Spitalfields saved from bulldozers

Residents win battle against £700 million flats and offices scheme

A campaign by objectors has defeated a plan for a £700 million plan for flats and offices in Spitalfields E1, on the edge of the City, and saved the last major undeveloped part of old Spitalfields - a conservation area of period homes and historic warehouses - from demolition.

Developer Hammerson’s plan, called Bishop’s Place, was for offices, 310 flats and a hotel in buildings of up to 10 storeys. But locals, including architects, The Georgian Group and the Spitalfields Trust, found the development “cold and impersonal”.

They argued that the area could be sympathetically developed, along the lines of Covent Garden or the rest of Spitalfields, into workshops, Manhattan-style lofts with cafés, attractive streets and repaired historic homes as a model for mixed-use development and a tourist draw.

'There is a wonderful opportunity to adapt this site of alleyways and courtyards for vibrant housing and small businesses'


Tim Whittaker, who runs the Spitalfields Trust, said: “We are shifting away from large-scale demolition to the imaginative reuse of historic London. There is a wonderful opportunity to adapt this complex site of alleyways and courtyards into vibrant mix of housing and small businesses, not offices and chain stores.”

In Elizabethan times, this part of London was a popular haunt for artists and writers. Playwrights, such as Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson, lived in the parish.

Nicolls & Clarke's scheme, involving 13-20 Norton Folgate, 2-9 Shoreditch High Street, and buildings in Blossom Street was rejected by a planning inspector after they appealed against Tower Hamlets council’s refusal to grant Conservation Area Consent in June.

The inspector agreed that the important conservation area included Georgian houses, many of which had been repaired by the Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust, and buildings in Shoreditch High Street with rare Thirties façades “in a pleasing Art Deco style with cream faience tiles”.

Blossom Street has fine Victorian warehouses, ripe for development into desirable lofts. Other historic buildings date from as far back as 1720, and Queen Anne-style buildings from around 1880.

In overturning the appeal, the inspector said government guidance states that “buildings which make a positive contribution to the character or appearance of a conservation area” should be retained. He added that 10 storeys was too high for the area.

The inspector concluded: “The loss of existing historic buildings would cause considerable harm to its character and appearance as a whole.”


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