£100m Hackney 'vanity project' retail complex set to be approved
PUBLISHED: 19:03 04 October 2013 | UPDATED: 19:04 04 October 2013
Town hall planning officers are recommending that a proposal for a retail complex is approved at a council meeting next Wednesday.
Plans for a £100million eight-storey fashion retail hub featuring brand names and local designers on two sites spanning Chatham Place and Morning Lane are being billed as a huge regeneration project which could create 400 jobs.
The council says half of the new posts would go to residents, but there is strong opposition to the plans on social, economic and architectural grounds.
Around £1.5m of regeneration cash from the Greater London Authority to boost growth in the area affected by the 2011 riots is being channelled into the project.
Mustafa Korel, lead organiser of Hackney First, a support platform for people who want to stand as independent candidates in Hackney, said: “It’s very upsetting because Hackney still remains one of the most deprived areas in the country.
“The plans to change it into a shopping destination do not change the root causes of poverty.
“For so long in Hackney, we have serviced the needs of property developers and it’s this kind of project that perpetuates this cycle.
“Rather than developing community projects for the community, we line the pockets of the rich who have no stake in Hackney. It feels like a vanity project.”
Landowners Chatham Works and Manhattan Loft Corporation intend to knock down the former Duke of Wellington pub which dates from 1905 and was converted into a Pringle knitwear factory outlet, as well as part of a former 1850s gravel pit chapel where clergyman and scientist Joseph Priestley preached.
The Churchwell Residents Group is complaining about the loss of these buildings, the increase in traffic the site would bring, the extra strain on parking, the disproportionate height of the buildings and the rolling billboards which they believe are excessive and out-of-character.
Group spokesman James Watson said: “We believe it’s inevitable that the development will be passed since it already commands the support of senior councillors and officers.
“The best we can hope for is that changes to the infrastructure are made.”
Mr Korel added: “It’s clear where this development is moving because of past mistakes and unsuccessful attempts to regenerate the area. In chambers there are no independent voices. There’s only the Labour majority and that’s worrying.”
A council spokesman said: “The plans are going before the local planning authority and will be considered in line with planning law. The planning committee works to strict rules of impartiality, as their record proves.”
A spokesman for the Hackney Fashion Hub said: “The site includes a number of buildings, the use of which have changed over the years.
“Our proposals represent the next stage in the evolution of this important site, delivering a stunning development, providing hundreds of new jobs and new opportunities for Hackney’s designers and manufacturers.”