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Saturday19 August 2017

Row erupts over 'secret' plan for East End towers

Shoreditch's proposed skyline
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Critics round on ‘astonishing secrecy’ over proposed cluster of skyscrapers in Shoreditch

Two local authorities stand accused of “astonishing secrecy” over plans for a cluster of skyscrapers by architects Foster & Partners, KPF and Allies & Morrison in London’s East End.

Save Britain’s Heritage this week revealed artist impressions of four Shoreditch towers more than 50 storeys high, which it claims are being kept from the public.

[Look at the drawing]

Joint developers Hammerson and Ballymore are understood to be behind two Allies & Morrison-and one Foster-designed tower on the largely derelict Bishopsgate Goods Yard, while Hammerson is also working on a KPF skyscraper planned for the adjacent Norton Folgate site.

Critics claim that despite pre-application discussions involving many organisations — including local councils Hackney and Tower Hamlets, Cabe and English Heritage — two public drop-in sessions last week on plans for the Goods Yard site made no reference to the towers.

“The level of secrecy is astonishing,” said architectural historian and local resident Dan Cruickshank. “These towers will create monumental shadows.

“People want to know what is going on. It will so fundamentally change the experience of living in that area that people’s views need to be gathered and responded to.”

Save’s secretary William Palin described the towers as “tentacles” threatening a historic low-rise residential area.

“These proposals are a monstrous assault on the special character of this district and the skyline of the capital,” he said. “We call on the mayor to stop this madness.”

The developers and councils’ consultation process was blasted as “paranoid, secretive and lacking transparency” by Rebecca Colllings, chair of the Save Shoreditch campaign.

“It is a complete waste of public money to consult over matters that are already decided,” she added.

Save Shoreditch, which includes artists Tracey Emin and Rachel Whiteread, has previously battled plans by Hammerson and Foster’s for the nearby high-rise Bishop’s Place scheme, which could demolish the Light Bar on Shoreditch High Street.

The Bishopsgate Goodsyard site itself is identified within the existing London Plan as a “city fringe opportunity area” for mixed-use development, but may face an uphill struggle given the credit crunch and proposed changes to the capital’s overarching planning document, the London Plan.

Due to speak on Wednesday night as BD went to press, mayor Boris Johnson was expected to unveil a strategy document giving support for clusters of tall buildings only “where they are in context with their surroundings”.

A spokeswoman from Tower Hamlets confirmed it had not yet received any planning applications for the Goods Yard. “Tower Hamlets Council is not engaged in any formal pre-application discussions,” she added.

A Hackney spokeswoman insisted statutory public consultation on the draft masterplan would follow later in the year, adding: “This is an open process.”

Robert Allan, assistant director for Hammerson, said: “Hammerson and Ballymore are in the early stages of preparing proposals for the Bishopsgate Goods Yard site. The local authority is preparing and consulting on the draft supplementary planning document, and following its consultation, we will develop our options for the scheme further.

“As with all our projects, we remain committed to ensuring the local community and stakeholders are consulted on our proposals.”

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Readers' comments (15)

  • Heritage groups have consistently undermined London's economic development. There is no planning application even on the table, and the usual suspects are already jumping up and down. We need to realize that a substantial percentage of our wealth is due to the financial sector and we need to allow them to develop proper infrastructure. There is now a cluster of skyscrapers emerging in the City and any additional towers would naturally fit in. We should also remember that heritage groups have lost public inquiries against Heron Tower, the Shard and the Walkie Talkie in recent years. You would have thought they got the message by now.

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  • Steve Green seems to specialise in spouting nonsense about so many stories, his 'defence' of any and every proposed new development, no matter how ghastly, is by now becoming so predictable it's a joke. Thank heavens we have 'hertage' groups to stry to save us from the greed of developers who are only interested in the cash, not the communities which have to live with the results of these appalling plans.

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  • I agree with you Steve. This is London one of the world economic centres. These sort of developments in the correct location will only benefit the wealth of the country and has only come about because of the market demand (long term). It already seems like we can't past the 1950's with all but a few developments. This space should be developed to its full potential. Large scale developments like this mean the development is focused where the people, demand and info structure exist. Rather than spread over a large area where a number of existing places might have to be demolished. Of course none of the large picture is ever consider and short sight views of Save Britain’s Heritage are allowed to incite narrow views like the ones above.

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  • I'm just thankful we have groups prepared to fight it out against the Philistines, without groups like this we would have lost so many more fine buildings and historic places, and the bland and the ugly would be everywhere by now. Maybe the reason Edinburgh is developing as a major financial centre is because people want to live and work in beautiful, historic cities?

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  • the planning process is long enough as it is. should consultation begin prior to inception to satisfy 'heritage' groups. our built heritage doesn't only consist of the old but also the culture of the modern.

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  • Shoreditch is not City. It has been recently labelled 'City Fringe' in order to allow the glass temples of the City to colonise our area where many people live and work in buildings that are generally no higher than six storeys. There are listed buildings and Conservation areas, and a wealth of streetscapes with their own flavour. The encroachment of City offices and City apartments and City hotels will bring little employment to the deprived of the estates and back streets of Shoreditch. The youth and elderly of the area need better facilities, more and better maintained housing, and better schools. Local businesses and residents would be priced out of the area if the City encroaches too far. We locals are not against regeneration. Indeed we need and welcome imaginative and well designed new development. But glass cliff faces and shopping malls are not in keeping with Shoreditch – why not something more on the lines of Brunswick Square in Bloomsbury? And more green space?

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  • I raised a complaint against the Planners of the Norton Folgate development on the grounds that Fosters office and DP9 was deceiving the public in its method of consultation, and that the application for the towers included buildings integral to the local Conservation Area which peculiarly is under review by the planners receiving the applications. I also raised an objection to the way the Hackney Council disengages from public engagement in deciding policy and quite unethically only consults on their decisions - thereby don't let people view or comment or even input on decision making (this is how they have dealt with their recent LDF consultation and the current Conservation Area Review).....so with an understand of the LPA and its managers (Sue Foster and Ray Rogers) I am not surprised to read Hackney's response to your article that the Consultation on the Masterplan will be held later in the year when on the 24th July 2008 the immense Foster & Partners and Hammerson scheme is actually going to Committee. Where in a normal world this would be determined as 'premature', in light of upcoming policy, public opposition and current ongoing strategic consultations, the Hackney Council will no doubt deal with this to directly pay off their New Town Hall Extension and New Shiny Planning offices - all funded from the sale of these lands....very shameful and underhanded... I am looking forward to the Judicial Review of this which should and will shed light on the peculiar practices of the Hackney Planning Department.

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  • PS to my comment There IS a definite planning application for 32 to 42 Bethnal Green Road which has been passed – on the site of the ugly old stationery factory opposite Rich Mix, there will be a 25-storey tower, etc. Only a Judicial Review will be able to stop this development – totally alien to the feel of Bethnal Green Road and Brick Lane and Sclater Street.

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  • I'm afraid to say that if this involves Tower Hamlets planning department it is probably already a done deal. They always putthe interest of commercial business over the rights of residents

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  • As Steve Greeen rightly pointed out the City is a major financial powerhouse which is very important to the British economy. But it is deeply naive to think the City stands or falls on redeveloping Shoreditch. The City has decided to go into competition with Canary Wharf, an area specifically designed to house large numbers of skyscrapers. It is the success of Canary Wharf that the City fears, not its own failure. After the birth of Shoreditch, like a phoenix from the slums, developers see an opportunity to cash in - big style. There was no talk of redevelopment when the area was still considered to be down at heel. While it is all too easy to brand people who campaign against skyscrapers as stuck in the past blindly holding on to values and a world vision long deceased in this case it is merely lazy thinking, falling back, unquestioningly, onto stereotypes. Mr Green fails to look at the real picture. Uniquely Shoreditch, Bethnal Green and Hoxton are residential areas neighbouring one of the major financial hubs of the world. To build a wall of tower blocks on top of them would destroy the area and blight families' lives. Shoreditch is not a tall building zone - it is a home zone. Campaigners could be branded as nimbies, but they are nimbies for a very good reason. A towering wall of glass half a mile long will ruin lives with its light pollution and long shadows and, as I'm sure Mr Green will appreciate, the development will destroy an area that is becoming as increasingly important economically for the country as the City. How much money does Mr Green think artists and media companies of Shoreditch bring to our economy? Millions, is the answer. Destroy the unique character of the area and they will move out badly damaging the economic structure of Tower Hamlets and Hackney. But the fight is also for something far more important a the bottom line. It is a fight to maintain a valauble quality of life. Skyscrapers are marvellous and can be a positive addition to our cities - if they are in the right place. These are not. To say build to the sky otherwise Britain will fall is an act of willful blindness.

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