Hackney Council officers are recommending that councillors on the Town Hall’s planning committee lodge an objection to the Bishopsgate Goodsyard scheme.
The development has long been the focus of opposition by campaigners, with the council now set to join those objecting to the 500 homes, over 130 square metres of business space, hotel, restaurants and cafes to be built on the site of the former goods depot, while continuing to support the development in principle.
In a report to councillors, planning officers warned of the impact on local heritage of three planned plots of the scheme, with the Goodsyard surrounded by five conservation areas and with two Grade II-listed structures on the site, as well as raising concerns over its design.
The report reads: “The extent of design and heritage concerns raised are considerable. The bulk and massing of Plot 1 in both the maximum and minimum parameters is considered excessive and would not be mitigated by the illustrative approaches proposed in the design and access statement or the submitted design code.
“At Plot 2, the design of the proposed building is such that it would have a harmful impact upon its immediate and wider heritage setting including the listed Oriel Gateway, and the proposed approach to wind mitigation is considered to detract from the design of the building and exacerbate its impacts.
“Whilst the massing of Plot 3 is considered broadly acceptable in the minimum parameter, it is too large for its context in the maximum parameter and in both scenarios its relationship with the street edge is unsatisfactory. Whilst the benefits of the scheme are recognised and the principle of the proposed development at the site supported, the extent and nature of design and heritage harm identified above are such that these matters remain a significant concern for the council.”
Council officers have acknowledged that the proposed scheme would provide a “host of public benefits to Hackney”, including affordable workspace, the bringing-in of small independent shops, and the “reactivation” of a currently derelict part of inner London.
The plans received 360 objections in Hackney in total, including on the unaffordability of planned homes, on overdevelopment and excessive density, a concern that the area is losing its character and identity and becoming “more generic and City-like”, and that the application should be decided locally by Hackney and Tower Hamlets councils.
The East End Trades Guild also warned that the development will lead to “further displacement” of residents and businesses due to the up to thirteen years of major building works as well as the “resulting corporate, office-led environment which simply doesn’t fit the current trends in terms of demand for workspace”.
The Reclaim the Goodsyard campaign in its submission also argued that only 18 per cent of the planned homes would be for social rent, calling out such a level as “woefully inadequate”.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan will ultimately make the final decision on the Goodsyard next month, while Tower Hamlets are understood to have raised no objections to it.
Reacting to the report, Hackney Society chair Nick Perry said: “Having emerged from the ignominy of having their first scheme recommended for refusal by Greater London Authority officers in the dying days of Boris’s tenure as Mayor, [developers] Hammerson and Ballymore seemed to return to the drawing board with a genuine degree of goodwill extended to the boroughs and community groups.
“With each iteration on the brand new scheme we saw the result of Hackney flexing their muscles as the ratio of hotel, residential and office space got tweaked – seemingly to satisfy the boroughs.
“When a planning decision is taken away from the local boroughs it can give them extra confidence to say what they really think as it won’t be up to them to foot the largest part of any defence bill should the applicant seek a public inquiry in the wake of another refusal.
“But even so, it is with some shock that we see a report from Hackney’s planning officers objecting to the scale of development and harm to heritage on all but one of the plots on the Hackney side of the scheme’s border.
“It is a tragic shame that, six years on, we again face the moment of determination with at least one borough seriously unhappy, when there seemed to be a genuine desire to get something everyone wanted.”
A spokesperson for the Hammerson and Ballymore joint venture said: “We welcome Hackney Council’s planning officers’ support in principle for our revised planning application for The Goodsyard, which delivers on many of the council’s objectives for this strategically important brownfield site, in particular the need for more affordable workspace in Hackney.
“We have listened carefully to feedback on our original proposal. After extensive consultation with Hackney and Tower Hamlets councils, the local community and the Greater London Authority, we believe our revised plans, which greatly reduce the height and density across the site, provide for a balanced mixed-use scheme that will deliver a huge range of benefits to the local area and London long into the future.
“We acknowledge that Hackney’s planning officers do have some outstanding concerns regarding certain aspects of the proposal, but believe that our high-quality buildings are appropriate, reflect the large number of constraints across the site, and make possible the wide range of benefits that the scheme provides. We look forward to highlighting these benefits to Hackney and Tower Hamlets members, and subsequently the Mayor of London.”
Hackney’s planning committee will consider officers’ recommendations on 16 November.