Former Tech City deputy CEO Benjamin Southworth has launched a petition against a property development scheme in Shoreditch, claiming it will have a negative impact on Tech City’s “charm and soul”.
Southworth, who stepped down from his Tech City role last June before announcing a new technology school for 16-19 year olds last September, claims that the two new skyscrapers set to be built just off Shoreditch High Street will hinder the progress being made by tech start-ups in the area and overshadow large parts of the ground below, while also segregating rich and poor residents in the area.
Commenting on the 44 and 47-storey tower blocks, which will be built as a joint venture between property companies Hammerson and Ballymore, Southworth said: “The proposed scheme would deny Tech City and the thousands of creative businesses that have played a vital role in developing the area the chance for future expansion and the opportunity to stay in the area by leasing desperately needed additional commercial space.”
Southworth claims the buildings, expected to contain 600 luxury flats selling for up to £1.5 million, will create a “ghetto of the super rich and overseas investors in Shoreditch”.
He also claims the development will "engulf" Shoreditch’s “iconic” Tea Building, which was built in 1933 as a bacon factory for Lipton and Allied Foods but today describes itself as a creative space that is home to a number of businesses.
The development will also incorporate a new shopping centre.
But Southworth said: “Shoreditch does not need a retail centre like this. The delight of shopping and eating in Shoreditch is that it is an interesting, experiential and predominantly independent experience. This proposed scheme would create a series of chain stores and restaurants as seen in high street malls across the country that would significantly distort the current Shoreditch offer.”
A Hammerson spokeswoman said: "Within the new building we envisage there will be a significant proportion of flexible accommodation principally within the lower levels of the building which will be supported by the appropriate infrastructure, making it suitable for creative industry start-ups.
"Office space will be provided above the London Overground Station that will also cater for larger organisations as well. Given that we are only at the beginning of devising the detailed concept for this we would very much welcome the input from Tech City to help ensure we design the space that the digital industry needs for sustained future growth and competiveness.”
Southworth came under fire on Twitter after encouraging others to sign the petition.
Outspoken columnist Milo Yiannopoulos accused Southworth of being “the single biggest reason” for the new property development.
The two got into a heated battle on the social network over the cost of property in London, with Yiannopoulos suggesting that Southworth helped drive up property prices in Shoreditch as he championed the area in his role as deputy CEO of Tech City.
After calling the Tweet the most disingenuous thing he’s ever read, Yiannopoulos responded: “You are a hypocrite of the highest order. Recant, repent, restart if you want. But denying your role in this is appalling.”