A local councillor has revealed why he thinks a £50 million investment in Tech City’s Old Street roundabout site in Hackney, never came to fruition.
When announcing the fund in December 2012, prime minister David Cameron said the money would go towards a “visionary project” that would see Old Street roundabout regenerated and transformed into “Europe’s largest indoor civic space, dedicated to startups and entrepreneurs in East London.”
But the funding announcement, reported by most of the UK’s mainstream press, was quietly pulled by the government in July 2014, largly unnoticed by the media outlets that publicised the project in the first place.
“Originally the ambition was in effect to put a building on top of a roundabout, quite literally, which proved to be, engineering wise, totally impossible because of what’s going on underground with railway lines and an all manner of things,” said councillor Guy Nicholson, who focuses on regeneration within Hackney Council.
"I also question what it was that this Silicon Roundabout Institute was to be," he said. "What was its ambition? Where was its grounding? Was its grounding within local businesses or something else? What was this thing? It did not sit comfortably within the ecosystem.”
Nicholson continued: “It was one of these ideas that I’m sure was developed with the best of intentions initially but it was done in isolation of the community. The politician in me sort of says that somebody perhaps thought that this would be something rather good to have their name attached to.”
When the funding was pulled, a spokesperson for No.10 told Techworld that the money had gone back into general expenditure because a permanent solution for the roundabout was technically difficult. No further information was provided.
Nicholson said the £50 million investment into the area would have been incredibly welcome and beneficial to the borough, which has some of the highest poverty rates in the UK.