Threat to Canalside Studios, 2-4 Orsman Road

Hackney Council has received a planning application for a development that could drive existing residents and small businesses out of the local community and will completely change the character and profile of the offside of the canal opposite Kingsland Basin.

The affected site is at the eastern end of a corridor of oversized modern buildings and it hosts some of the few remaining industrial buildings that still blend in well with the canal instead of overpowering it.

At the Friends of Regent's Canal meeting on 13th May 2015 we agreed unanimously to oppose this scheme.

Where exactly is this site?

These buildings are on the south west side of Kingsland Road Bridge. N1 5QJ.

How will this affect canal users?

The view from the towpath will change dramatically.
The existing industrial buildings and cottages will be dominated by a structure resembling an alien spaceship.

These illustrations show that the proposed structure will encroach on the space in front of the existing buildings. In a sympathetic design the buildings would be "stepped back" from the water's edge and the taller buildings would be at the back not at the front.

Who are the winners and losers?

A lot will depend on whether the residential and commercial rents will rise sharply. Any small creative businesses could be displaced by larger corporations.

The existing buildings will benefit from a facelift, but judging by the planning documents this could result in another sterile canalside environment.

From a housing perspective the benefits will be negligible at best. This proposal will yield only three additional dwellings and there are no hints that any of the new homes will be affordable.

What exactly are the plans?

Here is an extract from the planning application

"Change of use of four residential units within 2-4 Orsman Road from residential (C3) to office (b1) [280sqm] and erection of six storey building to create 7 new dwellings (3 x 1 bed, 3 x 2 bed, 1 x 3 bed) [net gain of 3 units]; refurbishment of ground floor commercial space; external alterations comprising creation of new larger windows at ground floor level on Orsman Road frontage, repainting and fašade repairs; creation of new landscaped area at canalside; provision of associated cycle parking and refuse storage.""

Click here to see some illustrations of the proposed changes.

Full details can be found on the council website under planning reference 2015/0994

How can we object to the plans?

Comments must be submitted to the council by 1st June.

You can submit an online objection by logging onto the council's website or by sending an e-mail directly to or by writing to Barry Coughlan, Hackney Planning Service, 2 Hillman Street, London E8 1FB.

Please remember to quote planning reference 2015/0994 in any correspondence.

In these situations you might find it convenient to use e-mail, because it leaves you with a permanent record of your comments and it allows you to copy your comments to friends, neighbours and to groups such as and

Are there any campaigns to protect this site?

Yes, there is a dedicated Twitter account that is campaigning to preserve this site...

...also a Facebook page:

...and here is a campaign leaflet that can be printed or circulated.

Also, on a wider theme, a coalition of campaign groups known as Reclaim London is addressing the problems associated with overdevelopment and social cleansing.

Surely this is a done deal?

Definitely not. We should never be fooled by the professional look and feel of planning documents like these.

Although this proposal has already been discussed with council officers and selected stakeholders at a pre-application stage, we cannot assume that the council representatives are familiar with all the principles of the Blue Ribbon Network. Nor that they have used this stretch of canal in their leisure time. Collectively, we are in a strong position to offer them free advice.

Why has this provoked such a fierce reaction?

Canal supporters have been stunned by the images of a six-storey structure thrusting itself alongside, above and in front of buildings of townscape merit. In their view this proposal makes a mockery of the Regent's Canal Conservation Area and the Blue Ribbon policies of the London Plan.

In 2020 we hope to be celebrating the bi-centenary of the opening of the Regent's Canal. But if current trends continue then there will be very few traces of the buildings that served it so well in its heyday.

The canal is an open space that should be enjoyed by everybody. It should be a welcome escape from modern city life; a green corridor, not a replica of city streets or modern shopping centres.

Hackney Council has made some unpredictable decisions in recent years. In 2011 the planning committee shocked the canal community by approving an ugly, overbearing tower block at the site of Rosemary Works. Three years later the conservation officers rescued Holborn Studios from the demolition ball by adding its buildings to the local heritage list. We must hope that the council still attaches importance to the Regent's Canal Conservation Area and that it will resist any further claustrophobic designs.

Controversial block that displaced a community at Rosemary Works and changed the skyline dramatically. Approved by Hackney Council in 2011.
Holborn Studios. Rescued by the council in 2014.

Further Information

Sample Objections
News articles in Hackney Citizen, Hackney Gazette and East London Lines