‘Shadow’ marchers in black protest in Brick Lane at Bishopsgate goodsyard skyscrapers
PUBLISHED: 21:32 15 November 2015 | UPDATED: 22:39 15 November 2015
Campaigners in black marched with black umbrellas through the packed Sunday market down Brick Lane today in a “Shadow protest” against plans for a forest of skyscrapers planned for east London’s controversial Bishopsgate goods rail terminal site.
They mingled with shoppers in a march around the massive 11-acre Victorian sidings with their World Heritage Braithwaite arches to warn of a shadow they say the skyscrapers will cast over Shoreditch and parts of neighbouring Spitalfields and Bethnal Green.
Their anger was directed at London Mayor Boris Johnson with chants of “Boris See the Light” and “No more houses for the rich—we’re reclaiming our Shoreditch”.
Boris has ‘called in’ the plans by developers Hammerson’s and Ballymore for towers of luxury apartments as high as 48 storeys along the sidings on the City Fringe that’s been derelict for half-a-century, with both Tower Hamlets and neighbouring Hackney local authorities against the scheme.
The ‘shadow’ marchers’ carried symbolic black umbrellas, orchestrated by the ‘More Light, More Power’ “umbrella” protest organisation of 30 organisations across East London led by Shoreditch West Planning Forum, Spitalfields Society, Goodsyard Action Group and Stop The Blocks.
“The goodsyard is public land owned by Railtrack,” its coordinator David Donoghgue said.
“Yet less than 10 per cent of the development is going to be affordable for families or small businesses. It’s mainly overseas speculators to ‘buy to leave’ and keep empty.”
The protesters marched in a circle around the goodsyard site to show the extent of neighbourhoods that would be cast in shadow if the skyscrapers went ahead.
They handed out leaflets to market shoppers and stallholders, many of whom agreed to sign their petition.
Campaigners accuse the London Mayor of giving in to developers before he leaves office in six months time, pointing out his recent track record overruling local authority and public objections with other major City Fringe projects such as the nearby Norton Folgate development and the London Wool Exchange being demolished in Spitalfields.
Ironically, the Wool Exchange demolition—site of the famous Second World War air-raid shelter organised for East End working families by ‘folk hero’ Mickey Davis—was halted last Thursday when demolition teams unearthed an unexploded German bomb.
An Army bomb disposal team had to remove it, before the destruction of the historic Exchange building could continue.
Boris has over-ruled both mayors of Tower Hamlets and neighbouring Hackney, who are addressing a “conference of the people” tomorrow evening at nearby Shoreditch St Leonard’s Church at 7pm.
Both councils hadn’t got around to discussing the proposals when Boris stepped in, under pressure from developers.
“The planning document is enormously complicated with meaningless sentences,” campaign organiser Donoghue added. “It’s bigger than the complete works of Shakespeare!
“Both local authorities have tried to unravel these deficiencies, which has given the developers the excuse to call in Boris Johnson.”
Both council’s intend to go-ahead with their planning meetings anyway, even though City Hall has taken over, to show the strength of feeling across east London against the ‘forest of skyscrapers’ and the shadow they’ll cast over thew community.
‘More Light, More Power’ is running an online petition urging rejection of the scheme outright.
It refers to the Bishopsgate terminal, which was destroyed in a massive blaze in 1964, as “one of London’s unique and challenging sites that’s worthy of innovation, creative and inspiring architecture”.
Campaigners say the proposed “faceless corporate architecture” will damage the community and block out light for thousands of people.
They support development, but only if it enhances the physical and social environment.
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 ‘More Light, More Power’ which commissioned an alternative scheme say Ballymore’s modifications just “scratch the surface” and will still destroy the environment and local community.
It proposes, instead, an alternative scheme with low-rise blocks at affordable rent for both families and small businesses, as well as new ‘neighbourhood link’ streets to connect Shoreditch more with Spitalfields.