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Eagle Wharf development: “Goodbye heritage, hello Silicon Canal?” asks Regent’s Canal campaigner

11:52 19 October 2012

An artist

An artist's impression of Gold Property Development's plans for Eagle Wharf

Archant

Campaigners fear the heritage of a treasured waterway will be swept away with the demolition of a historic building, transforming it into what has been dubbed “Silicon Canal”.

Developers want to demolish Holborn Studios in Eagle Wharf Road, Hoxton, which lie alongside Regent’s Canal in a conservation area The buildings have been identified as buildings of townscape merit, and include a Victorian chimney.

Currently an industrial workshop, Gold Property Developments wants to replace it with a restaurant, flats and “state-of-the art commercial space” aimed specifically at the needs of the expanding creative industries – particularly the Tech City area around Old Street’s ‘Silicon Roundabout’.

Ian Shacklock, Chair of the Friends of Regents Canal group said the buildings “epitomise the charm of the canal” and that it would be a mistake to replace them with “homogenised, characterless modern constructions”.

“If this goes ahead, and if others follow, then the canal could resemble an artificial lake that intersects a characterless array of business parks, shopping malls and clone-like gated communities,” said Mr Shacklock.

“This is not just about another new building - it is quite clear from these proposals that the global players are eyeing up this area as ‘Silicon Roundabout’ picks up momentum.

“I can imagine a visiting planning inspector from Stratford-upon-Avon or Henley-on-Thames saying “there’s nothing special about these inner city buildings, we have better ones at home - but that’s not the point - they are very special relative to all the surrounding area, they are our closest approximation to the countryside.”

Many of the nearby heritage buildings like part of Rosemary Works just a few hundred yards up the canal, have already gone to make way for modern housing developments and commercial space.

The developer is now consulting before submitting a planning application.

A spokesman for Gold Property Developments, which has owned the site for 30 years, said the proposed office space is aimed at the growing number of digital economy enterprises that have flourished in the area.

“We have been working hard to understand the needs of this expanding creative sector in the borough,” he said.

“By meeting their needs through the regeneration of this site, we can achieve excellence in design and deliver much needed new jobs.

“A debate about the merits or otherwise of architecture often leads to different opinions, but we are clear that a carefully considered high quality contemporary building replacing the current fragmented and poorly configured buildings is a better solution.”

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