Hackney church gives land to developers to secure its future
PUBLISHED: 16:36 04 June 2014
Buildings at one of Hackney's most iconic churches will be demolished and turned into flats as part of controversial plans to secure its future.
The cash-strapped grade II listed St-John-at-Hackney Church in Lower Clapton Road, Clapton, hopes to receive £1.74million – half of the funds needed to undertake its renovation – in exchange for the demolition and redevelopment of the Rectory building, Scout hut and former Learning Trust buildings on its site.
The church hopes to secure the other half from Heritage Lottery funding.
The redevelopment will include 58 new homes – including 18 one-bedroom flats, 23 two-bedroom flats, 13 three-bedroom flats and four four-bedroom flats – and 1,120 square metres of community facilities. Eight of the new homes will be affordable housing and the community facilities will encompass a new Scout hut and community hall.
There were nine objections to the plans – which are situated in Clapton Square Conservation Area – including the height of the proposed buildings, impact on the setting of heritage assets, loss of tranquillity of the site and loss of trees.
English Heritage also objected on the basis there would be “visual encroachment on the open space of the churchyard” and that the removal of the existing boundary wall would lead to “a loss of intimacy in the churchyard”.
It also felt the excessive height would compete for prominence with the surrounding listed buildings which include St Augustine’s Tower – the oldest building in Hackney which dates from the 16th century and is in the churchyard, 30 metres from the development.
However, the proposals were unanimously approved at a planning committee meeting on May 7.
Speaking about the project, church rector Father Rob Wickham said: “From our perspective, the key driver for us is to fulfil our role as a parish church in Hackney. Our overall focus is how do we create a better Hackney for people to live in?
“We want to create a development of exceptional quality. We see there is a desperate need for homes in Hackney and we are going to be creating new homes – some of which are social housing.
“There’s also a need for a community space and this will be part of the development along with a new Scout hut. This will change them from being on a short-term lease to a long-term one with a peppercorn rent.
“It costs £70,000 to £80,000 just to maintain St-John-at-Hackney. The bottom line is we have to fund that money. We get no government grants and we need considerable funding to use a grade-II listed building.”