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Fears fresh proposals for Holborn Studios could destroy “charm of canal”

PUBLISHED: 13:25 22 December 2014 | UPDATED: 13:25 22 December 2014

Holborn Studios, Eagle Wharf Road, Hackney.

Holborn Studios, Eagle Wharf Road, Hackney.

Archant

The fight is on once more to save the heritage of Regent’s Canal, which campaigners fear could be swept away with a scheme for a historic Hoxton building in what has been dubbed a “hit and run” development.

The proposals for Holborn StudiosThe proposals for Holborn Studios

The future of Holborn Studios in Eagle Wharf Road looked uncertain two years ago when its owners, Gold Property Developments, proposed demolishing it to replace with flats and commercial space aimed at Tech City creatives.

However, a campaign to save the iconic 30-year old photographic studio – where the likes of music moguls Madonna and David Bowie and even Margaret Thatcher, were captured on film – was launched, and after Hackney Council added Holborn Studios to its local heritage list, the plans were dropped.

But now the site – where 300 people are employed – has been sold on to GHL Eagle Wharf Ltd, which has come up with another development proposal.

While local listing does not remove permitted development rights and does not afford the same level of protection as the statutory listing process, it does mean weight is given to the heritage value of the site when any planning application is considered. The locally listed three storey industrial building and heritage chimney is also protected.

The rest of the site will be redeveloped, to make way for new buildings ranging from two to seven storeys, and up to 80 homes, along with new employment floor space.

Holborn photographic studios are in talks and hope to sign a new 10-year contract.

Ian Shacklock, chairman of the Friends of Regents Canal campaign group, believes the buildings “epitomise the charm of the canal” and says the proposals amount to a “hit and run”.

He said: “This will do damage to an existing community, the workforce, the neighbourhood, it’s not just the buildings that will be demolished, they are demolishing the culture of Hoxton.

“The proposal looks sterile and I’m confident it will be sterile, whereas Holborn studios is a thriving interesting place. It oozes charm, inside there is a thriving environment.”

He added: “If they are going to completely surround that chimney with a seven storey rectangular box the chimney will be meaningless, the chimney will be lost in the noise, like St Pauls surrounded by skyscrapers.

“The reason we got so fierce with the previous owners was everything else had been ruined and we thought if we don’t fight this one there will be nothing left.”

Many of the nearby heritage buildings, like part of Rosemary Works just a few hundred yards up the canal, have already gone to make way for modern housing developments and commercial space.

A spokesman for GHL Eagle Wharf Ltd, said: “The vision for the site is to increase the provision of employment space and contribute to the need for new housing in the borough as well as make the Regent’s Canal more accessible to local people.

“Our proposals intended to celebrate the chimney as a landmark structure set in a new public landscape.

“Another key aspect of the site is opening it up to the local community. This will be done by creating a new publicly accessible canal front and shared space within the heart of the site.”

The plans for the site are available to view at Shoreditch Library until January 9.

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