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East End Preservation Society Bulletin No.7
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‘A new Society is needed to promote an urban vision which is not governed by short term and personal profit, but which evokes and embraces the communal aims which enshrine the spirit and character of east London.’
Dan Cruickshank, 27 November 2013

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SPECIAL BULLETIN:

TOWERING FOLLY


THE BISHOPSGATE GOODSYARD DEVELOPMENT AND HOW TO OBJECT

THE APPLICATION AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE

Proposals for the development of the Bishopsgate Goodsyard site have now been submitted for planning. The visualisations of the massive scheme paint a bleak picture - with huge towers overwhelming the surrounding, fragile, historic neighbourhoods. You can see the application here and read more about it on the Spitalfields Life blog.

The documentation for the application is also vast (running to over 1000 pages). There is no effort to make any of this material digestible (no executive summaries for example) and the consultation period of 21 days clearly woefully inadequate. In our view, this approach is cynical - and is designed to minimise public engagement with the plans.

In our view, the Bishopsgate Goodsyard proposals represent the worst type of exploitative development, development shaped by short-term agenda and marked by a callous approach to context. Should a development of this size and scale be permitted - it will mark a new and disturbing chapter in the expansion of the City into the east end, expansion that threatens to destroy the life, character and diversity that makes this area special.
See the excellent More Light More Power website for more information on the proposals and how to object
HOW TO OBJECT
 
This is intended as a clear and simple guide on how to object to the Bishopsgate Goodsyard Proposals.  The formal deadline for comments is 8 November and it is best to submit your letters and emails by this date. However, we understand that objections will be accepted until the New Year.
 
It is important that you use your own words because if Tower Hamlets and Hackney councils receive lots of identical responses, they will treat these objections as one in their report, devaluing the number of objections received. It is therefore just as important that you add your own, personal reasons for opposing this development.
 
At some point in your response state clearly that you are objecting to the application, so there can be no doubt that they should take your correspondence as opposition.
 
The following are known as material considerations and are valid reasons for Councils to refuse applications:
 
1. Height
 
This is one of the key points to make. Two of the proposed buildings are 48 and 46 storeys tall (plus service equipment on the top which roughly equates to another 4 storeys).
 
Two of the other towers are 30 and 34 storeys tall (plus service equipment on the top).
 
The height is dramatically out of scale with the surrounding area.
 
It will harm the setting of the surrounding 5 conservation areas and their many listed buildings.
 
Even a 20 storey building in this area would be a ‘tall building’.
 
2. Design
 
The new buildings do not respond to the character of the surrounding areas and as generic modern tower blocks will appear out of place.
 
3. Massing
 
The massing of the proposed development is overwhelming.
 
The surrounding areas are defined by comparatively small plot sizes and have much lower buildings.
 
The proposed buildings will not integrate with the existing urban grain because of their disproportionate massing.
 
4. Level of Demolition
 
A large amount of 19th-century historic fabric surviving on the site will be demolished including many of the brick arches (labelled in the application as vaults V1-V11) and the handsome Victorian wall that runs along Commercial Street.
 
5. Impact on the surrounding area
 
Light levels in surrounding areas will be seriously compromised. Casting much of the area to the north into shadow.
 
43% of the existing surrounding buildings surveyed by the developer’s consultants will suffer major loss of sunlight. Obviously, this is not an acceptable level of impact.
 
The development will also affect the character of East London around the Bishopsgate Goodsyard site. This is a colourful area, of markets, small businesses, creativity and innovation that only exists because the existing urban grain is small scale and historic.
 
Hackney and Tower Hamlets councils have published their own planning guidance for the Goodsyard site. This sets out key requirements for the new development, one of which is that it should ‘integrate with the surrounding area, taking into account the local character.’ On page 99 of the Design and Access Statement the applicant duly agrees that the first principle of their development is to ‘ensure the site integrates with the surrounding area, taking into account the local character.’ However, in section 3.1.20 of the same document the applicant says ‘It [the proposed development] will be a new place with its own distinct scale, identity and character; it will not attempt to become a seamless part of the existing neighbourhood.’
 
This is a direct contradiction of their earlier statement and a rejection of the planning guidance to which they should adhere.
 
Housing Mix
 
More details of the affordable housing provision for the new development can be found in the affordable housing statement submitted by the applicant. We will posting more information on this element of the scheme once we have it.
 
Additional information
 
There are seven ‘Townscape Character Areas’ [areas of distinct architectural identity] outlined by the applicant which are listed below. We have summarised what they say about how each area will be affected by the development. If you live in any of these areas, you might want to comment on whether you think they are correct!
 
1. The Bishopsgate Goodsyard Site is described by the developer as having ‘low sensitivity to change’ (i.e. they consider that its townscape is of little value) and that the Grade II listed structures are ‘remnants of utilitarian structures in an immediate context of poor urban townscape quality’.
 
2. Shoreditch is characterised by the developers as having ‘moderate sensitivity to change’ because ‘The townscape settings of the grade I and II listed buildings [here] have a densely developed urban setting on the City fringe.’
 
3. Bethnal Green Road is defined by the applicants as having ‘moderate sensitivity to change’ - this is a way of saying that it will not be greatly affected by the proposed massive new development.
 
4. Spitalfields is described, surprisingly, as having ‘moderate sensitivity to change’ despite the fact that this is an area with an extraordinarily high concentration of listed buildings - and one of the most important historic districts of London.
 
5. The City (Liverpool Street Station, Spitalfields Market) again is described as having ‘moderate sensitivity to change’.
 
6. Boundary Estate (Arnold Circus) - one of the most interesting, complete, important and revered late 19th-/ early 20th-century philanthropic housing schemes is lumped into the category of having ‘moderate sensitivity to change.’
 
7. Eastern Fringe (towards Bethnal Green) is dismissed as having ‘low sensitivity to change’ due to the fact that it is further away from the site and its ‘overall piecemeal townscape.’
 
Where to send your objection
 
The planning officers to send your objection to are:

Nasser Farooq: planningandbuilding@towerhamlets.gov.uk

Quoting application numbers: PA/14/02011 and PA/14/02096
You can post your objection direct on the website, by following this link

and
 
Russell Smith: planningconsultation@hackney.gov.uk

Quoting application numbers: 2014/2425 and 2014/2427
You can post your objection direct on the website, by following this link
 
Both Tower Hamlets and Hackney Council will be potentially deciding the applications.
 
Copy your objection to the Secretary of State
 
This application is so potentially damaging to the east London, both in scale and impact, that we believe strongly that it should be decided by the Secretary of State at a public inquiry, not by the local planning authorities. Anyone can ask for an application to be decided by the Secretary of State (it is called a ‘call in’ request) so we recommend you email Eric Pickles and voice your concerns: eric.pickles@communities.gsi.gov.uk
Development of the City Fringes: The View of the East End Preservation Society

The City 'fringe' is a complex tapestry of historic neighbourhoods, with unique pockets of early development, whether residential industrial or commercial. It has been bashed about, particularly during the last century, but its character remains strong — due largely to efforts made over the last 40 years to protect and rejuvenate existing buildings (whether the early 18th-century Huguenot houses in Spitalfields or the 19th-century warehouses in Shoreditch).

It is this fine graining, this texture and atmosphere which makes it appealing as a place to live and work, suiting a wide range of uses. The area is 'cool' and interesting because it is different, and because of the flexibility of the historic building stock and its innate capacity for reinvention. All too often architects and developers seem happy to exploit the legacy of conservation-led regeneration but not so willing to acknowledge or respect it.
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The East End Preservation Society is for people who care about the East End and are concerned about the future of its built environment.

You can email the Society here and join in discussions on Facebook and Twitter

You can subscribe via this link and you can read our past Bulletins by following the archive links below:

Bulletin No.1 (December 2013)
Bulletin No.2 (January 2014)

Bulletin No.3 (February 2014)
Bulletin No.4 (July 2014)
Bulletin No.5 (August 2014)
Bulletin No.6 (September 2014)
Copyright © 2014 East End Preservation Society, All rights reserved.


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