Sunday, 30 March 2008

"It goes right to the heart of the lives that people lead and the legacy we leave to future generations."

Click here to read the speech of Lord Low of Dalston, Patron of OPEN, in a House of Lords debate on architecture and design. Thursday 27 March 2008.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Labour's block vote for The Block

On Thursday 13th March 5 Labour Councillors on the Tower Hamlets planning committee voted as one to approve this property developers' application to built 12 to 25 storey towerblocks at Sclater Street/Bethnal Green Road. The committee members from the Conservative, Respect and LibDem parties voted against it, but were outnumbered by 5 votes to 4

The proposed development will tower over the local conservation areas and the local community. A 70 metre long wall of 12 to 20 storey towers coming right up to the edge of the pavement will permanently cast deep shadows over the narrow Bethnal Green Road and beyond. Hundreds of local residents and businesses, the long-established local artistic community and English Heritage strongly objected to the proposal. Developers will claim the approval as a precedent paving the way for further soulless development. It jeopardises meaningful input from the community into plans for the future of this historic area.
The week had seen extensive press coverage which you can read about here and here.

The only justification the community has been given is the London Mayor’s support for tall buildings and the "City Fringe" draft planning document which sees the Bishopsgate Goodsyard as an ideal location for tall buildings. This document has neither been consulted upon nor approved. Mayor Livingstone now has 14 days to consider the application and decide whether to overule the committee's decision.
But we are losing confidence in the Mayor to do the right thing when we read stories like this and this
If you want to understand what's at stake for our community then watch the videos made by OPENshoreditch members here or click on the link "Stop the block. Save the light" above.

Friday, 7 March 2008

One man, two opinions

When recommending that The Light should not be protected from demolition by its inclusion in the Shoreditch Conservation Area, Hackney Council's Conservation Officer advised its Cabinet on 25 February 2008 that "it does not form an integral part of the pattern of Victorian commercial buildings and small scale workshops to the rear that have been identified as forming a significant characteristic of this part of the conservation area".

The Light before redevelopment

Curiously this uniform pattern of building type appears to have entirely disappeared from the Conservation Officer's view five days later when, in a memo dated 30 February (sic), he advised the Council’s Planning Officer that the context of the proposed 51-storey Bishops Place development, which would involve demolition of The Light, " is one of extremely varied streetscapes, contrasting massing and dramatic changes of scale...different types of urban fabric"

The Light extinguished after redevelopment

The Conservation Officer's two contrasting views of the area can, of course, have nothing to do with the fact that his employer, Hackney Council, stands to make a small fortune as the landowner of part of the site if it gives planning permission for the demolition of The Light and its redevelopment as Bishop's Place.

Council documents show that its windfall is not to be spent on improvements for Shoreditch people - it's earmarked for a swanky new Town Hall extension in Mare Street. One hopes that when residents emerge from the shadows of Shoreditch, to go and pay their Council Tax in Hackney, they will feel a sense of civic pride in what the Council has created.