Last minute objections to a proposed mega Tesco were being lodged as the Citizen’s Spring 2009 issue went to press.
Tesco’s proposed Aurora development in Hackney Central comprises a new hypermarket on the grocer’s Morning Lane site, as well as three green and white glazed tower blocks containing a total of 134 flats and reaching a height of 13 storeys.
Building conservationists fear the development will damage views from the historic churchyard of St John at Hackney, which lies behind St Augustine’s Tower in a conservation area.
Hackney Historic Buildings Trust trustee Laurie Elks said: “The proposals are a massive development that will enclose and change the character of a green lung and a very special space in the heart of Hackney.”
Rev. Rob Wickham, the Rector of Hackney, said: “As a church we are very concerned about the current proposals. What is pretty much a white clad wall will be erected on one side of the churchyard.
“We are concerned that this will lead to loss of light in the winter and evenings – the times when the churchyard feels at its most vulnerable as a place for people to walk through.
“The churchyard is the main thoroughfare for people to access Homerton Hospital and City and Hackney Mental Health Trust from the station, so we are talking about people who are already vulnerable.”
The bundle of supporting documents Tesco has submitted to the Council’s Planning and Redevelopment office contains images of what the high rises will look like from vantage points on Mare Street and Amhurst Road – but none from the churchyard.
This is despite the fact that government planning guidance stresses that developers must take account of the effects their plans will have on neighbouring conservation areas.
Tesco’s original plans for redeveloping the site involved just one block built in a stepped tower or ziggurat design. But these were scrapped in favour of buildings with a greater total housing capacity after Tesco said that its initial plans were not financially viable.
Tesco also cited alleged comments by Council planning officers, to the effect that its ziggurat design was “too reminiscent of a waterfront style development” and that they were “too concerned with daylight and sunlight issues.”
Rev. Wickham said: “Tesco have obviously done their sums and found that they have to have an extra 40 homes from somewhere. The fact that it’s now a blanket wall rather than a stepping stone wall concerns me.”
The supermarket chain describes its new proposals, which would be built in conjunction with Spen Hill, Tesco’s housing subsidiary, as simpler in design. A spokesperson for the company said: “Tesco should be applauded as one of the few companies bringing forward new developments in the current financial climate.”
He added that the new plans were popular with the public – but the Citizen has been contacted by residents who said they preferred the original design.
The grocer denies the towers will adversely impact upon views from the churchyard behind St Augustine’s, which is Hackney’s oldest building, dating from the 13th century.
Tesco’s proposals, described by the Council as a “major large-scale planning application”, would also involve substantial redevelopment of the area surrounding the Morning Lane site, with the demolition of buildings on Mare Street and the construction of 645 square metres of office space and eight small units suitable for cafés or restaurants.
Supporting “opportunities for tall buildings” is listed as an objective of the Council’s Hackney Central Action Plan.
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