Squatters battle with property giant over historic site

One of Europe’s biggest property firms is fighting squatters over a derelict Victorian workshop in a swathe of land it plans to redevelop in east London.

The seven full-time squatters, who say they want to protect the historic building, have won the support of conservation groups. But Hammerson, which has a portfolio worth £7.3 billion, is determined to force them out.

Squatters at derelict Victorian workshop

Today the squatters told how they are running a programme of community events including film nights and debates at 6 Bowl Court.

Jim Hubbard, 27, a gardener who moved in at Easter, said: “This was once a really nice historic street but No 6 is all that’s left. It’s been here for more than 150 years and is an important part of London’s history. It would be a tragedy if it was replaced with glass and steel blocks, which you can see all over the world.

“We can’t beat the developers but we want to persuade them to let the community use this place. If we are booted out it will sit here for years just decaying.”

Squatters at derelict Victorian workshop

Bowl Court is in a parcel of land east of Shoreditch High Street. Hammerson plans to redevelop the area in a scheme named Bishop’s Place, including a 51-storey tower, shops, offices, flats and a hotel.

It has planning permission to redevelop Bowl Court into offices, as long as it preserves the workshop. Its application for the wider Bishop’s Place scheme is expected to come before planners later this year.

Conservationists fear the building may not survive the redevelopment. “It’s isolation makes it look very vulnerable”, said Heloise Brown, an adviser to the Victorian Society, adding: “Buildings like this are a physical record of the development of the East End. To destroy them is to strip London of its past.

Squatters at derelict Victorian workshop

“The building next door was demolished without conservation area consent some years ago and there is a lot of pressure on this site.”

Bill Parry-Davies, from campaign group Open Shoreditch, said some local people were concerned at the spread of the City eastwards: “Bishop’s Place is the first of several steps by powerful commercial interests to redefine the City’s northern boundary, but in a crude and very destructive fashion,” he said.

Councillor Guy Nicholson, Hackney’s cabinet member for regeneration, said the area’s history as a furniture-making district in the 1850s had left Shoreditch with buildings full of character.

He added: “It is essential that development is managed in a way that encourages continuing economic activity in the City fringe while protecting the architectural legacy that makes the area so successful.”

Hammerson owns Brent Cross and a series of developments in Bishopsgate and the Docklands, and is drawing up a redevelopment around Victoria station.

Project director Joanna Axon said it had a possession order against the squatters. It is not known when it plans to evict them. She added: “We have taken the measure to remove the squatters from the building as it is not suitable for occupation. We are securing the building as a precautionary measure, while we consider our proposals for the site.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: