Campaigners hail victory over stalled plans for Bishopsgate skyscrapers
PUBLISHED: 18:08 14 April 2016 | UPDATED: 10:02 15 April 2016
Campaigners have declared victory in east London today in the latest round over the controversial scheme for a wall of skyscrapers at the old Bishopsgate goodsyard site that would overshadow Shoreditch.
It follows the developers asking the Mayor of London to delay his executive decision to give it the green light at a City Hall public hearing planned for Monday—in the face of opposition from the public, local authorities, MPs and even the mayor’s own planning advisors.
Hammerson’s asked Boris Johnson to postpone his decision to allow them to “make amendments” to the scheme.
Now the main campaign umbrella group which has been fighting the plans for three years is calling for Hammerson’s executive to explain to its shareholders, to residents and local authorities why it “wasted so much taxpayers’ money” taking this application to the Mayor when both Tower Hamlets and neighbouring Hackney had already asked them to amend it.
Campaign founder David Donoughue said today: “This decision to defer is a vindication of campaigning by local people and businesses and the unanimous decisions of two mayors, two planning committees, planning officers, legal advisers and consultants—including those at the GLA.
“They have all been saying for months that the scheme is fundamentally flawed, that it is damaging to residents, businesses, the environment and London as a whole and provides no benefits.
Worse still—it is using publicly-owned land costing the developers nothing. It would be the biggest theft of public property since the Great Train Robbery.”
The delay brought immediate reaction from both Tower Hamlets and Hackney councils, the neighbouring local authorities for Shoreditch that had already rejected the controversial scheme for the 11-acre site.
Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs said: “Thousands of residents, community groups, businesses and councillors objected because it didn’t meet local needs and because its sheer size would cast a massive shadow over residential areas. All future applications for the site should be agreed within our transparent and democratic planning processes, to meet local needs, which includes the right level of affordable housing and community benefits and a development in proportion to the surroundings.”
Hackney’s mayor Jules Pipe fears the Bishopsgate skyscrapers proposals would have destroyed the heart of Shoreditch.
He said: “They would cast a shadow over hundreds of homes and businesses, would stifle Tech City growth, do nothing to address London’s housing crisis and would damage forever the area’s unique character and heritage.”
The proposal would result in “significant building mass” which even City Hall advisors now agree would have an impact on the daylight and sunlight of hundreds of properties, would have harmful the East End’s heritage which would “significantly outweigh the potential public benefits of the scheme”.
The scheme offers 1,356 luxury homes and 650,000sq ft of offices and other commercial uses in 12 high-rise buildings including seven skyscrapers.
Hammerson’s said before asking for the postponement that it was disappointed with a GLA recommendation to reject its Bishopsgate ambitions.
It had initially offered no “affordable” flats in the scheme, then under pressure offered a 10 per cent of the apartments, then revised it to 15pc.
But even then, campaigners point out, “affordable” means prices up to 80 per cent of the open market value—which in the Bishopsgate scheme means 80pc of the £1m price-tag the luxury apartments would fetch.
So “affordable” could mean £800,000, which the Mayor of Hackney says no ordinary folk in London can afford.
The massive site has been derelict since the former Bishopsgate goods station burned down in 1964. It was built in 1861 as the original London terminal for the Eastern Counties Railway before the line was extended into the City itself at Liverpool Street in the 1870s.