Forty architects invited to draw up sensitive plans for controversial goods yard on outskirts of City.
Railtrack has written to 40 architects to ask them to bid for the redevelopment of one of the capital’s most sensitive sites – with a brief to appease local critics.

The scheme, at the 4.2 ha Bishopsgate goods yard near Liverpool Street station, has become the focus of an intense struggle between the development and conservation lobbies. Local businesspeople, English Heritage and Prince Charles are lined up against Railtrack and the Corporation of London.

Railtrack is hoping to appease critics by emphasising the importance of community opinion on the scheme. A source who has seen the letter said: “It talks about the local community all the time – it’s not a subtle document.”

The step could help to mollify the Prince, who has come out in strong support of local community groups.

Charles, in common with others opposed to the scheme, fears that Railtrack’s property arm and the Corporation of London want to develop swaths of offices.

The situation is complicated by a campaign to list railway arches on the site, and its location on the route of a proposed extension of the East London Tube line.

The letter talks about the local community … it’s not a subtle document

It is understood that the letter does not rule out saving the arches, which campaigners fear might be demolished. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is due to make a decision on the listing in the next two weeks.

Canary Wharf masterplanner Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, Australian practice Denton Corker Marshall and CZWG are understood to be among the practices invited to bid by Railtrack.

A spokesperson for Railtrack confirmed that a letter had gone out, but would not comment on the identities of those approached.

Railtrack will whittle down the initial applications to a list of 12, and then a shortlist of six. An architect will be selected in the summer.

Railtrack is not the only body preparing a masterplan for the site. Campaigning body Spitalfields Market Under Threat has asked deputy London mayor Nicky Gavron to create a “loose-fit” plan, covering Bishopsgate and neighbouring sites, including Spitalfields market.