London Mayor Sadiq Khan has given the go-ahead to controversial development plans for Bishopsgate Goodsyard. His decision, announced after a public hearing yesterday, is set to end almost a decade of planning uncertainty for the 10-acre City fringe site just north of Liverpool Street station, which has been substantially disused since it was devastated by fire in 1964.
The verdict, in line with City Hall planners’ recommendations but in the face of continued opposition from community groups and Tower Hamlets Council, was immediately welcomed by developers Hammerson and Ballymore, who took on the site in 2002 and were forced back to the drawing board after their original 2014 high-rise plans were universally rejected.
The Mayor’s decision was a “huge vote of confidence in central London after a challenging year,” said Hammerson UK director Robin Dobson, while Ballymore chairman and chief executive Sean Mulryan described the £800 million scheme as the “jewel in the crown of Shoreditch… a place designed with wellbeing in mind, where people want to live, work, and enjoy themselves.”
The proposal before the Mayor, by architects FaulknerBrowns, saw residential towers up to 46 storeys scrapped, more office and retail provision, a hotel, new cultural spaces and the affordable homes offer boosted to 50 per cent of the 500 homes proposed, reduced from 1,464 in the original plan. Heritage elements of the site, including the Grade II-listed Braithwaite Viaduct, would be restored, and a new “High Line”-style public park created.
More housing would mean taller buildings, Khan said, jousting with objectors at the hearing who, he said, complained about the number of homes proposed but also about the height and scale of the scheme.
The original plans, he said, had been rightly rejected. “They were too big and didn’t deliver enough for the community”. But he declared himself satisfied that “housing delivery has been optimised”, and noted that heritage watchdog Historic England had not lodged objections on heritage grounds.
And while the scheme’s almost 11,000 square metres of “affordable in perpetuity” workspace did not match Hackney’s borough plan requirements, it did represent almost a doubling of the amount of affordable workspace provided in the borough since 2015, he added.
Objectors’ concerns that the office-led development would be a “white elephant” as demand for workplaces change post-Covid were also ill-founded, he said. “There is not enough evidence to suggest that the demand for office space had reduced so significantly as to indicate a lack of support for new office development in Central London.”
Concerns about overshadowing of neighbouring homes should be addressed by the developers working with the councils and the GLA to reduce impact as the development progressed, Khan added, concluding that the scheme, offering the potential to create a “whole new urban quarter,” struck an “appropriate balance” with its benefits outweighing its negative impacts.
Reclaim the Goodsyard campaigners, who told Khan the development was out of keeping with the area and offered too little benefit to local people, remain unconvinced.
“Woe to the East End! Woe to London! Woe to Local Democracy. You have failed Londoners”, the campaign tweeted to the Mayor after the decision, and in a statement said the Mayor had “no concern for the scale of the impact or for the East End and its people and businesses – to the detriment of London as a whole”.
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