Sunday, 2 August 2015

A closer look at the Bishopsgate Goodsyard development

There’s a pattern.

Across London we are witnessing flouted development polices, increased land prices, waived affordable housing quotas, breached height limits, and sadly, dismissed interests of the community.

The Bishopsgate Goodsyard development in Shoreditch is no different.

The joint developers Hammerson and Ballymore Group say the project will consist of more than 1450 homes, 600,000 square feet of office space and 5.5 acres of new “public realm”, which will include a 2.5 acre raised park as well as other facilities. Perhaps most interestingly, it is speculated to create more than 5,000 jobs for the local community.

All photos by Jason Di-Candilo @billthebadger
Despite the proposed economic injection though, plans are characteristically controversial.

The ‘residential blocks’ will comprise of seven towers; the two highest will be a 43-storey and 47-storey skyscraper.

Not consistent with the image of hipster Shoreditch known for its independent bars and cafes, and its tech and thrift culture, the local community are concerned by the lack of hindsight.

The 10 acre site, which is the largest brownfield site close to the city, will cost £800 million to develop and is being accused of ‘killing the soul’ of Shoreditch if plans persist.


The East End Preservation Society has called the plans “dramatically out of scale with the surrounding area” and said the escalating towers will block out the light to two-fifths of nearby buildings.

Talking of Shoreditch’s transformation and growth over the years, Will Palin who chairs the Society said Shoreditch had been “allowed to happen by an organic process using cheap office space for creative start-ups and small businesses… It has grown in the way a big, clumsy, homogenous development would not allow.”

Perhaps most alarmingly, the proposal only includes a 10 per cent affordable housing allocation, significantly below the 50 per cent target provision in the two boroughs the development straddles: Tower Hamlets and Hackney.


The plans aim to restore the arches of the listed Braithwaite Viaduct, London’s second oldest surviving railway depot dating back to 1839. The site has been largely unused and derelict since a 1964 fire, but local opponents insist the proposal will destroy the Shoreditch we know and love.

The Mayor of Hackney, Jules Pipe, has issued an impassioned plea for people to sign his petition   against the Bishopsgate Goodsyard development.

He said: “These luxury flats will cast a shadow over the whole of Tech City and threaten to damage the local creative economy. The repercussions could be so severe they lead to the loss of thousands of local jobs.”

Mr Pipe’s petition urges London Mayor Boris Johnson to oppose the towers, and has been supported by Ben Southworth, the founder of the ‘Tech City Says No!’ campaign against the Goodsyard development.

Mr Southworth, whose company 3-Beards organises events for London start-ups and is based in a “innovation lab” five minutes walk from where the skyscrapers will be, claimed “the whole Shoreditch triangle” could be overshadowed.


The project director of Hammerson, Rob Allen, has explained that Shoreditch, by nature, has always been “constantly reinventing itself”. Because the site has the East London line, the Central line and suburban overground lines running through, alongside or under it, “regeneration will have to involve high-rise buildings to make it viable,” Mr Allen said.

In the meantime, planning permission for other Shoreditch skyscrapers, including Principal Tower on Worship Street and the Avant-Garde Tower on Bethnal Green Road, have already been approved.

It seems the more we build, the less we support and unite our community. Entire council estates are being flattened to make room for luxury apartments. Homes are being replaced with investment units to be sold overseas, and rarely inhabited.

We don’t want this for Shoreditch.

Let’s get vocal and get heard. Now is the time. Sign the petition here!

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Leah Davies is a purpose-filled writer, human rights activist and coach for budding wordsmiths, who is driven to cultivate change through our stories. Her social business Paper Planes Connect is a place to celebrate our difference and to unite in our sameness. Using her experience as a journalist and international development worker, she supports the social conscious to platform their voice and create change, both big and small.




Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Saving Shoreditch with our Collective Voice

The failure of a public consultation process has called for collective action across London’s East End.

That is how change is brought about by the way. By the masses uniting and converging on something they deeply believe in.

This is exactly what happened on November 27th, 2013. The anonymous group called the East End Preservation Society born out of disdain and discontent for the commercial and residential development plans, which were announced for Shoreditch with no discussion or input by the local community.

The society had something to say, very loudly and very clearly: That heritage will always come first before height.

The society was in fact responsible for the rescue of The Marquisof Lansdowne pub, which was intended to be demolished by the Geffrye Museum.

“In this climate, where democratic decision-making is being undermined and public consultation reduced to a cynical public relations exercise… this was a joyful exception to the rule, proving that strength of public feeling can still be successful in saving an old building,” it was reported in their website.

All photos by Jason Di-Candilo @billthebadger

 “If we can work collectively in large numbers, we can have a stronger influence upon the culture of development that threatens old buildings and be more powerful in our individual campaigns to save them,” they added.

At the centre of their concerns is the Hammerson and Ballymore’s gigantic £800 million Bishopsgate Goodsyard scheme, presently one of the largest derelict sites in inner London. It is proposed to add 3.7 sq ft of residential, retail and office space including up to 2,000 new homes. That’s six large towers, rising from a height of 25 storeys to two vast 40-plus-storey blocks measuring almost 600ft high.

The problem?

The site is home to a low-rise historic neighbourhood containing no fewer than five conservation areas and is primarily defined by low- to medium-rise brick, light-industrial warehouses and residential terraces.

In fact, it was formerly the home of Bishopsgate station, which was built in 1840 and was in regular use until it was closed and converted into a goods yard in 1881. The depot was in operation until it was largely destroyed by a fire in 1964, after which a long period of dereliction ensued. After an equally contentious planning and legal battle in the early 2000s, most of the remaining structure was demolished in 2003 to make way for the new East London line extension, which the current Shoreditch High Street station built on the site serves.


 The scheme represents much more than actually meets the eye, the Society explains.

It represents the endless controversial debates around tall buildings and affordable housing, and it also touches on wider contentious issues like regeneration, gentrification, employment, social and cultural exclusion, urban identity and the adequacy of the planning system. Therefore, whatever happens at Bishopsgate Goodsyard will have an influence that stretches far beyond its borders they warn.

The Society also claims that “43 per cent of the existing surrounding buildings surveyed by the developer’s consultants will suffer major loss of sunlight” and that “a large amount of 19th century historic fabric surviving on the site will be demolished” if current plans go ahead.

They also offer a blunt cautionary statement to planners: “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,” according to their website.


Jules Pipe, the Mayor of Hackney, issued an impassioned plea for people to sign his petition against the Bishopsgate Goodsyard development in February.

“These luxury flats will cast a shadow over the whole of Tech City and threaten to damage the local creative economy. The repercussions could be so severe they lead to the loss of thousands of local jobs.”

Mr Pipe added: “It is totally out of scale for Shoreditch, and the whole development’s 10 per cent affordable housing figure is derisory.”

“It has taken twenty years or more for Shoreditch and Brick Lane to develop into the areas they are. It has been hard won, and is now something, which brings economic and social success to the local community. This development promises to severely damage all of that success in a way which cannot be overturned,” he explained.

The East End Preservation Society invites all people who care about the East End and are concerned about the future of its built environment to join their community to help the collective voice get heard.


 Will you join?

Question: How we can act collectively, like a true community, to stand up for our neighbourhood? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.


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Leah Davies is a purpose-filled writer, human rights activist and coach for budding wordsmiths, who is driven to cultivate change through our stories. Her social business Paper Planes Connect is a place to celebrate our difference and to unite in our sameness. Using her experience as a journalist and international development worker, she supports the social conscious to platform their voice and create change, both big and small.






Friday, 12 June 2015

Say Bye Bye to Affordable Housing

Increased and imminent development in London’s East End will not only change the face of our neighbourhood irrevocably, it will also sky rocket the price of affordable housing.

Looking at Shoreditch alone, the planned development projects of Principal Place, Avarde Garde, Shoreditch Village, TheGoodsyard, The Stage and Norton Folgate will bring 3,051 new housing units across 5.5m sq ft of new residential, retail and office space.

This is alarming for several reasons.

Firstly, what impact will this have on Shoreditch’s affordable housing supply?

All photos by Jason Di-Candilo @billthebadger 

Hackney Council has an affordable housing policywhich was designed to make the best possible use of existing housing and new homes to help address local housing needs and aspirations, and help build mixed, sustainable communities.

It mandates that 50% of all new developments from 2011 must consist of ‘affordable housing’. And when we say ‘affordable’, it is defined as a percentage of prevailing market rates. For example, a one-bedroom flat is considered ‘affordable’ if a tenant pays up to 70% of its market rate.

However, planning guidance produced for The Goodsyard, which will add 3.7 sq ft of residential, retail and office space including up to 2,000 new homes, specifies that 35% of its residential units (or up to 700 units) will be affordable (according to the Londonist May 2015).

The Principal Place is even worse. The development received approval in August 2011 and only 39 of its 243 apartments – which is 13% - are actually ‘affordable’.

The plans clearly have no regard for the affordable housing policy and what constitutes ‘affordable’ is inconsistent.


 Meg Miller, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, recently spoke on the issue and said: “In Hackney more people rent privately than own their property, while the majority rent from a council or housing association. Those who rent privately are spending more than half their wages on rent, whilst prices over the last decade have increased by nearly 125%.”

Aside from those who own their home, everyone else is caught in a trap. Potential purchasers are priced out, private tenants are seeing rents escalate (and many now sharing rooms with strangers), and even social housing rents are difficult for those on the lowest wages.”

The fact that many so called ‘affordable homes’ are out of reach of working Londoners shows that the affordability “criteria” is far removed from reality. The notion of affordable has moved from an income ratio to one focused on market rents. This is nonsense,” she added.

Public services in the borough are also under great pressure at the moment and we want to know what impact 3,000 plus new housing units will have on the system?


 Alex Rhys-Taylor, deputy director of the Centre for Urban and CommunityResearch at Goldsmiths University of London, similarly asks: “Will there be new public services in the area to cater for this? People are waiting three or four weeks sometimes for a doctor’s appointment. They are struggling to deal with [density] at the moment.”

According to the records of property agency Sitrling Ackroyd, which is located centrally to the six development sites, prices have been steadily rising in the East End for some time. In Shoreditch, residential buyers paid an average of £541 per sq ft in 2007, compared with £900-£1,200 per sq ft last year. There are similar statistics for Hackney Central climbing from an average of £359 per sq ft in 2010 to £609 per sq ft last year.

Multiple local groups are vocalising their disdain for the planned developments, one in particular is the East End Preservation Society, which was launched on November 27, 2014. One of the society’s founders, historian and broadcaster Dan Cruikshank declared at its opening event last year that the East End had become “an unsavoury developers’ playground”. He singled out The Goodsyard as a valuable site that had been “sat on” by developers until property market conditions suited them.


 The more we delve into these development projects, what we know for sure is that the scale of change that Shoreditch will see over the next year will certainly be unprecedented and unlike anything London has experienced before.


Call to Action

If you are just as concerned as us, join the East End Preservation Society. Change speaks in numbers so let’s come together to express our dissatisfaction.

Keep on writing those letters and emails too to London’s Mayor Borris Johnson while you’re at it:

Boris Johnson
Mayor of London
Greater London Authority
London SE1 2AA

Telephone: 020 7983 4100
Fax: 020 7983 4057


Are you just as alarmed as us by the impact on affordable housing in Shoreditch? Tell us why.

Share your thoughts below.

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Leah Davies is a purpose-filled writer, human rights activist and coach for budding wordsmiths, who is driven to cultivate change through our stories. Her social business Paper Planes Connect is a place to celebrate our difference and to unite in our sameness. Using her experience as a journalist and international development worker, she supports the social conscious to platform their voice and create change, both big and small.