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Developments On The Horizon

January 19, 2019
by the gentle author

Warehouses in Blossom St drawn by Lucinda Rogers

In the opening sequence of MARY POPPINS RETURNS, the cheery lamplighter cycles round old London at dusk lighting up the lamps, including Blossom St in Norton Folgate, Spitalfields – an atmospheric example of the capital’s surviving nineteenth century streetscape. Too bad that British Land are set on demolishing most of it this year and replacing it with a hideous corporate plaza, granted permission in 2015 by the former Mayor of London Boris Johnson who employed his autocratic power in overturning Tower Hamlets Council’s rejection of the scheme. Before long, the scene in MARY POPPINS RETURNS will exist as a poignant record and reminder of the loss of the medieval liberty of Norton Folgate.

At this moment, we face a slew of exploitative new developments that threaten East End heritage without delivering significant benefits to the people of East London, so I thought I should outline some to you in order that we may prepare ourselves for the fights which are in store.

In 2016, we started a campaign with the Victorian Society to save The Still & Star in Aldgate, the City of London’s last remaining slum pub, and were successful in winning Asset of Community Value status for it. This was the first time the Corporation had granted an ACV and, in spite of an appeal by the developers to have this removed, it was upheld by the City. Now the developers have submitted an application for demolition of the pub for the sake of their vast corporate office block and they intend to maintain the ACV by reconstructing The Still & Star nearby using a surreal, Alice-in-Wonderland-style assemblage of casts of the exterior of the old building in green concrete. Readers are encouraged to register objections at by entering the application reference 16/00406/FULMAJ

We have learnt that Raycliff, the developer who bought The Whitechapel Bell Foundry has just submitted a planning application to Tower Hamlets Council seeking permission for change of use from foundry to bell-themed boutique hotel. We support the UK Historic Building Preservation Trust (founded by HRH The Prince of Wales) and Factum Foundation’s joint scheme to reopen the foundry as a state of the art operation for bells and art casting – marrying old and new technology, and with a strong element of apprenticeships and training. It will take a few weeks for Raycliff’s application to be processed by the Council planning department and become public. Once this happens, we will advise readers of the most effective way to object.

Meanwhile, we plan to stage a legal challenge to the Council’s decision last September granting Crest Nicholson permission to dig up the four hundred year old Bethnal Green Mulberry tree in the grounds of the former London Chest Hospital. We believe that the Council’s interpretation of the planning guidelines revised last July to extend further protection to Veteran & Ancient Trees, which can only be sacrificed in ‘wholly exceptional circumstances’ is questionable. We also consider it to be a poor development with too little social housing that will do irreparable damage to the Victoria Park Conservation Area. Currently the application is with the Mayor of London’s office and only when the decision is ratified can it be challenged.

We will be sure to keep you posted of this and other developments on the horizon.

‘A kind of authenticity’ – facadism to come in Norton Folgate according to British Land. The developer’s image is tactfully cropped at the top to conceal the full height.

The Still & Star, 1951 (Courtesy Heritage Assets/The National Brewery Centre)

The office block that is proposed to replace The Still & Star

Norman Foster’s proposal for a tower at the corner of Commercial St & Whitechapel High St, facading the current building. Again, the developer’s image is tactfully cropped at the top to conceal the full height. Fortunately, Historic England have objected to this monster in a Conservation Area, so it is unlikely to go ahead.




You may also like to read about

At The Still & Star

Hope for the Whitechapel Bell Foundry

The Fate of the Bethnal Green Mulberry

19 Responses leave one →
  1. B Smith permalink
    January 19, 2019

    There are times when you read things like “…reconstructing The Still & Star nearby using a surreal, Alice-in-Wonderland-style assemblage of casts of the exterior of the old building in green concrete.” and wonder whether you’ve slipped through a rift in the space-time continuum to arrive in some bizarre dimension where such things are considered not only feasible but desirable.

  2. January 19, 2019

    Sad news. I hope the proposed destruction can be stopped. Valerie

  3. Jamie S permalink
    January 19, 2019

    Utterly depressing, but thank you for continuing to fight the good fight

  4. Jill Wilson permalink
    January 19, 2019

    I agree with all of the above comments…grrrrrr!!! I can’t believe how short sighted the planners are….

    Thanks for the updates and keep up the good work x

  5. January 19, 2019

    Truly depressing news….pen at the ready and sleeves up for the fight ahead.
    East London is being suffocated by ‘corporate plazas’ and ‘ high end shops’, the proposal to build ‘posh shops’ on the Old Street roundabout yet another example of the greed of developers.
    Thank you GA for keeping us all in the loop.

  6. January 19, 2019

    Keep up the good fight.

  7. Wendy Lowe permalink
    January 19, 2019

    Thank you for highlighting all of these once more. We all need to get busy to save our heritage from these developers.

  8. Liz Rastrick permalink
    January 19, 2019

    Your actions to save indigenous buildings are inspirational. I’ll apply your grit to fight the outrageous land proposals in my own part of the world.

  9. Grace permalink
    January 19, 2019

    Utterly preposterous! This sort of absurd folly is the reason I joined the Victorian Society a couple of years ago. Makes me wish I had the funds to buy up all these beautiful old buildings and maintain them and with them the spirit of the East End. I’ll be signing all available petitions and join in all the action I can in order to stop this.
    Keep up the good work GA!

  10. Sue Mayer permalink
    January 19, 2019

    Thanks for bringing the proposed wanton destruction of the East End to our attention.

    My immediate reaction to the casting of The Still and Star in green concrete was “You cannot be serious!” How anybody could think this is a good idea is beyond me.

    London will soon be a ghost city full of high rise office blocks. How depressing.

  11. Robin permalink
    January 19, 2019

    Thank you, Gentle Author, for keeping us updated and for giving us information on how to resist these horrible threats to the grand architectural heritage of the East End.

  12. January 19, 2019

    those proposed buildings are hideous and way out of proportion with the rest of the area. that office block that is proposed to replace The Still & Star especially makes me recoil in horror. i hope this desecration will be stopped. i am in the usa but i have submitted an objection – i hope it doesn’t matter where objections come from (?)

  13. Paul Loften permalink
    January 19, 2019

    Of course the council will succumb to the argument about jobs and how the new buildings will benefit the local economy and this is why the developers will have their way. Its time to get rid of the illusion that ripping the heart and soul from an area by making it just like any other place will benefit it in the long term. Look at what they have done to our high streets. Absolutely ruined them! by building faceless shopping malls Of course they did not have the foresight to think of the internet and how it would affect shopping. All the malls are the same with empty shops that are impossible to let. The future must not be left in the hands of developers out for a quick buck . Councils must be forced to think futher than the next payday.

  14. Nicholas Keeble permalink
    January 19, 2019

    How disappointing: I thought Norman Foster had a degree of sensitivity, but this conclusively proves otherwise.

  15. Mark P permalink
    January 20, 2019

    For those of us far away but eager to help preserve something of old London, are there any ‘friend’s organization(s) where we can send financial support?

  16. gary Arber permalink
    January 20, 2019

    Is this a a look into the future ? Going into a concrete replica Victorian pub drinking a synthetic pint of bitter from a plastic demi litre tankard? The mid boggles!

  17. Juliet Jeater permalink
    January 20, 2019

    thank you for the work you are doing to draw people’s attention to the continued destruction of the East End to satisfy corporate greed.

  18. Peter Holford permalink
    January 21, 2019

    I visited Spitalfields in January for the first time in some years. My wife accompanied me for the first time. As we walked past the first ‘facaded’ building she let out an expletive and said “What’s that?” I remarked that it is an attempt to retain the history while incorporating it into the new fabric. She said “What is the point of that? It’s ugly and stupid.”

    This was a comment from somebody who is not a Londoner and has not seen anything like it before. Her visceral reaction tells me that on no level does facadism work, aesthetically or for preserving historical fabric. As if I needed to be told!

  19. Richard Harrison permalink
    March 29, 2021

    I’m late to the party here- but I’m only an occasional visitor to London.
    But, I have a passion for heritage- and this seems amazing that the development has been allowed.
    BUT, on the CoL planning website, they state ‘ In limited circumstances a decision can be challenged on the grounds that the City Corporation acted beyond its legal powers in coming to the decision.’

    I wonder if “we” have a chance, still?

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