‘Senseless’: Hackney Wick campaigners renew calls to halt Vittoria Wharf demolition

Protest: campaigners on Fish Island spell out ‘No LLDC’. Photograph: Save Hackney Wick

Campaigners trying to stop the imminent demolition of Vittoria Wharf have again urged Olympic legacy bigwigs to rethink the plans.

The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), which owns half the wharf, has approved an application to wipe it out and clear a path for two new bridges connecting Hackney Wick and Fish Island.

Many artists, writers and makers were evicted from their rented homes in Vittoria Wharf last year despite angry protests.

LLDC, which is overseen by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, says the new bridges will “meet a current and future need serving growing communities on both Fish Island and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park”.

But the Save Hackney Wick (SHW) campaign, set up to represent the community’s creatives, says the plans “make no sense” and do not chime with Sadiq Khan’s policies on transport and communities.

They also called on LLDC’s new chair, Network Rail chief Sir Peter Hendy, to “do something”.

At his confirmation hearing on 17 July, Hendy said he would ensure LLDC looks at how its plans are consistent with Sadiq Khan’s transport strategy.

A spokesperson for SHW said: “LLDC’s attack on an Asset of Community Value ignores the Mayor of London’s community-focused Good Growth scheme.

“With the new chair of the LLDC, Sadiq Khan must halt demolition and review these out-of-date plans so we can retain this vital place for the long term.

“LLDC won’t even tell us how much the bridges are going to cost – just that they are part of overall Olympic spending. There is a lot of unaccountable stuff going on.”

Under threat: Vittoria Wharf. Photograph: Save Hackney Wick

London Cycling Campaign’s Simon Munk criticised the bridge set to replace the wharf, saying: “This is a thriving area full of creative businesses and residents. The proposed road bridge goes directly against the Mayor’s new transport strategy and would turn a growing, popular ‘Liveable Neighbourhood’ into a rat-run.”

LLDC has current Hackney mayor Philip Glanville on its board – all mayors of the Olympic boroughs are automatically given a position – as well as the area’s former mayor Jules Pipe.

Pipe is now on the board in his new role as Sadiq Khan’s deputy mayor for planning, but campaigners are concerned that this link to Sadiq Khan is being ignored.

SHW’s spokesperson added: “We are alarmed that Jules Pipe has not taken our concerns to the Mayor of London, as we asked him to, and has refused to allow a review of the bridges.

“Pipe told us that he will ‘hold the LLDC to account’. Yet as an LLDC Board member he has not responded to any of the many concerns in our letters to the Board. And if our own elected Mayor has also been ignored, we can’t see any mechanism for holding the LLDC to account.”

Bethnal Green and Bow MP Rushanara Ali, Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs, and four London Assembly members wrote to LLDC in July to express their concerns about the plans for Vittoria Wharf.

In a letter to Jules Pipe, Mayor Biggs said: “I am fundamentally concerned at the apparent lack of consideration that the LLDC has given to genuine local representations against the wisdom of this bridge and the need for additional crossings.”

Biggs went on to say he still believed LLDC can “review the decision” and “pause construction” – a view backed by SHW.

When asked by the Citizen for its response to Biggs’ points, LLDC did not provide an answer. Instead, a spokesperson for the organisation said: “We do understand the concerns of some local residents and we have been at pains to listen to their comments and arguments.

“However, this is a long-standing issue that was first discussed as long ago as 2004. Planning permission for the bridges was granted in 2012 and detailed plans were approved overwhelmingly in April 2017.

“The bridges meet a current and future need serving growing communities on both Fish Island and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. They will help deliver the Mayor’s Healthy Streets approach by creating new routes for public transport and encouraging walking and cycling.

“The new road will have a street character with a width of 6.5 metres and a speed limit set at 20mph. Without the bridges, congestion will build on White Post Lane making the air quality worse.”