China urges UK to fulfil diplomatic ”obligations” over Embassy move block

The Chinese Embassy said the move had been blocked “out of factors beyond planning itself” Pic: Julie Cookson

By Jamie Richards and Mekdes Kabeto

The Chinese Embassy has urged the UK to cooperate regarding the blocking of its move to a historic Tower Hamlets building.

The Embassy had planned to relocate from its current offices in Marylebone to the Royal Mint complex in East Smithfields, purchased by the Chinese Government in 2018.

Tower Hamlets Council blocked the move and its attendant renovations late last year, leading the Chinese Embassy to appeal to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

A Greater London Authority report published January 30 found “no sound planning reasons for the Mayor to intervene”, meaning the next stage of appeal is Central Government, which has the power to override local authorities in planning disputes.

The Chinese Embassy told Eastlondonlines: “China urges the UK to fulfil its relevant obligations. China firmly opposes the relevant decisions by Tower Hamlets Council out of factors beyond planning itself”.

A spokesperson said: “According to Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and international practice, it is the international obligation of the host country to provide convenience and support for the construction of premises of diplomatic missions”.

The report included a public consultation that listed concerns over traffic, security, and privacy due to the construction of new balconies as worries from local people.

The dispute began in December last year, when members of the council’s Strategic Development Committee unanimously rejected plans for the move which include massive renovations by renowned architect David Chipperfield.

The committee expressed worries about resident safety and how the relocation would affect the “historical assets” of the Royal Mint.

The Royal Mint complex includes the Grade II* listed Johnson Smirke building, meaning any renovations must consider the building’s historical value.

According to the GLA, Tower Hamlets Council expressed additional worries about security. They said: “[The] proposed embassy would result in adverse impacts on local tourism, due to concerns over the effect of potential protests, acts of terrorism, and related security mitigation measures on the sensitive backdrop of nationally significant tourist attractions”.

ELL contacted Tower Hamlets Council for comment but received no response.

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