Thursday, 25 February 2010

Brick Lane Arches: Tower Hamlets planning to go ahead despite objections?

From the Evening Standard

Planners back ‘hijab gates’ for Brick Lane despite 158 objections

Terry Kirby

A proposal to build “hijab gates” at either end of Brick Lane has failed to attract a single letter of support from locals, a council report shows.
But the plan for the arches — which have been compared to giant headscarves — has attracted 158 objections. Despite this Tower Hamlets officials are recommending its development committee approve the scheme next Thursday.
The arches would form part of a £2 million “heritage trail”. Critics have accused the council of dividing the community by emphasising Islam above other faiths. Others say the arches resemble something from Disneyland.
Objectors include the Spitalfields Trust and the local synagogue. Resident Will Palin, secretary of Save Britain's Heritage, said: “To press ahead in the face of such opposition would be an insult to the people of the borough.”
Another local, Tracey Emin, has called the design “bulky, ungainly and unnecessary”.
The council says the arches are not “culturally specific to Islam” and structures have been used to denote areas such as Chinatown and Carnaby Street. The report is on its website. Thursday's meeting is at the town hall in Clove Crescent.

Read the Tower Hamlets' Case Officers' report - 7.1 Brick Lane Arches

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Brick Lane Arches

This week has seen much media coverage and general outrage on the proposed plans for the Brick Lane arches. There is still time to send in letters to Tower Hamlets council - the deadline is Monday 22 February. There is also an open committee meeting scheduled to take place on Wednesday 3 March at Tower Hamlets offices. 

Here are the references  and weblinks for each of the arches:

PA/09/02067 - Location between 120 - 118 Bethnal Green Road (northern end of Brick Lane)

PA/09/02082 - Location between 74 Whitechapel High Street and 1 Whitechapel Road (Osborne Street proposal)  (southern end of Brick Lane)

The Media Coverage:
Evening Standard



This is the letter that Open Shoreditch has already sent to Tower Hamlets: 
Dear Sirs


We write in respect of the above applications for steel arches to be erected at both ends of Brick Lane.

We reiterate our objections to these applications which show a complete failure of understanding of the complexity of the cultures in the Brick Lane area, as well as being a complete waste of public money which could and should be spent locally in better ways.

Brick Lane is a narrow street which currently suffers from a considerable amount of clutter and inadequately-organised problems like rubbish bins, while having little or no functional way-finding signage or other information to help visitors navigate their way around, let alone good quality public realm treatment to the streets and footpaths north of the Bethnal Green Rd intersection.

The proposed arches will not help any of these problems but rather contribute to the existing clutter problems, adding yet another obstacle to be negotiated around. The simplistic notion that a ‘gateway’ location needs a literal expression of ‘gatewayness’ shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how cities work, what makes an attractive sense of place and how to best support local communities.

The Brick Lane area (including Spitalfields Market, Columbia Road Market, the Redchurch Street gallery areas and the pedestrian routes between these centres of activity) is currently a mess of different street treatments, poor footpaths, inappropriate barriers, inadequate signage and a total lack of joined-up thinking, as well as empty sites around and including the Bishopsgate Goodsyard which could be temporarily used to accommodate compatible activities.

We agree that there is a need and opportunity for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to spend some money on the broader Brick Lane area but it should be spent on initiatives that look at strategic design issues as well as support connections and integrate movement routes. For instance, a consistently paved and well-signed footpath between Brick Lane and Columbia Road, with the physical barriers removed and simple signage so visitors can easily find their way between these two centres, would be a huge improvement to the area and benefit to visitors. A ‘canopy/gateway’ will not help this problem but will create an additional barrier.

The use of a ‘hijab’ style image for arches is ill conceived and patronising to the Bangladeshi community while failing to recognise other groups who live and work in the area. The area has a large number of artists and other creative communities who should be involved and consulted in any local artistic expression.

Most importantly, however, the Brick Lane area has major strategic issues which should be urgently addressed by the ‘canopy’ budget money rather than the council throwing the money away on such unwanted objects. OPEN Shoreditch has been lobbying for sometime for a community master planning exercise to be carried out for the area in order to create a coherent vision which would include not only what could be built on the Bishopsgate Goodsyard and other development sites in the area, but also discuss the kind of street structures (if any) and public realm treatments that could support the positive and inclusive development of our local area. London Borough of Tower Hamlets should be putting money into this process, not wasting funds on pointless arches.

We again object to the applications in the strongest possible terms.

Yours sincerely,

for and on behalf of
OPEN Shoreditch

Monday, 1 February 2010

We Don't Believe that a High Rise Park is right for the Goods Yard

Bishopgate Goodsyard is to centre right in this image

Open Shoreditch has responded to the recent Press Statement about the planning guidance for the Bishopgate Goods Yard. 


OPEN Shoreditch believes that the Press Statement issued by Hackney Council on behalf of Tower Hamlets, the Mayor of London on Wednesday 13 January 2010 celebrating new planning guidance for the Bishopsgate Goods Yard site requires a community response.

First of all, we agree that it is great that this site that has lain dormant for 40 years is finally going to come back to life. However, we still believe that this part of London needs a comprehensive, community-based master plan that meets the needs of the people who live and work here now, as well as the needs of future generations. It should be a master plan that includes local people fully in the development process and ensures that developers, local authorities and other statutory bodies adhere to the final outcomes of this much more integrated process.

OPEN Shoreditch has spent the past year and a half ensuring that it is representative of the communities in the immediate vicinity of the Bishopgate Goods Yard site. And we encouraged local people to take part fully in the ‘consultation’ devised by the developers; we are not wholly unsurprised that few of our points had been taken onboard.

We are puzzled as to how the planning guidance which is so unspecific and unclear in so many areas, can be seen as guidance that will ‘shape the future of the site’ as it does not, we believe, ’lay out a vision for the site’s future regeneration.’

We realise that the idea of the ‘high level public park’ has been proposed since the arches were listed. However we rather imagined that the local authorities and the developers would use this ‘idea’ to come up with something that was actually feasible for the space that they have available. Our immediate response is that the so-called ‘exciting feature’ is not feasible as a high-rise park. It is a difficult plot to deal with, which is why it has not been designated for any other higher value use. The plot in question is not linked to anything else, whereas the high line parks in both Paris and New York actually connect different neighbourhoods together.

In fact, OPEN Shoreditch had already indicated this in a response to the draft interim planning guidance in a letter of April 2009, as follows:

‘The ‘park’ is on top of the listed arches because it would be hard (though not impossible) to use this space for built form. However, this location separates the ‘park’ both vertically and horizontally from the local residential population, as it is a good 2 storeys above ground. The railway cut is a barrier to access for the communities to the south of the Site and the new buildings proposed along Bethnal Green Road and Sclater Street (together with the East London line) form a barrier to access for the communities to the north of the Site. This is not a park which will ‘connect local communities’’.

It is disappointing to find that at this stage the high line park has taken on such intent.

Uses for the site

We note the intention for there to be temporary uses of the site and would like to take this opportunity to remind the LB’s of Hackney and Tower Hamlets of the Open Shoreditch’s ideas as to what these temporary uses should be, as we suggested last April. We believe that these could be thoughtfully developed to become permanent and of real and true benefit to the local community.

‘We suggest the following temporary uses:
  • re-opening Wheeler Street. The north/south routes through the area are currently extremely restricted [this was only temporary and has now been remedied];
  • re-opening London Road under the arches from Wheeler Street to Brick Lane; 
  • and use of non-street arch space for a range of community and local small business functions such as market uses, artists’ studios, re-opening the existing community pool and gym, independent retailers etc.

Community-supported temporary uses within the arch areas would establish activities by/for local people on the Site, which could be programmed to continue, and/or be relocated, on the Site as redevelopment occurs.

The area under the arches is ready-made built form and could contribute cheaply and readily to reconnecting the neighbourhood and integrating distinctive uses and character.’

We have been pleased to be part of the initial consultations that have taken place and look forward to working further with the developers and local authorities in order to create the master plan needed for this part of East London. We believe that this will be the most important requirement to create a prosperous and cohesive community in the future.


Notes to Editors

OPEN Shoreditch is a coalition of residents’ and small business associations whose membership includes representatives of associations in the local area, namely Jago Action Group, Boundary Estate Tenants’ & Residents’ Association, North Brick Lane Residents’ Association, Jesus Hospital Estate Residents’ Association, Spitalfields Community Association, Spitalfields Society, Spitalfields Trust, Columbia Neighbourhood Action Group, Columbia Tenants’ & Residents’ Association, Friends of Arnold Circus and Spitalfields Small Business Association.