Iconic Holborn Studios under renewed threat of development

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Under threat: Holborn Studios on Eagle Wharf Road. Photograph: Holborn Studios

An iconic Hoxton photographic studio where stars such as Kate Moss and The Libertines were caught on film is facing yet another battle against developers.

The family-owned Holborn Studios, on Eagle Wharf Road, employs around 350 people and was locally listed by Hackney Council last year as a “heritage asset”.

But joint developers GHL (Eagle Wharf Road) Ltd want to partially demolish existing buildings and erect two blocks for a mixed-use scheme including 64 residential units and 4,218 square metres of commercial workspace.

In the proposals the 26-metre Victorian chimney and a three-storey industrial building on the north-west of the site are retained.

Managing Director of Holborn Studios Billy McCartney, whose family has run the studios since 1989, told the Hackney Citizen the proposals “would not work”.

They [the developers] have made it seem like we are working with them We are not, we are not included,” he said.

“In some of the studios they have put columns in the middle of the room, obviously that’s no good for a photography studios.”

When asked about the local listing bestowed on the studios by Hackney Council, McCartney said it had only received “a throwaway comment” in the planning application.

Affordable housing

Of the 64 residential units, targeted at “individuals who wish to benefit from urban living”, 22 per cent will be ‘affordable’, falling short of the borough’s target of 50 per cent.

Planning documents state that the residential units would “enable” the inclusion of ‘affordable’ employment space which the developers claim would not otherwise be viable.

But only 10 per cent of the commercial floorspace will be offered at ‘affordable’ rents, with the “precise terms” to be negotiated with the council.

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The Libertines in a photograph taken at Holburn Studios. Photograph: Roger Sargent

Round 2

The cluster of industrial buildings – which sit within the Regent’s Canal Conservation Area – first came under threat in 2012 when owners Gold Property Developments applied to demolish the buildings to build “state of the art” flats to cater to the expansion of Tech City.

A successful campaign against the redevelopment, backed by Hackney Mayor Jules Pipe, led to the previous owners selling the premises on to GHL (Eagle Wharf Road) in 2014.

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Before and after: images showing how the proposals might look. Photograph: Friends of Regent’s Canal

Friends of Regent’s Canal, a campaign group that works to protect the industrial heritage of the waterway objects to the bulk of the proposed buildings, the loss of historic buildings and the damage to existing workforces on the premises.

Chair of the campaign group Ian Shacklock said: “This is a vicious assault on a thriving local community. This is not a brownfield site. The buildings are being put to imaginative and productive use.

“The proposed replacements are sterile and bland. I cannot think of anything positive to say about these plans. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!”

GHL (Eagle Wharf Road) is a joint venture by development companies Executec, Galliard Homes, AR V Investments and Gleneldon Developments. The developers have been approached for comment.

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