The future of Bishopsgate Goodsyard, Hammerson and Ballymore’s £800m residential-led tower development in Shoreditch, is hanging in the balance.
In April, the developers withdrew their plans for the project to address concerns raised by Greater London Authority officials over rights to light and the low affordable housing levels on the project – and two months later, there is no sign of fresh proposals emerging.
London mayor Sadiq Khan’s deputy mayor for housing James Murray hinted in a recent interview with Property Week that Khan’s options to affect the scheme are limited, given the late stage it has reached – and with the new mayor committed to higher levels of affordable housing, this could be seen as an indication that the scheme maybe rejected.
It is also possible that Khan and his team may not be the ones to make the final decision. Hackney mayor Jules Pipe (pictured below) last week called for Khan to send the scheme back to the two relevant planning authorities – Hackney and Tower Hamlets.
A number of sources have told Property Week that the mayor was already considering this before Pipe’s plea. Leaving the decision in the hands of the two councils would likely mean curtains for the Bishopsgate scheme as it currently stands.
However, Peter Bingle – a public affairs consultant who advises property firms on engaging with politicians – says that Khan is unlikely to allow the boroughs to decide until they can agree how the site could be used.
Strong appetite for a development
“Hackney wanted employment, and Tower Hamlets wanted large family units, and that’s why the mayor has to intervene, because the boroughs can’t agree. Ultimately it can only go to them if [they] agree.”
Hackney council has previously published plans for a rival employmentled scheme on the derelict site, and Pipe says there is still a strong appetite for some sort of development to proceed.
“We really want this land to be built on, not just sit there largely derelict, and we’re happy with a high-density development,” he says. “We want clarity on the timeline going forwards, and preferably a decision for the developers to return to work with the councils collaboratively, from scratch, on a more suitable application.”
Meanwhile, the developers continue to work on reshaping the scheme – a process that could yet take some time. Property Week understands that Khan’s longtime failure to appoint a deputy mayor for planning could also be holding up progress. When this is put to John Mulryan, Ballymore’s UK managing director, he says: “We’re engaging with the GLA but I don’t know if they can make a decision until that person is in place.”
With Pipe’s likely appointment appearing to become just a formality yesterday, it is difficult to see how the scheme could proceed in its current form.
Local residents, councils and other developers – eager to get a signal for how Khan will treat big developments – are all holding their breath for the mayor’s verdict on Hammerson and Ballymore’s new plan. For now, though, the waiting goes on.