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Hammerson dealt Bishop's Place planning blow

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Hammerson's plans to develop its major Bishop's Place scheme in Hackney were dealt a blow last night after council members voted to defer determination of the planning application.

Hackney Borough Council's planning committee voted five votes to two to defer a decision on granting planning consent for the 4m sq ft Foster & Partners-designed scheme.

Planning officers had recommended approval of the scheme, which is bordered by Norton Folgate, and at the meeting last night said it met strategic policy guidelines in the borough and was of a very high design quality.

Officers also noted the 'significant' section 106 package Hammerson had submitted.

The decision will be a boost for the local campaigners against the scheme who are fighting to keep a popular bar on Shoreditch high street - the Light Bar - in operation. The bar, which is owned by Hammerson and operated by James Goff, would be demolished as part of the plans.

Hammerson, its architect, and its planning advisers DP9 said it was not possible to keep the bar and retain the quality of building design and permeability of the site.

In a nearly three hour meeting last night the decision to defer rested on whether planning permission for the scheme should be decided before the completion of an ongoing Shoreditch conservation area study which will decide if the Light Bar should be included in the conservation zone.

If the bar, which has no statutory protection at present, is included in the conservation area it cannot be demolished without conservation consent.

Both Hammerson and the council took legal advice before the meeting on whether the application could be heard and were advised that there was no unlawful reason why the application could not be considered before the conservation study was completed.

The initial suggestions of the conservation report, which will be decided by the full council in October, have recommended against the inclusion of the bar in the area.

Hackney's former head of planning Chris Berry who resigned earlier this year also submitted a letter against the scheme.

He raised concerns about processing issues given that the council is the majority landowner and stands to gain a significan capital receipt from the agreement of a long leasehold with Hammerson.

The council's legal team advised it was lawful for the council to consider the application.

The scheme was nearly dealt a total knock out blow early on when four members of the seven in an unofficial vote count before the formal vote said they planned to refuse the scheme.

However one member then tabled a motion to defer the decision to give Hammerson time to see if it could redesign the scheme to include the bar.

Martin Jepson, Hammerson UK managing director, said it was committed to developing the challenging scheme and pointed to the success of its Bishops Square scheme in the City.

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