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A Letter To The Times

February 11, 2016
by the gentle author

Today, a new chapter opens in the story of our campaign to Save Norton Folgate with the publication of this letter in the The Times. Already a Judicial Review is scheduled in April to scrutinise the mishandling of British Land’s application by Boris Johnson and the Greater London Authority, now this letter asks Greg Clark, Secretary of State, to stage a Public Inquiry that can determine the best outcome for Norton Folgate.

To the Editor of The Times

We urge the Secretary of State, Greg Clark, to call in for his own determination – and hold a planning inquiry into – the British Land planning applications that are threatening the future of Norton Folgate in historic Spitalfields. This precious Conservation Area on the fringes of the City of London is under threat from plans by developer British Land to demolish a swathe of buildings for a banal office-led scheme. The plans were rejected by the democratically elected local Council, but this decision has been shamefully overruled by the Mayor of London, one of a string of permissions he has handed to developers against the will of local people and the mandate of local democracy.

Only a thorough public inquiry can determine the best outcome for this sensitive historic area. The Spitalfields Trust has commissioned its own scheme for the site from Burrell, Foley, Fischer Architects. This repairs and reuses the historic fabric, provides sensitive in-fill in keeping with the scale and character of the area as well as serving the interests of local businesses, particularly SMEs and micro enterprises, and the need for housing in the Borough.  It has been independently costed, is viable, and could be delivered immediately and speedily, for a fraction of the development cost.


David Bailey CBE, Photographer

Alan Bennett, Writer

Clem Cecil, Director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage

Julie Christie, Actress

Dan Cruickshank, Architectural Historian

Ralph Fiennes, Actor

Mark Girouard, Architectural Historian

Tim Knox, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum

Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, Garden Designer

Miriam Margolyes OBE, Actress

Suggs McPherson, Madness

John Nicolson MP, SNP spokesman on Culture, Media & Sport

Dame Sian Phillips, Actress

Jonathan Pryce, Actor

Charles Saumarez Smith, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy

Rohan Silva, Second Home

Rupert Thomas, Editor of World of Interiors

Jeanette Winterson, Writer

Please add your name to the illustrious list of those calling for a Public Inquiry by writing direct to the Secretary of State. The Spitalfields Trust suggest you include the following points in your letter which you can email to or post to House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

  • This is not just a very important case for London, it is also of national importance and has serious implications for Conservation Areas across the country.
  • This fragile Conservation Area is protected by local Conservation Guidelines, which this application disregards.
  • The vitality of the City does not depend upon demolishing some warehouses in Spitalfields.
  • The democratic decision at a local level has been over-ruled by the centralised intervention of the Mayor of London.
  • The Spitalfields Trust’s Conservation Scheme for Norton Folgate is independently costed and is viable.  It could be delivered more quickly and far more cheaply than that proposed by British Land. It is based upon the repair of the existing historic buildings, with sensitive infill of empty sites in keeping with the Conservation Area.
  • The Spitalfields Trust’s scheme would provide more affordable business accommodation, particularly for small businesses and provide more housing, both low cost and private, for the local borough.
  • This case has given rise to substantial local and national controversy, and has been widely covered in the media.
  • The whole-scale demolition of heritage assets in the Conservation Area conflicts fundamentally with national policies as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework in section 12 in relation to conserving and enhancing the historic environment.

Follow the Campaign at facebook/savenortonfolgate

Follow Spitalfields Trust on twitter @SpitalfieldsT

You may also like to take a look at

Beware the Curse of Norton Folgate!

Standing up to the Mayor of London

An Offer to Buy Norton Folgate

An New Scheme For Norton Folgate

Joining Hands to Save Norton Folgate

Dan Cruickshank in Norton Folgate

Taking Liberties in Norton Folgate

Inside the Nicholls & Clarke Buildings

Stories of Norton Folgate

Save Norton Folgate

22 Responses leave one →
  1. February 11, 2016

    I hope and pray this will be successful, and that Boris will not be able to trample over democracy again. Valerie

  2. February 11, 2016

    Thank you for doing all of this


  3. February 11, 2016

    Writing. Good work.

  4. February 11, 2016

    This battle gets more moving by each passing day as people fight for the soul of London and for its skyline. I left physically many years ago, but not emotionally. Real London forever (what’s left of it)! Bless every one of those who signed that letter for The Times.

  5. February 11, 2016

    Mail to GC done!

  6. February 11, 2016

    I wish the trust all the best with the campaign. It would be great to see Norton Folgate revamped in a way that’s in keeping with its heritage. And the will of an autocratic mayor vanquished.

    I came across this song from the comments section of one of your earlier posts on this issue. Great stuff from signatory Mr Suggs and the inestimable Madness: The Liberty of Norton Folgate

    My spell checker keeps changing Norton Folgate To Northern Folgate, which makes me wonder if Norton is a corruption/pre-standard spelling of Northern. Like the northern gate out of the city?

  7. Ros permalink
    February 11, 2016

    Good to see this letter with all its eminent signatories. Will the Secretary of State be willing to wade in to this complex battle of politics and personalities? Time will tell! Meanwhile I’ll write.

  8. Pat Davies permalink
    February 11, 2016

    With all my heart, I wish the outcome will be,
    to keep Norton Folgate, safe and not be clouded, by the buildings that are taking over our, Historic London.

  9. Georgina Briody permalink
    February 11, 2016

    I have done my bit, I have just written!!

  10. February 11, 2016

    Wonderful work. Thank you.

  11. February 11, 2016

    I have always had a special regard and fondness for this area as I was born in Wilkes Street and lived in and around this vicinity as a child for many years and there is still a very nice community feel here at present. I am very saddened to see how gradually this ancient part of London is becoming encroached and overwhelmed with large sterile glass, concrete and chrome buildings I really hope we can fight to save Spitalfields.

  12. Malcolm permalink
    February 11, 2016

    I’ll be writing.

    I was pleased to see that Tracey Vermin had her ugly house turned down by Tower Hamlets.
    Will the new Mayor call it in and pass it though?

  13. Shawdian permalink
    February 11, 2016

    I am so angry and cannot believe the way Boris Johnson has deliberately bulldozed his way into this. I have met Boris several times over the years and respected him. I am very dissapointed he has done this, all in the name of boosting his ego for when he leaves his Mayorship position. I am horrified.

    I will be writing that letter as my heart goes out to this important Conseravtion area WE
    All Fought so HARD to Protect and We WON!

    It is OUTRAGIOUS One Person Can Over Ride the finale Winning Decision. Norton Folgate

    GOOD LUCK ALL 🙂 We ❤️ Norton Folgate

  14. Peter Holford permalink
    February 11, 2016

    Letter to Mr Clarke sent! Let’s see if he can somehow justify Johnson’s arrogant actions or whether he will do the decent thing.

  15. pauline taylor permalink
    February 11, 2016

    I shall be writing as this campaign deserves the support of every decent person in this country. Boris is despicable and his behaviour seems to me to be totally illegal, a thorough investigation needs to take place before he is allowed to destroy London. We need to win this war to teach him a lesson.

  16. Chris Ashby permalink
    February 11, 2016

    I’ve just emailed Greg Clark MP. Thanks for all your hard work on this and other campaigns.
    Best wishes,
    Chris A.

  17. Deby (in Canada) permalink
    February 11, 2016

    Letter done from Phil and I… thanks you for carrying on this great cause-
    you work tirelessly and I hope this time it will be a victory
    keep well and cheers

  18. February 11, 2016

    Thanks for this, have just written to call for a public inquiry…

  19. February 12, 2016

    Fat chance I have to change things I just have to look at awfull buildings for evermore, there is an one building near st pauls all awfull coloured glass. Architects and developers live in own world, think they should all be shot

  20. Josephine Rogers permalink
    February 12, 2016

    I have not lived in London for many years but have always remained closely interested in the City through relatives and friends. I’ve been aware for some time of this outrageous situation with planning apps being arbitrarily called in by the Mayor and the GLA against massive local opposition and hope against hope that this letter will help finally to elicit a positive response and achieve a planning enquiry by the Secretary of State. GOOD LUCK and thank you for all your campaign’s hard work!

  21. February 14, 2016

    He overruled the decision? Did I totally MISS THIS? I thought it was coming up soon?

    CORRUPTION! Is there no way the people can sue and demand this is played out in a public enquiry? There is simply no justification for how he could do this. None whatsoever.

    The only option i can think of is for a the people to *buy* the area off British Land and save it for all time, is this possible at all? Could they are forced to sell by a court ruling?

  22. February 15, 2016

    It is disgraceful that local wishes are trampled on by the Mayor of London.

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