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Campaigners keep Light shining after planning victory

PUBLISHED: 23:12 25 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:29 05 October 2010

outside Hackney town hall

outside Hackney town hall

© Mike Wells, mikejwells@yahoo.com +44 77 99 152 888, copyright theft isn't the crime of the century but I am not rich so if you

THE campaign to save a popular bar in London’s East End housed in an historic railway building from the bulldozers had a resounding Town Hall planning victory last night (July 24). Proposals for a 51-storey tower block next to the Liverpool Street main line was turned down in a heated three-hour debate by the local authority planning committee. It means the Light Bar, housed in a Victorian electric generating station that once powered the Great Eastern Railway, is safe... for the moment.

Mike Brooke

THE campaign to save a popular bar in London's East End housed in an historic railway building from the bulldozers had a resounding Town Hall planning victory last night (July 24).

Proposals for a 51-storey tower block at Norton Folgate, next to the Liverpool Street main line, was turned down in a heated three-hour debate by Hackney council's planning committee.

It means the Light Bar, housed in a Victorian electric generating station that once powered the Great Eastern Railway, is safe... for the moment.

"Any new proposal must include the preservation of the building," said a jubilant 'Save Shoreditch' campaigner Lucy Rogers.

"It was a brave decision by councillors that will protect Shoreditch and its character and keep it distinct from the City."

Controversial plans by Hammerson developers would have torn down the Light Building to make way for the latest skyscraper springing up in the City Fringe district between Bishopsgate and Shoreditch.

But the committee deferred its decision on the £500 million 'Bishop's Place' scheme, telling the developers to come up with a plan which keeps The Light shining.

The authority itself owns 85 per cent of the land and stands to make millions if the scheme goes ahead.

But the area itself would not benefit from the skyscraper because £14 million earmarked for 'social' housing would be spent elsewhere in Hackney, objectors pointed out.

The skyscraper would be "out of keeping" with the scale of existing buildings and destroy the character of the district, councillors were told.

Almost 7,000 people signed a petition to preserve the building, while the Town Hall received 460 written objections. Only two people wrote in support.

Hackney's Head of Planning, Graham Loveland, tried to persuade the committee to back the scheme, highlighting plans to provide 'brown space' on the skyscraper roof for birds to nest.

But the 'carbon footprint' of the new tower would fail to meet Greater London Authority standards, it emerged.

The scheme includes 87,000sq ft of offices, an 80-room hotel, 239 luxury flats with separate blocks of 39 middle-range apartments and 11 'social' rented flats, as well as restaurants, bars and shops.

English Heritage, the Hackney Society and the Victorian Society all recommended The Light at 233 Shoreditch High-street be included in the South Shoreditch Conservation Area. Hackney council chose to omit it against advice of its own independent experts.

The move at last night's meeting to defer a decision rested on whether planning permission should be decided before the Conservation Area study is completed.

The Victorian building has no statutory protection, but if included would be safe from demolition.

Hackney's former head of planning, Chris Berry, who resigned earlier this year, submitted a letter against the scheme, raising concerns about processing issues, given that the authority is the majority landowner and stands to gain from agreement with Hammerson. The council's legal team, however, advised it was lawful.

The scheme was nearly dealt a total knock-out blow earlier when four of the seven committee members declared they would refuse the scheme.

But one of them tabled a motion to defer it, to give Hammerson time to redesign the scheme to include the Light Bar.

Meanwhile, the 'Save Shoreditch' campaigners have pledged to continue the fight and have set up their own website:

Save Shoreditch

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