Plans to redevelop Bishopsgate Goodsyard have been labelled “obscene” and “lazy” at a public meeting in Shoreditch.
An audience of around 200 turned up to watch a Question Time-style debate at St Leonard’s Church to discuss the plans to build 1,400 homes on the landmark, with towers up to 46 storeys high.
The controversial plans have been slammed by organisers of the debate More Light More Power, which claims residents will suffer from a lack of sunlight and affordable housing.
Hackney mayor Jules Pipe struck the first blow.
“It is an obscenity that the plans are full of luxury housing,” he said. “The developers say they need that level of profit to build it, but I think this is untrue.”
Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs said: “We have plans for towers in Tower Hamlets, particularly the Isle of Dogs, which are huge, around 60 or 70 storeys.
“I am not against towers when they are in the right place, but we’ve allowed ourselves to get into a lazy state of mind where towers are the answer to everything.
“We need to have proper rules about where we build tall buildings in London.”
The plans for the goodsyard were called in by London Mayor Boris Johnson earlier this year due to its “strategic importance”, meaning Tower Hamlets and Hackney councils no longer have a say in whether permission is granted.
Panel member and property journalist Jonn Elledge argued that more homes needed to be built with a matter of urgency.
“It’s very easy to have a villain to blame, like councils and evil developers,” he said.
The point was also made that only 10% of the development was allocated for affordable housing, despite planning guidelines saying it should be 35%. The debate then moved into Government policy on affordable homes.
“There are 2,000 people in Hackney in temporary accommodation,” said Jules Pipe. “And how many of them can afford to buy a £450,000 starter home? Only the Government thinks they can.”
However, there was a glimmer of hope for those opposed to the build. If the plans were rejected by Boris Johnson, John Biggs suggested both Hackney and Tower Hamlets councils could work together to make something of the site.
Referring to British Rail’s former ownership of the goodsyard, he said: “It is publicly owned, and there may be a way of developing it bit-by-bit without bankrupting anyone.”
The developers declined an invitation to attend.
Shoreditch resident Andy Kantor, said: “ It is disappointing that the developers did not turn up to this meeting.
“In their early plans, the ‘small’ option was twice the size of the T building, which is the tallest in Shoreditch.
“They say they will build a park on the site, but if a 50-storey building is the price we pay for a park, we don’t want one.”
In a statement released earlier that day on behalf of developers Ballymore and Hammerson, the More Light More Power campaign was accused of “misrepresenting” the truth.
It said: “The More Light More Power campaign has highlighted in recent statements ‘facts where there can be no dispute’ regarding our proposed regeneration of the derelict site at the Bishopsgate Goodsyard.
“These ‘facts’ are clearly an attempt at misrepresenting all the benefits that we have been working hard to deliver alongside the community and planning authorities since 2013.”