New ‘low-rise’ skyscraper plan for Bishopsgate development

Aerial sketch of the proposals looking west Pic: FaulknerBrowns

Developers behind the Bishopsgate Goodsyard scheme have unveiled a dramatically altered, low-rise redesign for the 10-acre site.

Following criticism by local people and heritage groups, the developers, Ballymore and Hammerson, revised proposals for the new ‘urban quarter’ which have scaled back the controversial and dense tower blocks.

The original cluster of six towers included a 46 storey building but this has been reduced in height to 29 storeys. The number of housing units have been slashed from 1,356 units to 250. The new proposals have been broadly welcomed by critics of the scheme, but they have stressed the need for detailed scrutiny.

Boxpark, a temporary food and retail park, currently sits on the proposed site Pic: Thames Menteth

The complex site surrounds Shoreditch High Street London Overground station and straddles the boundary between Tower Hamlets and Hackney.

The redesign prioritises mixed-use office space. It includes flexible work space for creative industries along with 175,000 sq ft of retail space and a 250-300 bed hotel.

There will also be an expansion of public green spaces like the proposed park on top of the Braithwaite viaduct.

New streets and laneways will more sensitively integrate the site within Shoreditch’s surrounding townscape, say the developers.

How the “high line” level will look in the new plans Pic: FaulknerBrowns

While the 2014 plans were criticised for allocating just 10 per cent to affordable housing, the new design allocates at least 35 per cent of proposed homes as “affordable”.

The Spitalfields Society criticised the previous scheme over fears that the skyscrapers would cast shadows over Spitalfields and nearby Boundary Estate.

Vice chair of Spitalfields Society, David Donoghue, told ELL that the proposals were an “improvement on [the] old scheme” and show “what can be achieved by intelligent well-argued lobbying.”

However, Donoghue said that the new proposals continue to be “out of keeping with the conservation area to the north”, that the tall buildings along Sclater street could create “a ‘Berlin Wall’ effect”, and that the scheme was still “featureless and dull.”

The More Light More Power (MLMP) group, backed by MP for Bethnal Green and Bow Rushanara Ali, also campaigned for a mid-rise development as an alternative to the high-rises.

In response to the latest proposals, a spokesperson for MLMP told ELL that while the plans “appear more responsive to community feedback than the earlier iteration…the devil is in the detail.” The group will be holding a meeting next Monday.

CGI of the 2015 Bishopsgate Development showing the shadows cast by skyscrapers Pic: More Light More Power

The Hackney Society, which feared the site’s unique heritage would be lost in the previous plan, has recognised that the new scheme has been ‘significantly’ scaled down.

These new plans will keep the Braithwaite arches, the second oldest railway arches in London, the historic Oriel Gateway, the boundary wall and listed weavers’ cottages on Sclater street.

The historic Braithwaite Arches in Bishopsgate Goodsyard Pic: Thames Menteth

There are currently two temporary uses on the site, the Shoreditch Boxpark and Powerleague football pitches.

Unusually, the mayors of the local planning authorities for Hackney and Tower Hamlets campaigned against the previous development. Jules Pipe, Hackney’s then leader, criticised the scheme in an open letter to Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London.

In September 2015, Johnson called in the application and overrode the decision of local authorities.

After Sadiq Khan took over as Mayor in 2016, the developer was given time to “evolve the design”.

The consultation on the updated proposals with the local community was launched on November 8 and will run until November 15.

An amendment scheme for the existing application will be submitted to the Greater London Authority in early 2019.

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