‘Don’t just bung in a cafe’: Councillors call on developer to make Worship Square building ‘special’

Artist’s impression of Worship Square development. Photograph: Bridges Fund Management.

The chair of Hackney’s planning committee has called for a new development looking out onto planned council improvements for a Shoreditch square to be as “special” as it can possibly be.

Worship Square, on the junction with Worship Street and Clifton Street, is to see £600,000 worth of pedestrianisation and public realm improvements, at the same time as Quick and Tower House adjacent to it is to be revamped in a joint venture between Hobart Partners and Bridges Fund Management.

The two separate 1980s-90s blocks will be demolished in place of a blue-ceramic fronted office block, near what the council intends to be a newly-pedestrianised area of Clifton Street, removing the existing traffic island and adding 12 new trees.

Cllr Vincent Stops (Lab, Hackney Central), chair of the planning committee,  said: “It is very rare that we have an opportunity for a new public square and a new building that butts onto it. I don’t think that we’ve ever seen that in Hackney.

“I just want to be assured that this building in terms of its public-facing ground floor onto Worship Square is as good as it can be in terms of a great outlook and good neighbours of that public square.

“Just bunging a cafe in there isn’t going to be enough. I’d like to know what is going to be on that public square, because this is the first public square that this borough has built in God knows how many years, and we’ve got a brand new spanking building next door to it that can afford to fund something decent.”

Worship Square, October 2018. Photograph: Hackney Council.

In response, Make Architects said that their plans so far involve combining retail or coffee bar or bookstore with meeting areas or informal work areas, with the boundaries blurred in so-called “inside/outside” style.

It is understood that the council will be seeking a contribution of at least £200,000 from the developers via a Section 106 agreement.

A representative from Bridges said: “We purposely did not go down the route of having subdivision on the ground floor to effectively box retail or something else in there, with multiple uses that don’t talk to each other.

“Actually we will try to do exactly the opposite, with a vision that interacts with the square and the public, and everything that goes around it.

“What’s happening with the square down the line and how we can work with Hackney in terms of open public events that could take place on the square could be supported, though that is a very different discussion.

“If you take other examples of Hackney where they successfully achieved that, we would like to follow suit.”

When Cllr Stops pointed out that there aren’t many examples of such schemes in the borough, Bridges pointed to schemes on Old Street, with cafes on the ground floor used by both the public and office users.

EDIT: This article was updated at 14:43 on 05/07/2019. The piece originally had the development as a joint venture between Make Architects and Bridges.