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.

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