Bunhill Fields tower block plan: Disappointment as Mayor approves 11-storey building

Bunhill Fields graveyard in Islington looking towards Featherstone Street

Bunhill Fields graveyard in Islington looking towards Featherstone Street - Credit: Archant

Islington Council is “disappointed” after Mayor of London Boris Johnson approved controversial plans to build two tower blocks by a historic Islington graveyard.

Developers now have the go-ahead to flatten buildings overlooking Bunhill Fields off City Road and replace them with four blocks, two of which would be 10 and 11 storeys high.

Islington Council and conservationists had expressed concerns over the plans, with the Ancient Monuments Society (AMS) arguing that the development would “bully” the graveyard and “overwhelm” the Grade I registered cemetery – the resting place of William Blake and author Daniel Defoe.

Despite fierce opposition, Mr Johnson last week “called in” the planning application – meaning that the council no longer had the authority to decide on the plans, before finally approving the plans on Monday.

It’s not the first time the Mayor has called in a planning application in Islington. In January 2014, he took control of a decision on the Mount Pleasant site after the council complained about the lack of affordable housing – a month after doing the same for the City Forum development in City Road after the council refused the applications. Both were passed.

Reacting to the council’s latest defeat, development boss Cllr James Murray said: “We’re very disappointed that for the third time in three years the Mayor has taken away decision-making powers from the council and ignored local concerns.

“We’d like to thank local residents and heritage organisations for their support throughout this process.”

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In a statement sent to the Gazette last week, a spokesman for the Mayor said there was a “critical need” for new work space for the hundreds of thousands of new jobs that will be created over the next 20 years in the capital.

Ironically, the Blake Society has spent seven years trying unsuccessfully to get planning permission for its own “development” – a 1m headstone to mark the original burial spot of author William Blake, whose existing grave stone is in the wrong place.