Shoreditch divided over building plans

The new leisure centre will replace the current Britannia Leisure Centre. New park entrance and leisure centre . (Credits: Hackney Council)

A planning proposal for a major demolition and reconstruction project in Shoreditch has been passed, despite opposition from local residents.

The project involves the demolition of several existing buildings in the Shoreditch Park area, and the construction of eight new buildings with a combined floor space of up to 80,000 square metres. These new buildings will comprise a secondary school, up to 400 square metres of commercial floor space, a leisure centre (replacing the current Britannia Leisure Centre), and up to 481 residential units.

The vote came after Hackney Council’s planning sub-committee met at Hackney Town Hall on 7 November to discuss the proposal. Both local councillors and members of the public  aired their views at the meeting, with a number of locals expressing hostility towards the proposal.

One local resident, Pat Turnbull, said: “We already have a fully-functioning leisure centre – why should we spend millions on a new one?”

Rebecca Neil, representing the local Save Britannia Leisure Centre campaign, said the proposal would “severely impact on the amount of open space in Shoreditch Park and the amount of daylight in the area”.

Yet Hackney Council’s director of finance and resources, Ian Williams, disputed Ms Neil’s claims.

“The Britannia Leisure Centre is not fit for purpose,” he said, adding that “it will only close once the new leisure centre is ready [in spring 2021]”.

Park square looking East. (Credits: Hackney Council)

Steve Race, a ward councillor for Hoxton East and Shoreditch, said the proposal represented “a vote of confidence in our community”. 

He said: “The proposal is not perfect, but would I say ‘no’ to it? No.”

One unnamed opponent of the proposal was asked by the chairwoman to leave the meeting for repeated interruption, but refused, claiming he had been “denied permission to speak”.