The campaign was stalled by the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis, which put it back several years.
Dame Sarah Mullally arrived at a disused railway yard at Shadwell on Friday (January 26) to join campaigners and parishioners from St George-in-the-East parish Church, in Cable Street, who want the land used for genuinely affordable homes.
“Housing is an issue that affects every community in London,” the bishop said.
“Parishes like St George-in-the-East are at the front of the community response. I hope progress is made soon for affordable homes.”
It was in her first public act in January 2018, even before her inauguration as the new bishop, when she arrived the first time at the disused yard by the Fenchurch Street main-line railway to help the campaign.
It was started the year before by parishioners from St George’s and Tower Hamlets Citizens campaign network, for a community land trust development.
The disused yard was discovered going begging by priest-in-charge Angus Ritchie on a walkabout tour of the area in 2017.
He and the Bishop of Stepney at the time, Adrian Newman, invited the new Bishop of London to see the site and bless it with Holy Water.
“It was part of my formal introduction to the Diocese of London in 2018,” Dame Sara recalled.
“Returning here on Friday reminded me of what I witnessed on that first visit — the spirit and dedication of those who call Shadwell their home.”
A newly-set-up land trust was given the site by TfL in late 2018. But the project soon hit the buffers, fuelled by crises.
The bishop now giving it a shunt forward means the land trust is back on track to restart the scheme where families would lease homes at a fixed cost based on local income rates, while the freehold land would be retained for future generations.
St George-in-the-East rector Richard Springer said: “The community’s perseverance over the last seven years shows undeterred resolve, despite facing challenges like the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis. We will make sure these homes are built as soon as possible.”
A planning application is being submitted later this year for construction to be under way by 2028.
A model home was built in the middle of the site as a sign of what was to come.
Bishop Sarah said she would “watch this space” and hopes she doesn’t have to wait another six years before the homes are ready.