An Offer To Buy Norton Folgate
The Spitalfields Trust scheme for Norton Folgate
The British Land scheme for Norton Folgate
Incredibly, both these visualisations show the same view – eloquently illustrating the polarity of competing visions in the contest for the future of Norton Folgate.
Forty years ago, the Spitalfields Trust – with the help of Sir John Betjeman – defeated British Land in their attempt to demolish the historic streets in this northern corner of Spitalfields but now, like an unwelcome remake of an old movie, British Land are back with a larger and meaner development scheme which entails destroying more than seventy per cent of the fabric of their site which sits within a Conservation Area.
Back in 1977, the conflict was resolved by Tower Hamlets Council, who supported the Spitalfields Trust, but in this new century local democracy no longer holds sway and the Mayor of London is able to intervene in favour of the developers. His hearing takes place tomorrow and, after a dozen such ‘call-ins’ in which he has overturned the decision of the local council in every case, the outcome appears predetermined.
Yet there is a new character in the drama and his name is Troels Holch Povlson, a Danish Billionaire Conservationist. He is offering to buy the site off the City of London, matching and – if necessary exceeding – what they paid for it plus what they stand to profit from it, in order that British Land’s development be abandoned and the Spitalfields Trust scheme go ahead.
While the British Land development is about achieving the maximum financial return by packing the largest volume of corporate office space onto the site and obliterating Norton Folgate in the process, Troels Holch Povlson recognises a different value in Norton Folgate that consists in repairing the historic buildings and retaining a diversity of use.
Conventional economics might suggest that British Land must prevail but now Troels Holch Povlson’s offer is on the table, a different outcome proposes itself which delivers the required economic return and saves Norton Folgate too.
Sir John Betjeman & Dan Cruickshank in the first battle against British Land in Norton Folgate in 1977
Troels Holch Povlson, Billionaire Conservationist (Photograph by Sarah Ainslie)
Readers are encouraged to attend the Norton Folgate hearing in the chamber at City Hall on Monday 18th January at 2pm. Click here for further information
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