Campaign launched to stop tower blocks at Bishopsgate goods yard

Aerial view of proposed Bishopsgate development

Aerial view of proposed Bishopsgate development - Credit: Archant

A massive opposition campaign is being launched against 800ft high tower blocks planned at the old Bishopsgate goods yard which would overshadow a large swathe of London’s East End.

Bishopsgate site (inset) looking towards Shoreditch and East London

Bishopsgate site (inset) looking towards Shoreditch and East London - Credit: Archant

Plans have finally been submitted to rejuvenate the derelict site after 50 years—but have run into a wall of fierce opposition.

Developers want to throw up six towers from 15 to 48 storeys each along the five hectares between Spitalfields and Shoreditch that has become overgrown since the rail terminal was destroyed by fire in 1964.

But the £800 million project by Hammerson’s and Ballymore—submitted to Tower Hamlets and Hackney local authorities—has angered a community that fears the huge structures will block daylight and divide the two neighbourhoods.

The fury has led to a ‘More Light More Power’ campaign which is being launched on Monday.

Bishopsgate goods yard... derelict for 50 years

Bishopsgate goods yard... derelict for 50 years - Credit: Archant

This calls for a reappraisal of the site to protect the neighbourhood from a scheme that is “oversized and underwhelming”.

The towers would house 1,500 flats, a shopping centre and 58,500 square metres of commercial space. A two-acre park is also proposed.

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“The towers will destroy the character of the surrounding streets,” said campaign activist David Donoghue.

“Such large-scale urban blocks and a park largely in shadow would create a dark and deserted public space.”

World heritage Braithwairte arches at Bishopsgate

World heritage Braithwairte arches at Bishopsgate - Credit: Archant

The campaign has drawn in groups such as the Spitalfields Society and East Shoreditch Planning Forum. They accuse developers of missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform the area at the crossroads of the City and Tech City with exemplary design to reinforce London’s position as a pioneering global hub.

“It will turn our thriving Tech City into ghost city,” Donoghue added. “The retail space will target high street brands while its overpriced luxury apartments will be marketed for overseas investors, pushing up prices in the area that will force out local residents and small businesses.”

The goods yard includes the listed Braithwaite Viaduct, one of the oldest railway structures in the world dating back to 1860, being incorporated into the development.

Hammerson’s chief executive David Atkins described it as “sensitivity to the environment” while preserving the Braithwaite arches.

He said: “Change is always going to attract people’s views—but we’re confident that once built it will be a positive addition to east London.”

Not so, according to Open Shoreditch, the umbrella of local residents groups which is launching the More Light More Power campaign. Its leading light, schoolteacher James Frankcom, believes it will create “an enormous wall between Shoreditch and Spitalfields”.

He added: “If Atkins’ understanding of ‘sensitive’ is 800ft towers in Shoreditch High Street and several ugly 30-storey glass boxes along Bethnal Green Road, then I shudder at what his definition of ‘brutal’ might be—the Death Star?”

The size of the corporate shopping centre planned at the top of Brick Lane will “obliterate any remaining street credibility” and undermine the independent traders, he fears.

The Spitalfields Society also condemned the scheme at its meeting on Wednesday.

London Assemby’s budget chairman John Biggs, whose east London constituency includes the Bishopsgate site, fired a warning shot at developers today to give the towers “more appropriate height” for the area.

He warned: “These towers would set a dangerous precedent in a residential part of east London.

“Boris Johnson has said he doesn’t want London to become ‘Dubai-on-Thames’—but this is a case in point.”

Campaigners urge, instead, the laying down of residential streets to connect Spitalfields with Shoreditch, where families buy or rent subsidised homes with gardens.