The Victorian Society has warned the approval of Foster + Partners’ 20-storey office block in Whitechapel would set a ‘dangerous precedent’ for the East End
The practice submitted plans for a stepped 49,000m² scheme on the corner of Whitechapel High Street and Commercial Street in September.
But the Victorian Society has objected to the demolition of the existing 19th-century buildings and argued the scheme would cause ’substantial harm’ to the surrounding conservation area.
The South Street Asset Management scheme involves a land swap with a neighbouring primary school and includes shops on the ground and lower ground floors, and offices above.
Under the plans, Canon Barnett primary school’s playground would be moved to a more ‘appropriate location’ at the centre of the site, which South Street said would help to address air quality and noise issues.
The scheme involves the retention of a four-storey Edwardian building on the corner of Whitechapel High Street and Commercial Street, but the Victorian Society argues it will be ’surrounded by the new development on all sides and above’.
Tom Taylor, conservation advisor for the Victorian Society, said: ’The majority of this application judges the site from a predominately western gaze, arguing that the larger, commercial developments to the west would put the site in context and justify its height and bulk.
’But judge the application from an eastern viewpoint and the entire context changes: set against that backdrop of predominantly low-rise, fine-grained Edwardian buildings, the proposed building looks entirely alien and does not respect the historic context of this conservation area.’
Fosters’ head of studio Grant Brooker had said previously: ‘This project continues Aldgate’s incredible growth story and offers an unparalleled opportunity to make a really positive contribution to the neighbourhood and to Tower Hamlets.
‘The majority of the site is currently occupied by a car park. Our designs seek to reinvigorate it with vibrant retail and flexible workspaces, while creating new, healthier play spaces for the adjoining school.’
The planning application is expected to be decided by Tower Hamlets in early 2019.
Foster + Partners was approached for comment.