Local fury over Amanda Levete’s Shoreditch tower plan

Andrea Klettner

The tower would be Levete’s first London skyscraper.

Residents groups claim to have collected 1,000 letters against ’alien’ proposal

Proposals drawn up by Amanda Levete Architects for a 25-storey tower in Shoreditch, east London, have sparked mass opposition from local residents including Turner Prize-winning artist Rachel Whiteread.

Plans for the Huntingdon Estate site, which sits opposite Shoreditch High Street station and alongside fashionable members club Shoreditch House, would see an existing two-storey building replaced by the high-rise residential-led scheme.

The proposal would be Levete’s first skyscraper in London and her second major development in Tower Hamlets alongside the planned new headquarters for News International.

She said: “This area has turned from fringe to central and our scheme reflects this – it’s all about enhancing the diversity that characterises the district. By building high, rather than across we have been able to respect and extend Shoreditch’s small-scale urban grain and open up the site to promote public interaction.”

But residents groups, including Open Shoreditch and the Jago Action Group, claim the scheme would have a “disjunctive effect on the streetscape”.

A heritage impact assessment carried out for the groups by Richard Griffiths Architects examined the proposal against the local conservation area guidelines and concluded that it “does not preserve or enhance the character and setting of the Redchurch Street Conservation Area” and that the development would be “alien”.

Local architect Chris Dyson, who also opposes the plans, said: “The choice of architect is glamorous and she [Levete] is very good, but the building is inappropriate for the context.”

Meanwhile, the action groups say that more than 1,000 letters of objection including Whiteread’s have been sent to Tower Hamlets Council.

Chair of the Jago Action Group and Redchurch Street resident Rebecca Collings said: “When we show
the images to people they usually laugh, they can’t take it seriously.”

Its letter said the development was “significantly too high” and that there was “no further need for landmark architecture in this locality”.

Collings, who has personally delivered 800 letters to the council, said the group was aiming for 10,000 letters of objection.
As well as 116 housing units, developer Londonewcastle is proposing retail, leisure and office space, together with parking in the basement and roof gardens on the single storey podium. A separate development, by Peter Barber Architects at Fleet Street Hill would contain 43 affordable housing units associated with the development.

it’s all about enhancing the diversity

Amanda Levete

The council confirmed it had received a “significant” number of representations. A spokeswoman for Tower Hamlets added: “So far we have acknowledged receipt of 440. The final verified level of representation will be detailed within the eventual report to the strategic development committee.”

Meanwhile, the Greater London Authority has also carried out a study into the plans, concluding that the scheme, in its current form, does not comply with the London Plan.

However, it acknowledged that the design was “innovative” and “highly sculptural” and that it would comply with London Plan guidelines following a modest reduction in height.

Londonewcastle chief operating officer Robert Soning said: “We are confident that these magnificent buildings will quickly become part of the urban fabric.”

The proposals will be heard by Tower Hamlets’ strategic development committee this summer.

The Dickensian Aspect

The development of Shoreditch with its narrow Victorian streetscapes and Dickensian feel has long been a touchy subject.

In 2008, local artists including Tracey Emin and the Chapman Brothers campaigned vigorously against plans to develop a number of towers designed by Foster & Partners at Bishops Place.

Now, there are fears of a similar threat from Levete’s tower, which is proposed at the Huntingdon Estate site, alongside one of the area’s prettiest roads, Redchurch Street and neighbouring landmark the Tea Building.

One critic said the 25-storey proposal would “drown out” the seven-storey Tea Building and “cast an unfair sun-dial” on the nearby grade II listed Boundary Estate, home to the UK’s first council housing.

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