Sunday march planned in protest at Bishopsgate goodsyard development
- Credit: More Light More Power campaign
Hundreds of campaigners are taking part in a Sunday protest march against plans to redevelop east London’s controversial Bishopsgate goods rail terminal. They begin a demonstration at 12 noon outside Shoreditch High Street station which forms part of the massive 11-acre site where developers want to put up a forest of skyscrapers that protesters fear will cast shadow over Spitalfields and Shoreditch.
They are furious that London Mayor Boris Johnson has ‘called in’ the proposals for tower blocks of luxury apartments, as high as 48 storeys, after both Tower Hamlets and neighbouring Hackney local authorities rejected the scheme.
Boris is likely to push it before leaving office next May, judging by his past track record, after pressure from developers Hammerson’s and Ballymore.
He has done the same with other major City Fringe projects such as the nearby Norton Folgate development and the London Wool Exchange demolition in Spitalfields in the face of widespread public and local council opposition.
Tomorrow’s march is organised by ‘More Light, More Power’, an umbrella campaign involving local organisations including the Shoreditch West Planning Forum, the Spitalfields Society, Goodsyard Action Group, Stop The Blocks and members of United East End.
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“This is an issue for all the community,” it coordinator David Donoghgue said.
“The goodsyard is public land owned by Railtrack, yet less than 10 per cent is going to be affordable for families or small businesses. It’s mainly overseas speculators to ‘buy to leave’ and keep empty.”
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The march is being made into a Sunday festival protest with music, dressing up as tower blocks and a “Festival of the Shadows” showing how neighbourhoods around Brick Lane, Bethnal Green Road, Commercial Street and Shoreditch High Street would be “plunged into darkness” if the scheme went ahead.
Donoghgue added: “We have to draw the line. We don’t want a bedroom community—this is our neighbourhood, our city, but our community under threat.”
‘More Light, More Power’ has been running an online petition urging rejection of the current scheme outright.
It refers to the old disused goods terminal, which has remained derelict for half-a-century since a massive blaze in 1964, is “one of London’s unique and challenging development sites that’s worthy of innovation, creative and inspiring architecture”.
Campaigners say the proposed “faceless corporate architecture will damage the community, environment and block out light for thousands of people”.
They support development, but if it enhances the physical and social environment rather than destroys it.
Both the mayors of Tower Hamlets and Hackney have joined forces for a major “conference of the people” on Monday evening to be staged at Shoreditch Church.
John Biggs and Jules Pipe are outlining their fears and their concerns that Boris Johnson has called in the plans and will rule over their heads.
Hackney’s mayor Pipe started a ‘Save Shoreditch’ fight earlier this year when he said: “These towers almost as tall as Canary Wharf might be okay for the City, but are completely out of scale for Shoreditch and would fragment the local cluster of design and tech firms with luxury flats well beyond the reach of ordinary Londoners.”
The developers had to modify the original plans in the face of opposition and pledged to “preserve the site heritage while creating new homes, offices and shops to keep the area growing and vibrant.”
But campaigners who commissioned an alternative scheme say Ballymore’s modifications just “scratch the surface” and do not address the main concerns of the community.