An East End conservation group says a proposal by artist Tracey Emin to demolish a locally listed building in Spitalfields would cause ‘substantial harm’ to the conservation area in which it sits.
Emin has submitted a planning application for the replacement of the building in east London, which adjoins her existing home, with a new design by David Chipperfield Architects.
But the East End Preservation Society last week wrote to Tower Hamlets Council expressing its strong objection to the proposal.
A heritage statement submitted with the planning application said that the building would allow Emin to work better.
‘Although a bespoke design, the applicant’s circumstances are not unique but reflect the requirements of the practice of many accomplished contemporary artists.
‘Contemporary art production is a highly intensive process and around the clock endeavour. Work can take place at all hours and the line between an artist’s work and home life can be blurred.’
However, the society’s objection letter said ‘this is not a good reason for demolishing a locally listed building in a conservation area. If what is needed is new build then this is not an appropriate site.’
The society added that the existing building was ‘elegant’ and ‘clearly carried out by proficient architects’ and that demolishing it would leave the conservation area split in two ‘by a swathe of disparate modern buildings’.
The existing building, 66-68 Bell Lane, was built in the 1920s on behalf of the former Stepney Borough Council and has local listed status. There is already a previous consent for a new scheme on the site, which would have partially demolished the existing block and added a three storey extension.
Yet, the heritage statement said that by appointing Chipperfield, Emin has ‘signalled an intention to redevelop the site to an exceptional standard of design that will greatly contribute to the character and appearance of the conservation area and enhance the immediate built environment, thus outweighing and harm caused to the conservation area by the demolition of the existing building’.
Responding to initial designs Historic England said: ‘The design… is for an obviously contemporary building, one that makes use of structural brick and is of a scale and form that reflects some of the existing buildings within the conservation area.
‘[The] loss of the building would cause some (clearly less than substantial} harm to the conservation area. We have no doubt that the proposed new building is a piece of very high quality design that would be fit for purpose.
The letter to Tower Hamlets council concludes: ‘Should the local authority be minded to grant consent to a submitted application, we would urge them to ensure that the quality of the design is carried through the project and that materials
The application is expected to be determined by councillors in September.