What on earth did the Tate Modern's neighbours expect? — Spy on Sunday, Feb 5, 2023
Hindsight is 20/20, but still...
Morning – here’s what we spied in the capital in the week ending Sunday, February 5:
🤔 The Spy can’t help but wonder if the flat owners who this week successfully argued the Tate Modern’s viewing platform invaded their privacy just had a bad case of buyer’s remorse. Apparently the developer of their glass-walled flat block had not only made proximity to the Tate a selling point in adverts, but during the original planning process for the viewing platform – deemed a “constant visual intrusion” by the Supreme Court on Wednesday – had actually offered a direct endorsement.
“Brush shoulders with some illustrious arty types,” cooed the marketing material for Neo Bankside. When the viewing platform itself was first proposed around 2009, the developer had stated that it “strongly supports the latest proposals, which will increase the attractiveness of the location as a visitor destination and will result in a number of other positive benefits for the area”.
It’d be funny except, as argued by Oliver Wainwright, the legal victory of the Tate’s neighbours could have serious implications for how we define public and private space in a squeezed city like London. He argues the Tate case is just another example of well-to-dos wanting to move in next to an attractive public space, only to then try to shut down the very thing that brought them there in the first place. “It destroys cities,” claims Wainwright.
🚆 A campaign against the redevelopment of Liverpool Street Station launched this week, with the charge led by comedian Griff Rhys Jones. Campaigners say the plans to remove the original station entrance and 1980s roof to construct a 10-story hotel and office block are “destructive” and will damage the station’s cohesive Victorian character. At the time of writing around 2,800 people had signed the campaign’s petition against the plans, which are being led by the developers of the Shard. This isn’t the first time Liverpool Street has mobilised campaigners – the station avoided demolition in the 1970s after outcry.
🚽 In other station news: gender neutral toilets are coming to Waterloo. The announcement drew a predictable amount of outrage from the usual suspects online, but at least Londoners are pretty unanimous in their view there aren’t enough public loos in the capital.
🖌️ One of London’s most prolific graffiti writers has gone on a walkabout with a reporter and revealed the inner workings of his craft. Lots of fascinating insights from the FT interview into how a tagger like 10 Foot operates, including: using pinched maintenance keys from rail control rooms to access London’s hidden passageways and tunnels; buying paint at Wickes instead of B&Q as the latter’s security guards are on the prowl for suspected graffiti writers; the guerilla war between taggers and the British Transport Police, which has a dedicated anti-graffiti taskforce.
🏠 So broken is London’s rental market that it’s now apparently sparking diplomatic incidents, as EU officials clash over renting a luxury house on Chelsea’s ‘millionaires’ row’. The EU’s new ambassador to the UK had hoped to be living in a five-bedroom townhouse on Upper Cheyne Row for a rental bill of more than £900,000 a year. Needless to say diplomats in Brussels were lukewarm on forking out that much and they’ve now reportedly shot down the plans.
💸 And this diplomatic quarrell looks even more absurd in light of the latest release of homelessness stats in the capital. The number of first-time rough sleepers stood at 1,700 in the final three months of 2022, up by more than a quarter on the year prior. No doubt rising cost-of-living pressures are at play here, with first-time rough sleepers now making up roughly half of the 3,500 rough sleepers recorded by outreach teams.
💨 Mayor Sadiq Khan started the week by unveiling his scheme to compensate drivers for the expansion of air pollution rules, but he still faced a grilling on the impact on poorer drivers. At an event at City Hall, consumer finance expert Martin Lewis suggested the planned timing of the ULEZ expansion – which could cost some drivers in outer London £12.50 a day – was “pretty tough” during a cost-of-living crisis. In response, Khan said "What is the right number of people to die a year to make it acceptable?". Khan also made his own moves to deal with the cost-of-living crisis, announcing that low-paid TfL staff would receive free travel on the network.
🚧 Managers of a building that collapsed onto a north London high street apparently knew about the risk years prior. One of the shop owners on Stoke Newington High Street, which was abruptly covered in masonry and rubble from the collapsing building last Friday, has claimed he was sent an email from the property manager acknowledging potential problems in 2021. The high street has since been closed after Hackney Council stepped in to oversee repairs.
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