Campaigners call on town hall chiefs to devise ‘visionary’ social homes alternative to Bishopsgate Goodsyard scheme
- Credit: Archant
Campaigners want town hall chiefs to come up with an alternative to a “monstrous” development to help solve the capital’s housing crisis.
Members of the Weavers Community Action Group want Hackney and Tower Hamlets councils to follow the example of the masterminds behind the Boundary Estate and devise an alternative scheme for the Bishopsgate Goodsyard site.
The Boundary Estate opened in 1900 and is one of the earliest social housing schemes built by a council.
The campaigners want something similar at the 10.5 acre Goodsyard site in Shoreditch instead of 10 buildings rising from 29m to 142m in height proposed in an amended planning application.
About 50 neighbours attended a public meeting at St. Hilda's East Community Centre in Club Row on Thursday, January 30 to discuss the updated bid, consider how to campaign against it and "paint an alternative vision" of the site.
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Weavers member Jonathan Moberly said: "The Boundary Estate is iconic. We would like to see local government take up the challenge to do something similarly visionary for the 21st century."
Mr Moberly told the audience the Goodsyard site, originally a railway viaduct built in 1840 but derelict after a fire in the 1960s, remains in public ownership.
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He asked why town and city hall chiefs don't see this as an opportunity to do something.
The developers behind the bid, Hammerson and Ballymore, have an option to build if they can get planning permission. But the project has been in limbo since former London mayor Boris Johnson took the power to rule on the planning application away from Hackney and Tower Hamlets in 2015.
A hearing was to be held at City Hall in 2016 for the former mayor to decide whether to give the green light.
But Mr Johnson then deferred the decision following a request from Hammerson and Ballymore to allow time to amend their original application. The current bid is now under consideration.
Audience members gasped when they were shown Hammerson and Ballymore's current proposals with computer generated images showing exisiting buildings dwarfed by blocks, one of which was dubbed Godzilla because of its towering appearance.
"It's a monstrous development," Mr Moberly said.
The meeting heard how the developers have dropped the number of homes in the original bid from 1,350 to 500 with 50 per cent of them being "affordable".
But neighbours at the meeting feared the size and scale of the development would plunge their homes in darkness from overshadowing.
A total of 18,390 square metres of retail space also forms part of the plans as well as a hotel, open spaces and restoration of the Grade II-listed Oriel Gate and Braithwaite Viaduct.
Resident, Lucy Rogers, a member of the More Light More Power campaign group, said nothing much had been done with the site since it was bought by developers from Railtrack in a "fire sale".
"Developers come and go and their fortunes change, but we're here all the time. We need something lasting," she said.
Krissie Nicolson from the East End Trades Guild warned that small businesses could be forced out just as much as local people by rising costs resulting from the area's regeneration.
Ms Nicolson said: "It's a matter of profound shame that this development does so little for the community and local economy."
Andrea Shortell from St. Hilda's said that in the last 10 years the community around the site has become "incredibly invisible" with soaring rents leaving locals in precarious situations.
"What we don't want is this to proliferate," she added.
Asked what could be done to thwart the plans, Mr Moberly urged people to comment on the application, leaflet neighbours and contact councillors. He added campaigners hoped to push the issue onto the London mayoral election agenda.
On why Hackney mayor Philip Glanville and his Tower Hamlets' counterpart John Biggs weren't doing more, Mr Moberly said: "They're not jumping up and down because we're not jumping up and down.
"We've got to up our game," he added.
A spokesman for the Hammerson and Ballymore joint venture said following the meeting: "The revised application follows extensive public consultation engaging over 2,500 people since 2011. Thanks to the significant feedback received, the masterplan has evolved over time to meet the aspirations of the Greater London Authority, the local boroughs and the community which has led to a significant reduction in the overall height and density of the buildings.
"Bishopsgate Goodsyard will deliver 500 homes, of which 50pc will be affordable, alongside a wide range of new workspace opportunities, including extensive affordable workspace. The scheme will also deliver one of central London's largest new public parks, as well as new streets connecting Brick Lane with Shoreditch, with all of the site's listed heritage assets retained and brought back into use.
"The plans also include a new flexible culture and arts space on the historic London Road, which will be restored and opened up to the public for the first time in decades, and a new destination cultural building on Brick Lane.
"The regeneration of this strategically important site will also generate over 11,000 jobs and provide further investment and financial contributions into both boroughs to support local economic growth."