The massive Bishopsgate Goodsyard development’s 10-year fight to secure planning permission has suffered a new setback, as two councils voted to uphold objections against it ahead of a Greater London Authority decision next month.
Councillors from Tower Hamlets and Hackney raised significant issues over revised plans for the derelict site at separate meetings this week. Objections centred on the scale and design of the 10 proposed buildings, as well as a focus on office and hotel space over affordable housing and community provision.
“Many of us will be in our old age before this is completed, so we need to get it right,” Councillor Kevin Brady told the Tower Hamlets strategic planning committee last night.
The proposals for the 11-acre Goodsyard site, which surrounds Shoreditch High Street Overground station, involve 130,940m2 of office blocks, a 25-story hotel, apartments and a shopping mall. The plans also include a cultural centre, raised public park and affordable homes and workspaces.
The final planning approval rests with the GLA, after then Mayor Boris Johnson ‘called-in’ an earlier version of the plan in 2015, which was eventually rejected. But the councils’ objections will be taken into consideration at the public hearing in December.
“Having both councils essentially opposing the development puts a lot of pressure on the GLA to be very cautious and properly critical,” Jonathan Moberley of Reclaim the Goodsyard, a community group who oppose the plans, told Eastlondonlines last night. “It’s a very good position to be in… Although neither council has power in this decision, its remarkable that both have now objected.”
Tower Hamlets councillors were expected to wave through the plans after their planning team recommended ‘no objections’. But Councillor John Pierce, chair of the strategic planning committee, raised issues with the “questionable housing provision”. He said its “wide parameters” could result in as little as 346 flats being built. 77 per cent would be one-bedroom apartments – instead of the family homes many on Tower Hamlets’ 20,000-strong social housing register need – risking an Airbnb invasion.
“It has been a key housing site for the borough and we need to make sure we get the homes we need,” he said. “We want this to be a community and a neighbourhood.”
Councillors also asked why a large hotel was included instead of additional homes or green space. The immediate area already has 1,200 hotel rooms. “I just do not think it works,” said Councillor Brady.
Developers Hammerson and Ballymore were also grilled over the height and bulk of the development – which one resident noted would block much of the daylight from nearby social housing. Sunlight was a key reason the previous application was refused. Under the plans, the tallest building – at 142.4m, taller than the London Eye – would be “excessively tall and excessively bulky” when compared to its surroundings, councillors said.
Meanwhile, Hackney councillors voted to support the application in principle. They objected only on “design and heritage” grounds, including the impact on the five adjoining conservation areas. The site will incorporate several listed structures into the new buildings.
Councillor Peter Snell said: “Quite honestly, this does make Shoreditch High Street a bit of a mess… the cantilevered structure [over the heritage gateway] looks pretty ridiculous and certainly detracts from the listed brickwork and arch.”
The Victorian Society added in a written objection: “If consented, a development such as this risks creating a further precedent for large buildings which would destroy the character of a historically distinctive area of London.”
Local businesses to lose out
Developers promised a percentage of retail and office space would be set aside for local, independent and start-up businesses to rent. But campaigners and councillors said this was not enough.
Gary Means of the East End Trade Guild highlighted that 85% of local traders face going out of business if the Goodsyard shopping mall goes ahead. “Developers are happy to use culture and the community for their own PR while providing nothing in return,” he said.
“Brick Lane and the surrounding area are bustling but Canary Wharf is not. But a giant Canary Wharf-style scheme is still being proposed… [It is] another extension to the City that disenfranchises local business.”
“I don’t think anyone can see a need for that volume of offices pre-COVID, let alone post-COVID,” he added.
Developers say design ‘modest’
Jim Pool, a planning consultant for the developers, told Hackney Council that the design has “undergone radical and fundamental change”, and is now a “more modest and considered approach” which takes a “forensic response to the demands of the site”.
He added: “While we haven’t managed to persuade everyone, we believe that the right balance has now been struck.”
A spokesperson for the Hammerson and Ballymore joint venture told ELL: “We’re disappointed that Tower Hamlets’ planning committee has raised objections to our revised plans for the Bishopsgate Goodsyard.”
“We believe our designs, which are supported by Tower Hamlet’s planning officers, reflect the wide-ranging constraints across the site, strike the right balance between meeting the clearly expressed desire for lower heights and densities, while also optimising the number of homes, including much-needed family homes, as well as providing workspace that will enable Shoreditch to grow and thrive… We look forward to highlighting these benefits to the Mayor of London, who will determine the scheme.”
Pics: 1-4, The Goodsyard / 5-7, Reclaim the Goodsyard