The controversial multi-million pound Bishopsgate Goodsyard development will go ahead after Mayor of London Sadiq Khan overruled the objections of Tower Hamlets and Hackney councils as well as many local residents to approve the plans.
Up to 500 homes, a public park, 130,940 square metres of offices, a shopping mall and large hotel will be built on the brownfield site between Shoreditch High Street and Brick Lane. Developers Hammerson and Ballymore expect construction to start by 2022.
Approving the plans, Khan praised their potential “to create a new urban quarter” as well as the “regeneration benefit” to the Spitalfields area. He added: “This application has had a long and chequered history… While the scheme has not satisfied everyone, I consider an appropriate balance has been struck.”
Robin Dobson, a director at Hammerson, said it was “a huge vote of confidence in central London after a challenging year.”
But many are disappointed with Khan’s ruling. Tower Hamlets councillor John Pierce, who represents the local area, told Eastlondonlines: “We definitely need more housing and public space [at the Goodsyard] … It could have been a real success story.”
“There are a lot of elements of it which will benefit the community, but there is significant harm in other elements, and [Tower Hamlets council] didn’t think that the balance was fair.”
Pierce was one of several who urged the mayor to rethink the plans. Both Tower Hamlets and Hackney councils objected to the developer’s designs last month. They questioned the low number of affordable homes and workspaces, damage to the character of the area and the size of the development, among other issues.
But Khan said these objections did not outweigh the benefits of the scheme, including cultural space and 11,000 new jobs, particularly as the site has been derelict for over 50 years.
Refusing permission would delay “vital” new homes, 50% of them affordable, Khan said. “Fixing the housing crisis is dependent on approving housing schemes. We must take all opportunities available to us to build affordable housing, particularly low-cost rentals.”
An earlier version of the plans had over 1,400 flats in towers up to 46 storeys high. This was revised and scaled-down last year following “extensive” consultation. Khan criticised the boroughs for demanding both more homes and a smaller development: “The previous scheme had more housing and councillors were against it. This scheme has less housing and councillors are still against it.”
Discussing the amount of “corporate” offices in the proposal, Khan said City Hall research had not found evidence to suggest there would be a long-term fall in demand for office space after the pandemic. The site falls within the Central London Development Zone, a priority area for offices, he said. He also noted the plans provide as much affordable workspace as was created in Hackney during the past four years.
The decision comes after City Hall’s planning team said the mayor should approve the plans last week. They had recommended refusal of an earlier proposal for the site in 2016.
Lucy Rogers of Reclaim the Goodsyard told ELL that the decision was “unbearably depressing” but “predictable” and showed the flaws in London’s mayoral system. “The process this afternoon was clearly scripted. Mayor Khan came in with his decision already made.”
Many residents reacted to the decision with shock:
The Mayor’s decision cannot be appealed, but campaigners say they are exploring the idea of asking the Secretary of State to open a public enquiry.