Residents “horrified” by proposed changes to Haggerston Baths redevelopment
PUBLISHED: 14:37 21 September 2020 | UPDATED: 14:37 21 September 2020
Residents are angry over updated plans for the redevelopment of a 116-year-old Haggerston landmark.
Committed to keeping the grade II listed Haggerston Baths building under public ownership, Hackney Council selected a bid by developer Castleforge in 2017.
But residents say Castleforge’s plans, which include turning the site into community and commercial office spaces, have changed drastically since they were originally proposed three years ago.
“The plan added two extra floors to the building, a private roof terrace for business use and a huge new entrance just a few feet from our homes,” said Lottie Maynard Fry, who lives opposite the baths in Basin Mill Apartments.
“Their original winning bid kept to the existing height of the building. If these new plans go ahead dozens of homes will lose up to 60 percent of daylight and see office workers looking directly into our bedrooms”.
A planning application for the redevelopment was submitted earlier this year with residents concerned about how the coronavirus lockdown might affect the consultation process. Some residents responded by creating their own survey gathering local views on the development.
It revealed around 65 per cent of the 99 people surveyed felt “strongly” that the redevelopment would not benefit the local community.
Eighty percent of respondents felt the development could cause “substantial harm” to the area and some said they would support the plans if they did not have a significant impact on the character of the building.
Swimmers Lane resident Verena Roth is concerned the west side of the building, facing Swimmers Lane, will become “a completely new and unquestionably overdeveloped business monstrosity which has historically, structurally and logistically nothing in common with the present building.”
“All in all it’s clear that there are two building sites - the old, pretty conservation pool building at the back, which they oversell eagerly as “community space”, and then the complete separate and overdeveloped business hub which will take over Swimmers Lane,” she said.
Local resident Niall Crowley added: “When we looked at the details of these new plans we were horrified. They’re nothing like what any of us were led to believe. We’re all for saving this historic building and returning it to public use in some way, but these plans are a million miles from that.”
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Residents say they have been trying to negotiate a solution with Castleforge and the council for more than two years, but fear the future of the baths is being decided behind closed doors.
But Planning Chief Cllr Guy Nicholson says it is “normal” in all schemes for proposals to evolve from the initial consultation process into the planning application stage and “it is equally usual for applications to change further following consultation with the local community, statutory consultees and the planning authority.
He says the overall “concept has not changed” but that the building’s height is higher in Castleforge’s most recent plans included in a planning application submitted in March.
The councillor said: “From what I have seen to date the developer and the council’s planning team have entered into these negotiations in a collaborative spirit and are working to improve an application that was broadly in keeping with the concept adopted through the consultation process.
“We expect that following these discussions the developer will make amendments to the existing application, which will in turn be the subject of further community consultation.”
A spokesperson for Castleforge added that a “wide-reaching ongoing public consultation” on the development has been running for over 18 months.
This has involved consulting local businesses, residents, tenant associations, local schools and community groups.
The spokesperson said: “We are committed to maintaining open channels of communication with as many groups as possible. At the heart of this project is returning the pool hall area to public use and engaging with the community has been extremely influential in shaping the way we are looking to do this.”
Castleforge is working with the council’s Planning, Heritage and Conservation team, Historic England and several heritage groups to conserve the heritage features of the site.
Haggerston Baths is currently on Historic England’s Buildings At Risk list having sat empty and unused since 2000.
For more information about the Haggerston Baths Redevelopment click here.
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