Land known as Bishopsgate Goods Yard (aka Goodsyard)

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Bishopsgate Goodsyard site

LBH: 2014/2425 and 2014/2427 LBTH: PA/14/02011 and PA/14/02096 - 7 Dec 2015

OUTLINE PLANNING PERMISSION & LISTED BUILDING CONSENT - An OUTLINE application for the comprehensive mixed use redevelopment of the site comprising: - Residential (Class C3) comprising up to 1,356 residential units; - Business Use (Class B1) - up to 65,859 sqm (GIA); - Retail, financial and professional services, restaurants and cafes and hot food takeaways (Class A1, A2, A3 and A5) - up to 17,499 sqm (GIA) of which only 2,184 m² (GIA) can be used as Class A5; - Non-residential Institutions (Class D1) - up to 495 sqm (GIA); - Assembly and Leisure (Class D2) - up to 661 sqm (GIA); - Public conveniences (sui generis) - up to 36 sqm (GIA); - Ancillary and plant space - up to 30,896 sqm (GIA); - Basement - up to 8,629 sqm (GIA); - Formation of new pedestrian and vehicular access and means of access and circulation within the site; and - Provision of 22,642 sqm of new public open space and landscaping. The application proposes a total of 12 buildings that range in height, with the highest being 177.6 m AOD and the lowest being 23.6 m AOD. With all matters reserved save that FULL DETAILS are submitted for alterations to and the partial removal of existing structures on the site and the erection of three buildings for residential (Class C3), namely Plot C (ground level, plus 26-30 storeys, plus plant); Plot F (ground level, plus 46 storeys, plus plant); Plot G (ground level, plus 38 storeys, plus plant) comprising up to 940 of the total residential units; and retail and food and drink uses (A1, A2, A3, A5); and use of the ground and basement levels of the Braithwaite Viaduct for retail and food and drink / community uses (A1, A2, A3, A5/D1). Works to and use of the Oriel and adjoining structures for retail and food and drink uses (A1, A2, A3, A5). For that part of the site within LB Hackney, the proposed development comprises the following mix of uses: - Up to 64,330 m² (GIA) of Residential use (Class C3); - Up to 49,189 m² (GIA) of Business Use (Class B1); - Up to 6,515 m² (GIA) of Retail Use



Additional comments made to the GLA on 15 February 2016

Dear Sirs

This further response by the Hackney Society Planning Group is made to the publication of 'Regulation 22' materials in relation to the application and the further consultation period that followed.

It remains the view of the Hackney Society Planning Group that the scheme should be refused for all the reasons outlined in our submission 7 December (repeated below).

In particular, the additional materials do nothing to assuage our fears that the sheer complexity of the application make establishing its suitability and policy compliance almost impossible. Rather the response - the 68 separate Daylight and Sunlight documents in particular - cast further doubt upon the extent to which the complex interaction of the schemes elements affects the neighbourhood and wider environment are characterised by the developer. For instance, at Section 9 of the non-technical summary ES addendum, the developer attempts to break down the harm caused by individual elements of the proposal so as to create the impression that the overall effect is 'negligible adverse', without addressing the fact that any harm to heritage would trigger a strong assumption against development (see decisions in Barnwell ManorForge Fieldet al).

The lack of sufficient provision of affordable housing remains a very grave concern. The additional scenarios of 25% and 35% affordable housing attempt to argue that no further consultation is needed for any affordable housing offer between the current offer (10% on site LBTH, 10% off-site LBH) and the IPG policy of 35%.  Given the complexity of the scheme, the significant harm proposed, and the significant departure from policy, the level of public benefit is a critical issue. Knowing precisely what is offered, and how it is justified, is vital in weighing up the benefits against the harm and commenting upon the overall balance. Without sight of the developers and authorities' reports and a meaningful amount of time to analyse them, we remain of the opinion that the viability claims are unproven. We remain of the view that the fundamental approach - of a hybrid application with detailed and long-range phasing - is fundamentally flawed and presented, as it is, incompatible with any meaningful public participation.

Nick Perry
Director, The Hackney Society 

Comments made to the boroughs and the GLA on 7 December 2015

Assessing this scheme is a herculean task that requires navigation of a massive information hurdle. The hybrid approach may well be the wrong one.

The document count for this hybrid application currently stands at 669 discrete documents (299 from the first iteration of the scheme) on the Hackney website and 326 on the Tower Hamlets website. The development description stands at 1965 characters - the limit to the size of responses allowed on the Hackney website.

Whilst it is quite proper that a large scheme should be thoroughly documented, there must be an eye to public participation and the need for absolute clarity. There is every scope for a canny developer, bent on having its way, to rely on the complexity of an application to hide nuanced details or obfuscate problematic aspects of a scheme. If the blatant obfuscation in the viability documents is anything to go by, we must treat the applicant's motives with the greatest of suspicion.

On a phased development with the long time-scales, such as those proposed here, any permission granted now is prone to looking like a poor decision in hindsight. It is in this context that we suggest planners seek to limit any detailed decisions to narrow time-scales and include review mechanisms, by way of what are likely to be complex conditions.

The all-but insurmountable document mountain puts practical limits on how comprehensive our response and those of other community groups might be and planners are urged to keep that in mind. The responsibility rests firmly with the borough planning authorities and the Mayor of London to apply considerable effort and intellect to match the guile of the well resourced developer in reaching a properly considered decision. In truth, we remain sceptical that they have the resources to do so.

We question the purpose of the Mayor of London's general power to call-in applications - in particular when non-determination is cited. We cannot see how it helps to abandon long and complex negotiations whose purpose is to arrive at a scheme that is acceptable. The Mayor of London and the GLA have no more might to stand up to the developers and significantly less interest in the local issues that face the boroughs.

The Goodsyard proposal cannot be said to be strategically important in the same way a London-wide infrastructure project might be. It is, perhaps, strategically important only to the legacy that the incumbent Mayor of London leaves our city. It will allow him to unfairly claim he's unpicked the problems and opened up the development opportunity for jobs and homes. When in fact he nought but a pawn in game of chess played between the developer grand master and the enthusiastic but under-practised borough planners. The Mayor must ensure his interrogation is thorough and that the glints of silver he sees in the distance aren't illusory. We join the other community groups in asking "Boris: See the light". The boroughs must make him acutely aware of what is at stake and what traps lie ahead.

Against that polemic background and the massive difficulties in addressing the details of the application, we struggle to see how this application gets off the starting blocks. The headlines don't bear analysis.

This massive development plainly causes significant harm - most notably to the environment, and so it is sensible to conduct a triage exercise to assess the purported public benefits. And they are somewhere between thin and non-existent.

The massive internal development area is enclosed in a scheme whose scale and massing is locally unprecedented, even considering some of the poorly judged extant and implemented schemes nearby. Yet the commitment to providing any social benefits from this vast envelope of space is minimal. The levels of affordable housing - apparently offered out of the goodness of the developer's heart - are not just contrary to the development plan but would amount to the largest lost opportunity for providing affordable homes and social mix that London has seen in recent years. It is a decision that will, quite literally, have an effect for generations to come.

The viability reports are hidden from us. Vast areas of black cover figures we don't even know the nature of. If the Officers' Reports and correspondence between the borough and the GLA is to be believed, they hide figures of dubious report and blatant double accounting. The few figures we do see don't even withstand the most basic of arithmetical analysis (see table 14 and paras 11.16 et seq, for instance), let alone analysis of the assumptions used therein. If this is the standard of justification for the failure of the applicant to provide ANY affordable homes on the Hackney side of the development and a lamentable 10% on the Tower Hamlets side, then we really must question either the developer's competence to address any commitments it makes, or more likely, it's candour and motives.

By building so high and so densely the accommodation offered may not be suitable as long term social rented family housing. It is patently designed to serve those for whom temporary or short terms stays in central London are possible only because of a substantial level of wealth.

The developer has a solid framework within which to make its application - at the top of which is the site-specific 2010 Bishopsgate Goods Yard Interim Planning Guidance. This is policy that the developer participated in defining. It is examined, robust and considers site specific issues in some detail.

In the five years since it's publication, there has been massive growth in residential and commercial sales without corresponding growth in development costs. Yet the application fails to come even close to the Guidance's 35% target for affordable homes though exceeds its height and massing guidance by some margin. It strongly suggests the developer is incapable of handling the constraints and finances of such a large project.

On this analysis, if the developer is as incompetent as it would seem, it will embark upon a vast project of economic promises that is bound to fail. And in its wake we must expect to see be a panoply of small businesses and contractors destroyed by the over-promised scheme that the developer knew to be unviable.

We doubt it's shareholders and financiers see it the same way. In fact it is inconceivable that the developer could raise funds for an unviable scheme with the extraordinary level of risk they claim to be facing. The financial claims are plainly bogus and nothing more than a sacrificial offer upon which the Mayor of London can claim a massive victory by eking out an offer well below the Planning Guidance but sufficiently above the current ground zero to seem like a 'win'. It is not hard to see through it.

On this long phased delivery it will be practically impossible to anticipate what might be financially and logistically deliverable towards the end of the scheme. So a holistic approach to the public benefits across all phases is not appropriate in a single decision. As we have seen time and again with targets set over a large timescale and area, in the short term, projects fall well short, citing current financial difficulties, but simultaneously make the delivery of future elements that compensate for these shortfalls impossible to deliver.

Insofar as they are able to paint a detailed picture of such a complex application, fraught with traps and interactions that are impossible to resolve, we support the objections of the local groups (many of whom, like us, have joined together to campaign under the name "More Light, More Power") such as the East End Preservation Society, OPEN Shoreditch, The Spitalfields Society and Jago Action Group (JAG). And of national groups such as SAVE Britain's Heritage. We also support the uncharacteristically strong objection of Historic England and echo its concerns as to the lack of justification put forward by the developer for "the harm to assets of the highest significance", which it cites.

Amongst the masses of documents offered to describe this scheme are feint snippets of attractive and plausible elements of form and design with details that are well-considered and would be a welcome improvement to the area. But in the larger, almost intangible context of the full application - which crucially fails to deliver any meaningful public benefit for it's scale - we can't even begin to talk about them.

The developer, or another like it, must be asked to return with an understandable, piecemeal scheme that hits the Planning Guidance targets more squarely. Meanwhile the boroughs must tell the GLA they would refuse the scheme as proposed and encourage The Mayor of London to See The Light and do the same.

[NP, LS]

This page was added on 07/12/2015.