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Other side of the case to save old Spitalfields

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As someone who has been involved in the campaign to prevent the demolition of more than half of the Old Spitalfields Market since 1987, I have to write to counter some of the misinformation expounded by Mike Bear from the Spitalfields Development Group (AJ 16/23.8.01).

Not only do I personally live within five minutes' walk of this valued and much-loved market, but so do the majority of the core members of the Spitalfields Market Under Threat (SMUT) coalition. Mike Bear accuses us of actually living in 'Knightsbridge and Belsize Park', and I wonder if he is getting confused as he lives in Hendon - probably nearer to Belsize Park than Spitalfields; and the developers' head office is in Knightsbridge.

However, where people who oppose the developers' plans to destroy the whole of the Old Spitalfields Market live is irrelevant. This historic and unique venue is visited by people from all over the country, as well as being on the agenda for international travellers. This shows that the preservation of all of the peripheral buildings of the market is an important matter for everyone who cares about the value of this historic neighbourhood, the continuance of a visitors' attraction, and the need to maintain a thriving local community and economy.

Readers of the AJ perhaps need reminding that the developer, now totally owned by Hammerson, acts as an agent for the Corporation of London. It is this local authority which is pushing for this predatory, incremental creep into Spitalfields, because the City of London views Canary Wharf as a competitor and not as a partner in the provision of large office premises.

Mike Bear's complaint that it is 'enormously dangerous' and 'so easy' to sign an e-mail seems old fashioned in this day of immediate electronic communication. However, to reassure him, the 25,000 signatures to our petition that we have collected so far do not include those who have signed online.

Incidentally, this number exceeds the total number of residents registered to vote in general elections in the City of London by some fivefold.

The Old Spitalfields Market has been described as a lung for the City, yet the corporation, as the freeholder of the site, wants to destroy this vital and exciting place to impose massive, grey, oppressive office buildings onto a community which has consistently shown, during the past 14 years, that it does not want them.

As a local resident I am very aware that the listed Horner Buildings will remain and continue as some form of market venue, but the demolition of the western extension, built just 40 years later, will significantly reduce the overall spaciousness and uniqueness of the site. This is already too apparent, since the developers erected hoardings around the 1928 extension at the beginning of the year.

Members of SMUT and our supporters believe that the whole of the market buildings must be retained, not only for the benefit of City workers but to be a buffer between the City and those of us who live in close proximity to this valuable piece of land. The Old Spitalfields Market is not only an important magnet for visitors to this very special part of London, but is also a focus for shopping, eating and a safe meeting-place for many of us from this very established and diverse community.

Jil Cove, Spitalfields, London E1

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