.

Tobacco Dock Hotel proposal

We strongly advise you review documents and plans for the Tobacco Dock Hotel in Pennington Street yourself on the Tower Hamlets website as new documents are continually added. The application number is PA/11/01278.

Pennington Street site and design

The proposed site for the hotel at 130-134 Pennington Street is the currently boarded up and empty plot of land between Tobacco Dock and The Highway.

The total site area is 0.4 hectares (1 hectare = 10,000 square metres) and bounded by Wapping Lane on the east and Chigwell Hill on the west.


The brief from Al Mubarakia Limited (formerly referred to as Mesilla House) to their architects and consultants was to “create a new 4* hotel brand concept based on an industrial warehouse aesthetic”.

Visuals and photomontages of the proposed building showing materials and colours can be found in part 6 of the Design and Access Statement of the planning documents.

These show the main construction material for the complex at Tobacco Dock is weathered London Yellow Stock brick with ‘Tobacco colour’ terracotta cladding. The design appears to be sensitive to Wapping’s surrounding listed buildings and conservation areas, but is clearly a matter for local opinion and comment.

These recent pictures show the currently boarded up site along The Highway and Wapping Lane.

Demand and use

The Hotel Demand Study submitted with the application supports the need for hotel space in the area. This includes the growing popularity of managed apartments as a cheaper solution for visitors wanting longer term stays in east London.

Residents in Wapping have had differing views in the past about livening up our area with more shops, bars and restaurants.

So the statement to use “…the plaza to enliven the space and create an important new amenity for the local population as well as the hotel guests” may bring mixed reactions.  Do they really mean ‘local residents’? Or do they really mean ‘hotel guests only’? Would you use it?

The Tobacco Dock development will create an estimated 150-200 new jobs, hopefully some of them going to local people.

Access and transport

The main entrance to the hotel complex is on The Highway where a lay-by for dropping off guests by taxi will be created. Additional pedestrian routes into the complex will also be created.

There will be no car parking for hotel guests other than two disabled spaces, but 80 ground floor cycle spaces will be created.

Guests and visitors needing car parking will be able to use the newly renovated Tobacco Dock multi-storey car park in Wapping Lane, about 60 meters away.

The hotel location is close to Shadwell and Wapping Overground and on the D3, 100 and 339 bus routes so well served by public transport.

The Tobacco Dock Hotel story so far

Wapping first heard of plans for a Tobacco Hotel in November 2010 when Indigo Public Affairs acting for Messila House held a (not very) public exhibition in Raines Hall.

We never received copies of the material on exhibition notice boards so were only able to share our poor quality mobile phone pictures and were told by Indigo Public Affairs at the time “We are not instructed at the moment to issue any material as the proposals are still in the pre-planning stage.”

The public consultation was so secret in fact that we’ve still only managed to find ONE resident in the whole of Wapping who received a leaflet in advance of the exhibition. Local councillors did receive an email invitation.

Tobacco Dock sprung to life briefly for two weeks of Secret Cinema in February that raised questions, but immediately went to sleep again.

Earlier this year in March we looked at the Tobacco Dock archaeological dig being carried out in Pennington Street that we now know were a prerequisite to the planning application.

On 30th June 2011 Indigo Public Affairs sent a press release formally announcing development plans for Tobacco Dock Hotel. The release included a statement declaring “We look forward to working alongside the council and continuing to work alongside residents over the coming months.”

Despite this public statement to engage the local community, why then have we still not met any residents who have received information from either Indigo Public Affairs or Tower Hamlets Council?

Wapping views on a Tobacco Dock Hotel

Please review the planning documents for yourself and make your comments or objections to Tower Hamlets Council as soon as possible – they will be taken into account when the application is heard by the planning committee.

Whilst the statutory consultation has closed, Planning Officer Jane Jin at Tower Hamlets told us “I’m still obliged to accept comments up until the application is formally being decided. Therefore, I can still accept comments”.

We broke the news to Wapping residents we saw last week and the responses so far relate to the inconvenience during construction and differing views on design suitability.

No one we spoke last week had received leaflets or any other form of communication about the Tobacco Dock hotel proposal in either 2010 or 2011.

Lack of Wapping consultation and engagement

Our objection to the Tobacco Dock Hotel proposal is the lack of public consultation and transparency for such a major development in Wapping.

We don’t want to see another ’21 Wapping Lane’ where a construction site appears and people are shocked to suddenly find out a 450 block development is being constructed.

Indigo Public Affairs include a Statement of Community Involvement document with the planning application dated April 2011, but this is a little difficult to believe. Their statement claims 2,000 leaflets were delivered in November 2010 – but to who exactly as we’ve tried hard and estimate speaking to more people than attended their exhibition but can’t find residents either on or off line who received them? Local councillors were emailed individual invitations.

This unsatisfactory situation with local ‘consultation’ highlights much wider issues with local engagement.

Thames Water claimed they delivered 175,000 leaflets at a SaveKEMP meeting in June and Limehouse resident and comedian Lee Hurst wasn’t joking when he asked if they’d been delivered to all the squirrels.

The Turks Head easily made sure everyone in Wapping knew about the Wapping Summer Shindig using just 6 volunteers who delivered flyers taking around three hours each.

It’s not difficult – the cost would be insignificant amongst architect and other professional fees. The planning application fee paid to Tower Hamlets was £36,765 alone.

Wapping facts and figures

Only 83 people from Wapping attended Indigo Public Affairs exhibition in Wapping in November and those we spoke to at the event had all discovered it by chance as they walked past Raines Street.

This appears to be the only tangible evidence of resident consultation in Indigo’s 20 page “Statement of Community Involvement” document claiming 62% support the proposal (28 people) with 33% (12 people ) undecided.

Is ‘undecided’ another way of saying they objected, or they are those the 5% who have been classified as ‘not applicable’?

We believe the applicants, Al Mubarakia Limited and Tower Hamlets Council must consult responsibly on the proposal for a Tobacco Dock hotel before approval to start constructing is granted and make more effort to engage the Wapping and Shadwell communities.

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  • Dan

    Looks like planning permission was granted a few weeks ago: http://moderngov.towerhamlets.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=24232

  • Alf Garnet Street

    I’d be delighted if a hotel was built on what is currently wasteground. It would be great to have somewhere locally for big parties, weddings, etc – and somewhere that friends and relatives could stay in when they’re visiting London. Also, as it’s right next to the Highway, I doubt it would increase traffic in Wapping itself. Bring it on. Now all we need is someone to revive Tobacco Dock itself!

  • Lorna

    I was also living in Discovery Walk in November last year (now up at Shadwell Basin) and neither I nor my immediate neighbours received any notifications.
    I’ve not reviewed the planning proposals fully, but in theory agree development is far better than empty land. Also, I don’t disagree with most of the points raised by “another Wapping resident” but it is interesting he/she refers to “the residents” which makes it sound like they’re not actually one themselves.

  • Discovery Walk

    I live in Discovery Walk in Wapping and received a notification through my door inviting me to attend the Indigo Public Affairs exhibition in November.  I attended and was the only local resident there during the 10 minutes I spent inside chatting with the Indigo employee. 
    I’m all for the proposals I saw, much better than the empty piece of land sitting at the top of Wapping Lane.

  • another Wapping resident

    I think it is very good that a hotel is being built on that spot. It shields the heart of Wapping from a lot of traffic noise from The Highway and also brings more people to our shops and restaurants who need that business to survive. I would also like to see some business brought into Tobacco Dock itself. I heard that there had once been plans for a cinema and restaurants which have been opposed by a lot of residents in fear of more traffic and noise. I’ve been in Wapping since 1993 and every development I heard about has been opposed by residents. What’s so bad about people moving here? I read all the comments about Wapping Lane and it reminds me a lot of what’s been said about Capital Wharf and the surrounding buildings before they were built. Many nice people I’ve met in recent years live in these new houses, that everyone seems to hate. It’s not as if they have been sold to criminals. The people living in those buildings are just normal people, who probably work in the city and don’t want to spend 2 hours every day on the train. if you are so concerned about noise, traffic and living close to many people, why do you live in the centre of a city with about 10 million inhabitants instead of a rural community somewhere in the suburbs. The only thing you achieve is, that nobody invests money in Wapping at all. If you want to read about the council’s vision for Wapping I recommend downloading the council’s masterplan: http://tinyurl.com/3lcd6uo or read the article about News internationals plans: http://tinyurl.com/3sw34dq. I can understand that the residents want to have a say about what is being built in their neighbourhood, but at the same time you must consider that an investor will try to maximise his profit and if he cannot build what he wants to and has got enough money, he will just wait a few years and try again. That’s what happened to Tobacco Dock in the last 15 years. And I can’t believe that the residents actually want undeveloped building sites with building fences around forever.

  • Jayne

    I read about the November meeting on here (didn’t get a leaflet) but that said that was a pre-planning thing and that there would be full consultation before it went ahead. Did I miss something or has it not happened?

  • wapping resident

    Another thing that is not mentioned is where will the planning gain money been spent in Wapping? It does not appear that any of the 21 Wapping Lane project gain has filtered down to Wapping yet- where did it go?

  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.baynes Mark Baynes

    Seems to me like the whole consultation process lends itself to big corporations utilising the flaws in it to their advantage. Presumably communities all over the UK must be suffering from this.