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Campaigners unconvinced by Norton Folgate u-turn

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Conservation campaigners have dismissed AHMM’s amendments to its controversial proposals for Norton Folgate in London

Last week the practice submitted ‘small but significant changes’ to its original plans for the historic City fringe site, effectively retaining two 19th-century warehouse blocks previously earmarked for a major overhaul.

It is understood AHMM made the alterations following recommendations from the mayor’s office after a site visit by Greater London Authority planners last month.

London mayor Boris Johnson called in the 32,550m2 scheme by developer British Land in September following its rejection by Tower Hamlets Council two months earlier. The authority had thrown out the proposals after a vigorous conservation-led campaign headed by the vocal Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust. 

But historian and TV presenter Dan Cruickshank, founding trustee of the Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust, said he was unconvinced by the proposed alterations. He told the Architects’ Journal: ‘This is only a relatively minor amendment, seemingly imposed by Boris Johnson.’

‘It is a curious situation, given that initially British Land said retention of the warehouses was impossible and Historic England made clear that in its opinion the virtual demolition of these warehouses was “conservation”.

‘Now the apparently “impossible” is happening’

‘Now the apparently “impossible” is happening, with the scheme being changed to retain the buildings.’

He added: ‘[The Trust] continues its challenge and wants to impel the major of London to explain, justify and defend his action to, seemingly, subvert the democratic process and call in a scheme that has already been rejected by the local community and by the local planning committee.’

Cruickshank said that because the scheme considered by Tower Hamlets has now been amended, the public consultation process should be rerun.

‘By calling the scheme in, Johnson is making himself the local planning authority and so must surely abide by the regulations governing proposed developments in conservation areas,’ he said.

Johnson is expected to give his final verdict on the wider scheme, designed with Duggan Morris, DSDHA and Stanton Williams, at a public hearing on 18 January.

Response from British Land

‘British Land submitted an amendment last week to its plans for its Blossom Street development to Tower Hamlets Council and the Greater London Authority. The proposed changes allow for the retention and repair of the internal fabric of the warehouses at 12 and 13 Blossom Street.  British Land wrote to residents and the local community on 15 November to update them on the revisions, Tower Hamlets Council issued formal letters on 21 November to start the public consultation process, and all the amended plans are available for inspection on the Ccouncil website.

‘[We] believe it is important that agreement is reached to bring certainty to the site and ensure the benefits of thousands of new jobs, economic activity and new homes. Throughout the process British Land has continued to listen and respond to comments from local community stakeholders, statutory consultees and the planning authorities, and these latest amendments respond to comments received from the Greater London Authority.’

Previous story (AJ 18.11.15)

Truce in Battle of Norton Folgate? AHMM agrees to amend plans

AHMM has agreed to change its contentious proposals for Norton Folgate, potentially resolving the high-profile planning dispute over the historic City of London fringe site

Later this week the practice will submit amended plans which will now retain two 19th-century warehouse blocks at the heart of the 32,550m2 British Land-backed scheme.

In the original plans, which were thrown out by Tower Hamlets Council in July, the buildings at 12 and 13 Blossom Street had been earmarked for a major overhaul, with the interior layout significantly reworked to house large office floorplates.

This element of the redevelopment had come in for particular criticism from the Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust – the local campaign group led by architectural critic and television presenter Dan Cruickshank (AJ 06.08.15), which had vigorously fought the plans.

In September, following Tower Hamlets’ refusal, London mayor Boris Johnson stepped in, using powers granted to him under the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 to take over decision-making on the scheme.

It is understood that AHMM made its alterations following recommendations from the mayor’s office after a site visit last month. Johnson is expected to give his final verdict on the wider scheme, designed with Duggan Morris, DSDHA and Stanton Williams, at a public hearing on 18 January.

Speaking about the changes, AHMM director Paul Monaghan said: ‘This is a small but significant change – about one sixth of the floorplate has altered.

‘But it will hopefully make a big difference to some people there, so it is worth doing. It follows on from what was happening last year, where we were listening and adapting the scheme to make the design as democratic as possible.’

He added: ‘When you are working on people’s doorsteps you have to listen, so I never see it as a compromise. These changes have enhanced the scheme.’

The Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust has been contacted for comment.

Revised plans for the warehouses at 12-13 Blossom Street [redesgined by AHMM - November 2015]

Source: Forbes Massie
AHMM’s revised plans for the warehouses at 12-13 Blossom Street




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