Councils reject Bishopsgate goodsyard ‘Berlin Wall of bland skyscrapers’
- Credit: Archant
Two local authorities tonight gave a double slap in the face to London Mayor Boris Johnson over controversial plans to throw up a “Berlin Wall of bland blocks” of skyscrapers on the massive Bishopsgate goodsyard site. Planning committees at Tower Hamlets and Hackney meeting simultaneously rejected the £800 million scheme for the derelict rail terminal and sidings.
They weren’t going to be ‘railroaded’ by Boris or the developers, even though he has overridden them with executive powers to decide whether to give the green light for the scheme in the 11-acres between Spitalfields and Shoreditch.
Both planning meetings tonight gave it the red light instead—throwing the gauntlet down to Boris.
They were adamant that the skyscrapers, one 47 storeys, even higher than Canary Wharf, would be bad for the environment, casting their show across Shoreditch and blocking out the sunlight to 200 homes and seriously affecting daylight to 1,584 windows.
There was the lack of affordable homes included among the penthouses and luxury apartments—originally none, then developers offering 10 per cent, well short of the 31pc the councils came up with and still short of Boris Johnson’s declared 25pc London target.
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Delegations of the ‘More Light, More Power’ campaign turned up to both town halls to state their case.
Coordinator David Donoghue told Tower Hamlets council: “These skyscrapers are bland, dull, gulag blocks of a Berlin Wall. They are a disaster. The whole thing has been a disaster from the start.”
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Cllr Andrew Cregan caught the mood when he told the meeting: “What we have is a garish proposal that interferes with protected views, ‘bastardises’ conservation areas and strips away the rights of families to sunlight.
“The developers or their agents couldn’t muster one soul to speak on its behalf, which I find a contempt for the local authority and the citizens.”
Nobody from the developers had turned up to defend the scheme, which councillors heard would destroy some of London’s historic skyline.
Looking at the Tower of London from the south bank, you would see one of the Bishopsgate skyscrapers appearing to stick up above the ancient castle keep, planning officials pointed out.
It would also dwarf Commercial Street and the Elder Street conservation area of Spitalfields, as well as cast its shadow across the historic Boundary estate around Arnold Circus behind Shoreditch Church.
The committee voted unanimously to accept the Town Hall planners’ recommendation to reject the scheme and to urge Boris to do the same.
Meanwhile, the planning meeting at Hackney was told by protester Nick Perry from ‘More Light, More Power’: “The much-needed housing is only needed by overseas developers and wealthy homeowners who just want to live in central London—Boris, see the light.”
Hackney overwhelmingly rejected the scheme by six votes to one.
Both authorities are now urging the Mayor of London not to ignore public opinion—while both local mayors have hinted there could be action in the courts if he ignores the impact on the environment and the lack of affordable homes contravening London’s legal planning guidelines.