Aerial photograph of Norton Folgate
Projected image of Norton Folgate. Image: Spitalfields Trust

Nearly forty years after Sir John Betjemin’s campaign to protect the historic site of Norton Folgate near Spitalfields, campaigners face another battle against developers British Land.

The developers plan to demolish 75 per cent of buildings on the site, including Blossom Street’s 1886 Victorian warehouses and the former residence of playwright Christopher Marlowe.

It also plans to increase the commercial use of the site, which lies entirely within the Elder Street Conservation Area, by 65 per cent.

Tim Whittaker, an administrator for the Spitalfields Trust and a Whitechapel resident, said: “The conservation area appraisal for Elder Street is the only piece of legislation that Tower Hamlets Council have concerning the area. It is therefore of particular importance and weight and should be adhered to.

“British Land’s proposals clearly flout this in a number of ways but perhaps most importantly in their proposed wholesale redevelopment of the Blossom Street warehouses.

“The appraisal addresses this in detail, saying that any adaptation of these warehouses for reuse must be kept to an absolute minimum.

“Therefore it is important that Londoners remind Tower Hamlets Council of their own legislation and their duty to abide by it and treat conservation areas with due care.”

Tower Hamlets Council has confirmed it will accept emails and letters about the application until April, in advance of hearing British Land’s application. A council spokesperson also confirmed there was no date set for the Strategic Development Committee to hear British Land’s application.

A spokesperson for British Land told the East End Review: “The scheme preserves the 19th century townscape and refurbishes the warehouses to secure their long term future. The proposal is precisely an example of creative re-use of these unlisted buildings.”

British Land tried to develop the same patch of land last year, and added that their new 2015 scheme keeps more of the Blossom Street warehouses than the previous one did.

David Milne, the curator of Dennis Severs’ House museum on Folgate Street, said: “The plans to redevelop the site would not only be a great loss to the historic nature of these beautiful streets but would in fact remove all trace of the human character that brings people in their thousands to this vibrant and diverse community.

“We do not spend our days wandering around vast office complexes, we visit and cherish the small buildings and houses that continue to evolve as they do so wonderfully not only here within the streets of Spitalfields but all across our city.”

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