Vittoria Wharf: Campaigners launch final bid to halt imminent demolition

Artists and residents from Vittoria Wharf

Evicted: former residents of Vittoria Wharf. Photograph: Kirsten Allen

Campaigners are making a last-ditch attempt to prevent Vittoria Wharf from being bulldozed to make way for two new bridges connecting Hackney Wick and Fish Island.

The demolition is set to start this month, according to an announcement made in December by Balfour Beatty, the development partner of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC).

LLDC owns half of the wharf and plans to tear part of it down to create a new footbridge in place of the existing Monier Road footbridge, which in turn would be replaced with a new road bridge.

Vittoria Wharf was previously home to many writers, artists and makers, but they were evicted two years ago despite protests.

LLDC, which is overseen by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, says the new bridges will “maximise access to the facilities and developments in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park” and “improve historically deprived areas”.

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

But the Save Hackney Wick campaign, set up to represent the community’s creatives, says the plans go against Khan’s key pledges to improve air quality and support the creative industries.

Caroline Russell, a Green Party London Assembly member, supports the campaign and sent a letter to the Khan in December criticising a recent review of the bridges by Transport for London.

The review gave the bridges the green light but Russell called it “disappointing” and said it offered no new scrutiny, ignored alternatives and failed to explain the plans from a transport perspective.

Ralph Ward, a former senior Olympic Planning and Regeneration adviser, also stated his objections to the demolition of Vittoria Wharf earlier this month.

In a letter to Jules Pipe, London’s Deputy Mayor for Planning, he said: “There is no rational need for two bridges across this short stretch of river, particularly given the collateral costs attached.

“Vittoria Wharf is now an asset of community value, providing what was one of the most fruitful collection of artist studios in east London… the ‘connectivity’ provided by the bridge is revealed to have nugatory strategic value.”

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs, Bethnal Green and Bow MP Rushanara Ali and five London Assembly members have also written to Pipe calling for a review of the plans.

A petition launched by Save Hackney Wick three weeks ago in a final bid to halt the demolition of Vittoria Wharf, has gathered over 8,000 signatures.

Campaigners also claimed recently that, despite community consultations being held, the bridges were never negotiable.

Lucinda Rogers at Ridley Road Market. Photograph: Patricia Niven

Lucinda Rogers at Ridley Road Market. Photograph: Patricia Niven

Lucy Rogers, artist and spokesperson for Save Hackney Wick and an illustrator, told the Citizen: “I received an email from the East Wick and Sweetwater developers that said there was never any question that the bridges would not be built.”

LLDC awarded the contract to develop the new East Wick and Sweetwater neighbourhoods in the Olympic Park to Places for People and Balfour Beatty in 2015.

Rogers added: “It was a lie that there was a fair community consultation and we feel appalled that there is no democracy attached to this planning decision.”

The Legacy Communities Scheme (LCS), which granted planning permission for the bridge in 2012, says it undertook extensive consultation with the public.

Campaigners have also called on Hackney’s Mayor Philip Glanville to use his seat on the LLDC board to influence the proposals for the bridges and criticised his silence on the matter.

In September, a spokesperson for the Mayor said: “We’ve got nothing to add. The site isn’t in Hackney and is an issue for the LLDC’s planning committee, which the Mayor does not sit on.”

Nima Teranchi, a former Vittoria Wharf resident and Save Hackney Wick campaigner, said: “The bridges don’t actually fall under Mayor Glanville’s domain as Vittoria Wharf is just on the other side of the border in Tower Hamlets.

“But it would be good to see him come down on the side of Tower Hamlets Mayor, John Biggs, who has objected to the bridges.”

Glanville has been approached for comment but has so far failed to respond.