Friday, 1 February 2008

Mammon is at the gates of Shoreditch

A full house attended the OPENshoreditch public meeting on the 17th of January to seek information and express dismay at the development proposals for the former Railtrack sites off Shoreditch High Street. This turnout contrasts with the developer, Hammerson's, own public consultations in July 2007 which, despite circulating thousands of glossy leaflets, only managed to attract 22 people.

The meeting’s venue was on the historic Boundary Estate, the oldest council estate in the country, which will be severely affected by the developments planned. Residents learned of the Greater London Authority (GLA) report that "the site is part of an arc of potential development along... Shoreditch High Street and into the Bishopsgate Goodsyard" .

A number of speakers expressed anxiety about the height and density of the proposed developments. One feared that the wall of high-rise towers could cast shadows over homes and public spaces reaching as far as the Regents Canal in winter months. Residents' fears were heightened by the lack of public consultation both by the developers and Hackney and Tower Hamlets planning authorities and these Councils' failure to even have a masterplan for the sites. The proposals presently seem to be geared at securing maximum profits for the developer at the expense of the local community, which would suffer overshadowing and wind tunnel effect, increase in energy bills, deterioration of TV reception and light pollution.

There were also significant concerns for the loss of historic buildings and erosion of the character of the neighbouring conservation areas. Conservation-led regeneration has transformed Shoreditch into a popular tourist and entertainment destination and home to creative industries. The homogenised over-development dwarfing its surroundings will forever destroy the unique character of this area, full of fascinating history.

The Light before redevelopment

James Goff, the owner of the Light Bar at 233 Shoreditch High Street, made a heartfelt plea to help him save this historic building, which would be replaced by a 51 storey hotel.

The Light extinguished after redevelopment

Mark Willingale, the architect who has designed the Norton Cross alternative plan for the site, explained the benefits of his scheme, which retains The Light and creates better pedestrian permeability and better public open space.

Alternative treatment of The Light in Willingale's development

Leader of the campaign for a park on Bishopsgate Goodsyard, Brad Lochore, produced the 2002 Greater London Authority (GLA) document pledging to create a masterplan for the site. Not only have the local community been let down by it reneging on that promise but now Mayor Livingstone's GLA has confirmed support for Hammerson's Bishop’s Place scheme. But the scheme fails to comply with the London Plan. There is an absence of any meaningful benefits to the community. The affordable housing and provision for children (even including the planned roof top play areas) do not begin to meet the minimum required standards. The scheme fails to comply with guidelines on sustainable design and renewable energy use.
Bill Parry-Davies, from OPENdalston, warned that although the Hamerson scheme has been roundly criticised by both CABE and English Heritage, a recent Council report had described the risk of its Planning Committee refusing permission as "slim".

The desperate for cash Council own some of the development site. Hackney's Mayor Pipe has already earmarked the sale proceeds to fund plans for a grand £45 million Town Hall extension which, it is said , will engender civic pride. Hackney hopes that the people of Shoreditch will agree.

With some of the best architects in the world living in London there is no reason why this project should not exemplify best practice in town planning and sustainability. But the overwhelming feeling was that without well-organised and widespread community involvement neither the GLA nor the local authorities will adequately protect the local community from the negative impacts of this massive development and nor will they secure any significant benefits.
The meeting ended with an endorsement for OPENshoreditch as a means of bringing together local groups and individuals to press for the publication of all relevant information, the observance of due process, meaningful consultation and the securing of community benefit- as well as organising local opposition to the loss of the Light Bar.

There is no time to lose. Sign the petition to save the Light Bar by following the link above to Save the Light
Object to this development by emailing quoting the planning application reference 2007/2227 Bishops Place - Land fronting Worship Street...EC2. Copy your email to Alternatively write to Andrew Dillon at London Borough of Hackney, Neighbourhood Regeneration Directorate, 263 Mare Street, London E8 3HT

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