Council planning chiefs last night gave developers the thumbs up to tear down the old Mecca Bingo hall on Hackney Road and turn it into luxury flats.
Campaigners battling to save the historic building said they were “disappointed” by the decision, but vowed to keep fighting.
Lucy Rogers, a member of Hackney Road Residents’ Group (HRRG), said: “We don’t think the application should have approved. It goes against the council’s own policies on affordable housing and building in a conservation area.”
The development is set to contain 20 per cent affordable housing, significantly less than the council’s 50 per cent target.
Rogers added: “We also think the financial viability of the proposals has not been fully examined. There has been no second opinion sought, unlike in the previous iteration of the plans.”
In April, the council’s planning committee delayed a decision on the application by developer Hackney Property Holdings (HPH), saying the designs needed more work.
The subsequent proposals have shaved off 80 square metres from the development, but opponents say claims that this is an improvement are unjustified.
Rogers said: “It may create less bulk on the Hackney Road side, but it means there will be one less affordable home.”
Of particular concern to HRRG is what it describes as the “unfair” nature of the entire planning system, with Rogers adding: “The process was not followed correctly, and the consultation on the revised plans was inconsistent.”
She said people are not given a fair chance to raise concerns, with limited time available at planning meetings on top of a “sketchy” consultation procedure: “The councillors told us we couldn’t talk to them, and the whole meeting yesterday was very brief – it was ‘There’s the vote’ and that was it. The whole system is unfair.”
Rogers quoted James Carney, the council surveyor in charge of assessing the scheme’s financial viability, as saying about the developer at last night’s meeting: “If we push them too hard, they’ll just build an office block.”
She added: “We feel this is proof that the council has completely lost its power, is bossed around by developers, and has been taken over by the developer mind-set.
HRRG pledged to continue its battle against HPH’s plans for the bingo hall, as well as campaigning for a “properly democratic planning process”.
Rogers said: “We need to get people in a headlock and change the system.”
Commenting on the decision to approve the application, Kim Wright, the council’s group director for neighbourhoods and housing, said: “Hackney’s planning committee resolved to grant planning approval for the Hackney Road development to go ahead pending the completion of a legal agreement and referral to the Greater London Authority.
“The committee heard representation from the local campaign group whose points were fully addressed by planning officers. The application was assessed as having met all of Hackney’s Development Plan policies as set out in the committee report and comments received throughout consultation on the planning application since October 2016 were fully taken into account by members whilst making their decision.”