Judge, farmer and braying donkey lose battle to save Queen Elizabeth children’s hospital

Judge David Brook (left) and farmer Chris Pounds at Tower Hamlets planning meeting which gave green

Judge David Brook (left) and farmer Chris Pounds at Tower Hamlets planning meeting which gave green light to development overlooking their city farmyard - Credit: Archant

Campaigners including a judge and a farmer in mud boots lost the battle last night to save the historic Queen Elizabeth Children’s Hospital in London’s East End from the bulldozer.

They were among a residents’ delegation to the Town Hall trying to persuade Tower Hamlets council to throw out the development which would demolish the old hospital opposite their city farmyard.

The authority’s strategic development committee voted five-to-one to allow the complex of hospital buildings off the Hackney Road, dating from 1874 to the 1960s, to be pulled down and replaced by four blocks including a nine-storey tower.

Now Hackney city farm in Goldsmith’s Row, next to Haggerston Park, fears it could be slammed with legal claims of “animal nuisance” of braying donkeys and clucking chickens, from their future neighbours in the new housing complex—even though the farmyard has been there 30 years.

“We’re a modest charity with restricted funds,” its chairman Judge David Brook said afterwards.

“We wouldn’t be able to beat the costs if someone brought a claim backed with their household insurance.

“We asked for the leases in the new development to have deed covenants preventing claims of nuisance in ordinary farm use.

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“But it may be commercially unattractive selling leases with covenants preventing complaining if you’re woken at six in the morning by 100 chickens clucking or donkeys braying.”

The £30 million scheme for 188 homes now has the green light, despite already being rejected by neighbouring Hackney Council which is worried about its impact on Haggerston Park and the farm. The site sits on the boundary of the two authorities.

The 183 objection letters and an online petition with hundreds of signatures has had no effect.

A disappointed farmer Chris Pounds, who runs the farmyard, said after last night’s planning decision: “Our donkey braying at 6am hasn’t been a concern—but a future enforcement officer could say our donkey is making too much noise.

“I’m not sure what I can do, other than tell our 50,000 visitors a year that we can no longer have a donkey because of the new neighbours.”

A deal signed last year by the GLA, which owns the site, means developers can now pull down the old children’s hospital that closed in 1997 and put up blocks of five, six, eight and nine storeys, with an underground car-park for just 30 vehicles. Only the 1904 facia of the hospital along Hackney Road is being retained.