Saturday, 20 March 2010

Rebuild or Refurbish? by Amanda Reynolds

The ‘debate,’ which took place at the Bishopsgate Institute on the 9 March, was in fact a presentation of views by four professionals, who work in the architecture and heritage sectors. While purporting to look at the potential impact of the City on inner east London, none of the speakers specifically addressed the issues we face in terms of the impact of future development.

Will Palin (of Save Britain’s Heritage) presented an entertaining and critical look at existing redevelopment such as that at at the site of the Spitalfields market, and what has now been permitted – the proposed Bishops Place towers around the retained ‘Light Bar’ building at 233 Shoreditch High Street. Giles Quarme (of Quarme Associates) talked about buildings he has refurbished nowhere near inner east London; while Paul Finch (of CABE) and Austin Williams (of Future Cities) made the case for varying degrees of redevelopment alongside more robust approaches to conservation.

Bishopsgate Goodsyard1,2 was mentioned only in passing. Although questions after the presentations put our major local development challenge firmly on the agenda, no specific or useful suggestions were made in relation to the site. Perhaps unsurprising given the title of the debate: as ‘rebuild’ is the only option, the important question for us is, How to rebuild?
A prominent local architect asked the panel whether better use could be made of planning regulations to control development and Paul Finch said no. However, this is clearly not the case, as the recently adopted Interim Planning Guidance for the site has no specific building envelope controls such as height, typology or location, all of which are much needed.

OPEN Shoreditch seeks much clearer development guidance. This would most effectively be expressed through a Master Plan for the site and surroundings, developed with the active participation of all stakeholders including the local community. OPEN Shoreditch is currently lobbying both Tower Hamlets and Hackney councils, and the developers, to set up and support this process, and then to adopt the result into the planning system.

2Tower Hamlets press release (12 Jan 2010) on the plans for Bishopsgate Goodsyard

Picture Credit: John Winfield, Spitalfields before redevelopment

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