The redevelopment of the historic Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children has been approved in spite of major objections from local people.
Greater London Authority said they are satisfied with the scale and design of the proposed replacement buildings, while they believe that the Mayor’s strategic planning concerns over the matter have been satisfactory addressed.
Tower Hamlets Council had approved the scheme for the redevelopment of the former hospital in August. However, the application was forwarded to Boris Johnson because of objections to the demolition of the historical building which sits on the borders of Tower Hamlets and Hackney.
Hackney Council however raised objections on the potential harm to the ecological and amenity value of the part of Haggerston Park that adjoins the application site. They also said that the design of the rooftop pavilions is not keeping with the rest of the proposed building nor with surrounding development, and would prefer a more coherent design.
An ecology consultant assessed the ecological impact of the proposals on behalf of the developers and concluded that “the ecology of Haggerston Park and Hackney City Farm appears not to be affected by the proposed development.’’ A verdict that was accepted by Tower Hamlets planners.
A petition against the application containing 105 individual comments and 296 electronic signatures was submitted to the Council and forwarded to the Mayor last Wednesday, prior to his decision.
Tower Hamlets council also received 56 letters of objection including concerns about the proposed demolition.
John Biggs, London Assembly Member, wrote to Johnson earlier this month, asking him to direct refusal of the application to redevelop the hospital.
In his letter, Biggs noted that “the project will see the destruction of historic buildings to make way for a new development which has no regard to the existing neighbourhood context.’’
“In doing so, the design fails to conform with London Plan policy.’’ The London Plan policy says ‘buildings must be informed by the surrounding historic environment.’
Biggs also said that community members in both Tower Hamlets and Hackney felt that their views had had no impact on the final design, as evidenced by the fact that not one letter of support was received by the Council.
English Heritage Archaeology advised the Council that the proposed demolition would involve the loss of historic fabric that had potential to provide historical information on the development of healthcare in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The Victorian society raised objections in respect of design and demolition, while the Hackney Society, a local preservation organization, expressed a desire to see the imposing heritage building reused rather than demolished.
The hospital site lies on 337-339 Hackney Road, on the border of the boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Hackney and is considered one of Hackney’s signature buildings.
The project includes the refurbishment of the Hackney Road building into new apartments (with retention of the main Hackney Road frontage). In total 188 new homes will be created on the abandoned hospital site, with additional space for community enterprise or start-up business spaces.
The hospital first opened in 1868, with its pathology lab being one of the country’s most important for the investigation of child diseases.
The Hackney Road site closed in 1997 when the bulk of its services transferred to The Royal London Hospital as the Queen Elizabeth Children’s Service.