I have started an AVAAZ petition to ask you to rethink your approval of the development at Bunhill Fields. It has been rushed through too fast. It is going to be one of your more unpopular decisions and may bounce back to haunt you as you begin to seek higher rungs of power than the one you already occupy.
A huge development going up at the side of this beloved green space and cultural heritage site will affect it negatively in numerous ways, some temporarily, some permanently. In the short term the noise and disruption will be a blight on this oasis of tranquility. In the long term, the eleven and ten storey blocks will make Bunhill Fields colder and darker, oppressing the open space and ruining the skyline. Campaigners such as the Ancient Monuments Society have already warned you that the project is a ‘bullying’ and ‘overwhelming’ one.
You say there is a ‘critical need’ for office space, but most people would say there is a critical need for a place with as rich a heritage as Bunhill Fields not to be disimproved by having ugly and unfriendly developments going up around it. Offices are everywhere in London; non-conformist graveyards are extremely rare in comparison. Bunhill Fields is also a public park, a vital one in as congested and toxic an area as that by the Old Street roundabout and City Road.
I know for a fact that you are an admirer of William Blake as we once featured together on a BBC Radio 4 programme called ‘The Poet of Albion’ in which you spoke lovingly of the hymn ‘Jerusalem’. This decision you have taken, ignoring the pleas of Islington Council and various heritage groups, is one which makes England a less green and more unpleasant land. It is not an issue that concerns locals only; it concerns everyone who cares for the cultural heritage of Bunhill Fields and the three world-class writers who are buried there. The petition is attracting signatures from all over the world.
Therefore, before a single brick of the new development has been laid, I am asking you – as others will – to think again about this. It is not much of a parting gift to the people of London that you should jeopardise as legendary a Grade 1 site as Bunhill Fields. You should have been on the side of those protecting it, not overriding them with a decision that seems nothing short of plutocratic. Everyone who finds out about it is immediately shocked. We question two things: your lapse in taste and your authoritarian process.
Bunhill Fields is a sacred site for Dissenters. The decision seems more ideological than logical.
Please think again and call off rather than ‘call in’ this decision.
Sign the petition:
Photo: Max Reeves
Image: Tom Raworth