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Council set to reject Chipperfield's plans for artist Emin

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Artist Tracey Emin faces defeat in her attempt to demolish a locally listed building in Spitalfields and replace it with a new studio designed by David Chipperfield Architects

Planners at London Tower Hamlets are recommending councillors refuse Emin permission for the new workspace in the east London conservation area, along with new bedrooms on top of her existing house next door.

Council officers admitted the proposed new building was of ‘high design quality’, however they concluded this would not be enough to outweigh the harm caused by demolishing the existing structure.

A report due to go before the council’s development committee this week said: ‘In conclusion, the proposals would fail to meet the statutory requirement to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the conservation area and would not comply with national or local planning policies relating to conservation of the built environment.’

The building proposed for demolition, 66-68 Bell Lane, was built in 1927 and is the smallest housing scheme known to have been built by Stepney Borough Council during the interwar period.

The council report said; ‘It represents a rare example of what might be described as an infill public housing scheme (a product of an abandoned road widening scheme).

‘This distinguishes it from the more common creation of a new public housing estate emerging from a wider slum clearance program.’

Officers acknowledged that the Chipperfield scheme was a ‘carefully considered scheme of high design quality’ and that it ‘plays very considerable attention to its detailing and choice of materials’.

However, the proposals received 58 objections with only 11 in favour.

A submission by the East End Preservation Society labelled the plans ‘very damaging’, while SAVE Britain’s Heritage added: ‘The public benefits of this application are negligible, and seem to focus on the private working patterns of an artist.’

Watchdog Historic England was less committal, saying it is ‘for the local authority to carefully weigh the harm to the conservation area caused by the loss of the historic building with the public benefits that would potentially arise from the current proposals’.

Councillors will vote on the proposals at a meeting on Wednesday (10 February).

Clem Cecil, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said: ’We hope that Tower Hamlets will do the right thing. Neither national nor local planning policy support this proposal – it is a locally listed building in a conservation area – both significant measures of protection. In addition, the proposed new design is grim, presenting an imposing frontage to both streets.’

A spokeswoman for David Chipperfield Architects refused to comment on the recommendations in the report.


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