neil cummings

Development Hell

31 Jan 2022

I live on the Boundary Estate in Shoreditch, east London. Across Bethnal Green Road to the south is the disused Bishopsgate Goodsyard a derelict railway goods depot that has lain abandoned since 1964. Ballymoor and Hammerson are the current owners proposing to redevelop the site with 1.4 million square foot of office space, 175,000 square foot of retail, a ‘destination’ building for cultural events and an elevated park.

West to St Pauls

There have been various attempts at building on the site of the former goodsyard. The last in July 2014 was a wall of high office buildings that would have blocked light to the Boundary Estate and offered little to existing residents. This was rejected by local planners. A new revised ‘scaled back and down’ 2015 version was again contested by local planning so was ‘called in’ by the then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson to enable an executive decision to be made. City Hall could override local concerns.

In the middle of this process there were various exhibitions, protests and websites aimed at objecting to the scheme. I was asked to participate. I wrote, well adapted, a screenplay to be performed and recorded so it could exist in various locations and at various times. Like a radio play.

I basically took the first act of The Player - the brilliant 1992 satirical black comedy directed by Robert Altman and written by Michael Tolkin - and transposed the narrative. Spoiler; in The Player a Hollywood studio executive is being sent death threats by a writer whose script he rejected. Thinking he can fix the threats over cocktails, they meet and he ends up murdering the screenwriter and courting the dead man's girlfriend….

Development Hell is set in London, in City Hall and Shoreditch. Johnson is the Mayor/executive, the death threats are from a developer, they meet for drinks…... and a young community architect lies murdered. Here's Development Hell's set-up:

 

 

DEVELOPMENT HELL CAST

 

DEVELOPER 1……………………………… Developer

DEVELOPER 2……………………………… Developer

DEVELOPER 3 & 4……………………….. Male & Female Developers

DEVELOPER 5………………………………. Developer/architect

BEN JOHNSON……………………………… Mayor of London

CAROL……………………………………….... ...Mayor’s PA

NICKY DEVRON…………………………….. Chair of Planning

LYNTON CROSS…………………………….. Tory Party Strategist

CELIA…………………………………………….. Cross’ PA

ELEN ALDER……………………………….... Lobbyists

STUART GOVE……………………………... Politician

LESLEY FOX…………………………………… Leadership Contender

RICHARD SOAMES…………………………..Tory Party grandee

JENNIFER WEISS…………………………… Start-up and Techpreneur

ANDREW WAREHAM……………………….Community Architect

COMMUNITY MEMBER 1 & 2………… Community Member

 

DEVELOPMENT HELL

 

1. INT. JOHNSON'S OFFICE – DAY

   

No introduction, without set-up we are listening to DEVELOPER #1, youngish, slim suited with expensive brogues, trimmed beard, pitching a development. This is the first of four.

 

DEVELOPER #1

 

        Here's the idea for the Goodsyard,

        Apartments above and retail below.

        Apartments, easy. Beautiful towers.
 

        And retail. But it’s not just retail,

        its independent retail. Artisan,

        niche, bespoke, …  

Think street food and start-ups, 

think co-working cafes.

 

2. INT. JOHNSON'S OFFICE – DAY

 

    DEVELOPER #2 older, tired looking, rumpled, anxious, failing

 

DEVELOPER #2

        The Goodsyard, it’s a complex site.

        Tower apartments above, six, maybe seven.

Stunning city views.

        Foreign investors, HNWI.

        Retail below. Mixed, and global. Mixed luxury brands.

        Like Terminal 5. Burberry, Chanel, Prada...

        We'll keystone with Apple.

 

3. INT. JOHNSON'S OFFICE – DAY

 

DEVELOPER #3 and #4 are a male/female team, two zingy salespersons. They bounce ideas around the room, acting out the pitch, and as they do we see the person to whom they are pitching; Mayor of London BEN JOHNSON, just fifty. He gives nothing away.

 

DEVELOPER #3

        Penthouses, Members club, cinema ....... spa

 

DEVELOPER #4

        Discrete yet expansive, luxurious.

 

DEVELOPER #3

        Rooftop infinity pool, private gym, personal trainers, 

        Sky garden

 

DEVELOPER #4

        Exclusive and secure, with concierge,........everything

 

DEVELOPER #3

        Art galleries, Michelin stars, private foundations, 

jewell like heritage assets

 

DEVELOPER #4

        Dasha and Roman, the Arnaults, sovereign wealth,

        the Qataris, the 1per cent.

 

    She looks out the window, and we see a London panorama; trophy towers and construction cranes.

 

DEVELOPER #3

        Landmark, a little bit different. Think asset with a novel name.

      
 

DEVELOPER #4

        Foster's, Renzo, Rogers, Stirk and.....
 

DEVELOPER #3 and #4

(together, like a penny dropping)

        Thomas Heatherwick

 

4. INT. JOHNSON'S OFFICE – DAY

 

    DEVELOPER #5 is mid thirties, black, looks like an arts graduate, retro glasses, neat shirt, skinny jeans and limited-edition trainers.

 

DEVELOPER #5

        The thing is, you have to choose,

        choose between short and long-term development.

        And I think, to be different, we should go long.

        Let’s invest. Let’s invest in the Goodsyard.

let's be visionary, like with the Boundary Estate.

Let’s invest in affordable housing,

        Let’s build a 21st Century community.

        Provide the infrastructure. 

Place-make.

 

                    (a hesitant pause)

 

        That's it.

 

    Johnson appears to be thinking. He ruffles his hair, he takes his time.

 

JOHNSON

        Let me get back to you.

 

DEVELOPER #5

        So, you're not saying no?

 

JOHNSON

        Let me get back to you.

 

DEVELOPER #5 gets up and Johnson walks him to the door. As the door opens we see CAROL, JOHNSON'S PA. She's black, early forties. Her desk is surrounded by owl figurines and pictures. As DEVELOPER #5 walks out the door, CAROL looks up at JOHNSON.

 

CAROL

        Good proposal?

 

JOHNSON

(disdain)

        What proposal?

 

    The phone rings.

 

[CUT]....
 

There was no money to record the screenplay, but you can read the complete Act One Development Hell script

In April 2016 the revised Bishopsgate Goodsyard development proposal was withdrawn after the Greater London Planning Authority raised concerns over a lack of affordable housing, the developers announced in July that the revised proposal will be further redesigned.

A new proposal was submitted in October 2019. At a hearing on 3 December 2020, Boris Johnson's successor as Mayor Sadiq Khan approved the redevelopment of the Bishopsgate Goodsyard.

 

* For some of the utopian thinking behind the Boundary Estate design see: William Morris The Housing of the Poor, originally published in Justice, 19th July 1884, pp. 4-5.

 


I've written about living on the Boundary Estate, and related projects include a Waste Walk, a Development bike tour and  Open Cinema: Home

51.52624, -0.07454

Boundary Estate
Shoreditch
London
E2 7JE
United Kingdom

Submitted by neil on 31 January, 2022 - 16:57