King Henry Wharves & Phoenix Wharf Planning Development Update – Guest Post

One of the many good things about Wapping is that it is a genuine community where people take an interest in what is going on and when they notice something odd they keep a close eye on it.

The proposed building development at King Henry’s Wharf, Phoenix Wharf and the land opposite to Phoenix Wharf has been the subject of careful scrutiny by residents just to make sure that we all know what is really going on as opposed to passively accepting what we are told is going on.

Bridewell Place is right next to the proposed King Henry’s Wharf development so residents are perfectly placed to undertake scrutiny duties – as this guest post by Chris perfectly illustrates.

The whole hole story

As you may be aware the TH Planning Dept posted on their website yesterday (Sept 13th), a letter from the King Henry’s Wharf’s Developer in regards to their side of the story, to explain the legality of the above mentioned hole, which LW kindly wrote about back in April.

The letter is in the normal place (TH website) for residents to find. [Photo of letter below]

As some residents will be aware many of us thought the hole was illegal since it was dug before the Construction Management Plan (CMP) was approved (to date it is still unapproved) and the planning permission was about to lapse on May 1, 2017. Provisional planning permission was granted by the TH Planning Committee on May 2, 2014 for 3 years on the basis, that all the many outstanding provisions where subsequently approved. The CMP was one of them and it is referred to in the letter as Condition 12.

You should note the 3 year period only lapses if the Developer does not start construction during that period. Digging a hole being sufficient. This has been confirmed by the TH Planning Department.

You will note the hole was dug at very short notice. They met with the TH Planning department on Friday April 7th (we do not know if this issue was discussed) and this letter is dated Monday April 10th and states an intention to start digging on that very same day, albeit I believe if memory serves me correctly we did not see a hole appear until Tuesday April 11th.

[Relevant paragraph is marked in red below.]

The hole letter

Letter to LBTH Planning – original can be found on LBTH website


What the Developer is saying is they have sort and been given legal advice from a Queens Counsel (QC) (effectively a Barrister’s opinion not a court ruling) that digging such a hole is “retrospectively” legal if the CMP is subsequently approved (it would seem the issue is now open ended). I note the actual full legal opinion is not supplied.

My understanding, opinion and conclusions:

Before residents get too excited and break a law hoping it is subsequently made legal, normally the law (legal approval) is not retrospective.

Instead what I believe the QC is saying, is effectively the events mean the hole will be legal if the CMP is approved.

This is because of the following:

  • (a) On May 2nd , 2014 the council directly elected TH Planning Committee gave the planning provisional approval, pending the developer getting the CMP (and other items) signed off by the TH Planning Dept.
  • (b) A hole was dug before the 3 year approval ended (May 1, 2017), which effectively indicates construction was started, so the May 1, 2017 deadline becomes irrelevant.
  • (c) The CMP is approved at some future date.
  • (d) Effectively the council has no recourse in law to prosecute the hole being dug, since there is no material sanction that can be imposed, because the CMP was subsequently approved. To be fair I guess that does look like retrospective approval if you want a short explanation.

My thoughts on this are really the above is a loophole and one that in future the TH Planning Committee should be aware of and take care with. That is that the TH Planning Committee should only ever grant provisional planning approval when the pending issues are both immaterial and non-controversial to local residents.

Personally since I was involved in the feedback process to the council committee in the run up to the May 2, 2014 “provisional” approval, the issues involved were far from immaterial and non-controversial. I have previously fed that back to our councillors and indeed Cllr. Rachel Blake the TH Planning Dept chair person (Rachel was not the chair in May 2014), but it may be other residents should do wish to do so.

I hope this helps,

Kind regards


Bridewell Place.

LW Comment

Many thanks to Chris for keeping an eye on the hole and taking the time to write up the current status. And an apology because we forgot to press the ‘Publish’ button when we wrote this – oops!

What also caught our sceptical eye is the sentence we have highlighted in blue above:  “When a developer buys the site and develops it the payments are triggered.”

“A developer”? Which developer?

As far as we are aware the developer of the King Henry’s Wharf site is Bridewell Thames Ltd. Although the directors of Bridewell Thames are employees of a firm of solicitors acting as trustees, Trowers & Hamlins. 

Has the ownership of the site changed?