Controversial plans by AHMM, Duggan Morris, DSDHA and Stanton Williams to overhaul the historic Norton Folgate area in east London have been thrown out by councillors
Last night (21 July) Tower Hamlets’ strategic development committee went against its own officers’ recommendations and rejected the highly contentious British Land-backed mixed-use proposals for the Blossom Street area between Shoreditch and Spitalfields.
The 32,550m2 scheme, which would have seen a significant chunk of the Elder Street conservation area demolished, had come in for heavy criticism from local campaigners, including the Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust led by architectural critic and television presenter Dan Cruickshank.
It is understood the local authority received more than 500 letters of objection against the plans which included a 13 storey office block, 40 flats, shops, restaurants and around 1,400m² of public space. Dismissing the plans, the committee raised fears about the impact of the proposals on the ‘historic buildings and the conservation area’ and the ‘general level of housing’.
A jubilant Cruickshank told the AJ: ‘This is a victory for local democracy – and for common sense. No members of the planning committee supported the scheme and British Land should now listen to the people of Tower Hamlets [and] redesign a scheme that was last night condemned as too greedy and too destructive.’
The scheme was too greedy and too destructive
Before the meeting, the council’s planning team had recommended approval for the proposals stating: ‘While in some instances less than substantial harm to designated heritage assets has been identified, this would be outweighed by the public benefits that would ensue.’
Historic England had also backed the plans, claiming the scheme was of better quality than previously consented plans in 2011.
In its report to the council, the heritage body said: ‘While the proposals represent a substantial intervention to a large site within Elder Street Conservation Area and will therefore result in considerable change,we believe that all of the significant elements of the heritage have been correctly identified and appropriately treated within the submitted application.’
It is the second time Cruickshank has succeeded in thwarting plans by British Land to redevelop the area. In 1977 Cruickshank and the Trust fended off proposals to redevelop Elder Street in Spitalfields.
Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust had claimed the latest development would have obliterated the conservation area and had proposed an alternative vision that ‘respects rather than destroys the history and architectural precedent’ of the area.
A statement from British Land said: ‘We are disappointed by the decision and are considering our options.’
Dan Cruickshank’s comments in full:
‘This is a victory for local democracy – and for common sense. Ignoring its own officers advice and the opinion of Historic England members of Tower Hamlets planning comment has rejected a scheme that is too big for its sensitive historic site and which would destroy far too much of the conservation area for which it is proposed.
‘No members of the planning committee supported the scheme and British Land should now listen to the people of Tower Hamlets – whose desire has been expressed through their elected councillors on the committee – and redesign a scheme that was last night condemned as too greedy and too destructive. The Spitalfields Trust accepted British Land’s initial invitation to work with them to produce an acceptable scheme. But the Trust found its observations, criticism and advice constantly ignored. It had no choice but to go into direct opposition and, in consequence, produced – with John Burrell – an ‘alternative’ scheme for the site.
‘[Our] scheme demonstrates how the Blossom Street site could be developed – but in a far more modest manner that respects existing scale and the fabric and character of the conservation area. The Spitalfields Trust would be more than happy to work again with British Land if it learns from last night and commits itself to the production of a more sympathetic scheme for Norton Folgate.’
A statement from Tower Hamlets council:
“Last night at the Strategic Development Committee, the committee resolved not to follow the officers’ recommendation to approve the Norton Folgate planning application. The committee raised concerns around the impact that this would have on the historic buildings and the conservation area. They also expressed concern around the general level of housing as well as affordable housing in the planning proposals.’