Skip to content

Trouble At The Truman Brewery

June 12, 2020
by the gentle author

In recent years, Spitalfields has faced a wave of soulless corporate development spreading from the west, inflicting ugly steel and glass blocks that are entirely at odds with the narrow streets of old brick buildings here. First it was the Spitalfields Market, then the Fruit & Wool Exchange and Norton Folgate, and now the wave has reached the historic Truman Brewery, where a massive shopping mall with offices on top is proposed.

So far, these developments have all served as extensions of the business culture of the City of London and offer little to the residents of the East End where the priorities are for housing and affordable workspace. The Truman Brewery is the largest undeveloped site in Spitalfields and it needs a planning brief created in consultation with the community which reflects the needs of local people, rather than more bland corporate offices, chain retail and bars.

I am publishing a statement below by the Spitalfields Trust and I hope readers will support this important campaign for the future of Spitalfields.


A big block on Brick Lane

Shopping mall

Corporate plaza



The vast Truman Brewery site needs a proper development brief from the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

  • For this large site in such an important location, it is usual for the local council to create a development brief, providing guidance on the type of uses which the area actually needs. This is an important opportunity for LBTH to focus on housing and affordable work space.  They have the power to set parameters for the size, bulk and design of the buildings on this site. 

This proposal slices off the south east corner of the Truman Brewery site for an ill-conceived development.

  • Large glass-walled corporate offices with double-height foyers onto Brick Lane, adopting the architectural language of the City which has no place in the Conservation Area.
  • A lamentable failure to address the pressing need for housing and affordable workspace in the  area. 
  • A shopping mall spilling out into the small surrounding streets, bringing more than a thousand extra people into the narrow streets at peak weekend hours.
  • Buildings that are too tall and bulky which will have a harmful impact on the character of Brick Lane and the characterful nineteenth-century terrace on the south side of Woodseer St, while obscuring views of the historic Truman Brewery chimney. 
  • Destroying the distinction between the vibrant, busy character of Brick Lane and Woodseer Street which is a quiet, residential backwater.
  • Breaching the local planning guidance that new retail and restaurants should be resisted in the residential side streets off Brick Lane.
  • This development focusses on commercial space at the expense of local residents interests, by overshadowing of local houses, creating up to 60% loss of light, and delivering a huge increase in the visitor numbers with all the associated noise and disturbance. 
  • Restaurants with open air spaces and three terraces for corporate entertainment.
  • Very few residents have been consulted.

The Truman Brewery development is a short-sighted, poorly and insensitively designed scheme based on an antiquated business model.  Rather than providing much needed housing and affordable workspace, it seeks to introduce buildings inappropriate to the Conservation Area, which will destroy its appearance and character to the detriment of residents and the local community.

Click here to see the planning application



  1. Quote Planning Application PA/20/00415/A1  (140 and 146 Brick Lane, and 25 Woodseer St, London E1).
  2. Please write in your own words your reasons for OBJECTION before Friday 26th June.
  3. Remember to include your postal address. Members of one household can each write separately. Anyone can object wherever they are in the world.

Send your objection to 

Follow the Spitalfields Trust to keep up to date with this story

Twitter @SpitalfieldsT

Facebook /thespitalfieldstrust

Instagram @spitalfields_trust

30 Responses leave one →
  1. Hugh Fowler permalink
    June 12, 2020

    Although I would think the present health and economic conditions may impede the progress of this development, we have seen that the avarice and philistinism of developers knows no bounds.

    At the same time Tower Hamlets is going to be shorter of cash perhaps than ever before, which will create its own motivations.

    The fact that the pandemic may affect the progress of this development should not lull anyone into a false sense of security. There is an ocean of private capital sloshing around looking for a home worldwide and just because, rationally, it might seem unlikely that this potential white elephant will go ahead, it does not mean it won’t.

    This is a wonderful opportunity to use this site for a new type of mixed development whilst protecting the historic nature of the site and reflecting a new post pandemic economic reality.

    I shall be making my objection today.

  2. Remo Broglia permalink
    June 12, 2020

    I was born in Bethnal Green in 1953 and lived in the Cura cafe that was on the corner of 133 Commercial street and Folgate street untill 1974 when my family sold the cafe and moved back to Italy.
    I stayed in England but moved to the countryside for a new start with my wife, but now at the age of 67 whenever I visit the area it does upset me to see the memories I had as a child walking past Trumans on my way to school slowly but surely disappearing bit by bit as concrete and glass boxes replace the wonderful buildings that were once a part of my childhood.
    The problem everywhere in the UK is that and fat cat developers don’t give a stuff about our heritage as they just want to make money and don’t care who they walk over.
    Its the us and them syndrome and always will be.

  3. June 12, 2020

    I have lived inE1/2 since 1996 First in Fournier st and now top Brick lane – I have fought all the developments at Spitalfields from the market regeneration and banking plans to the Brushfield st shops… this proposal must be stopped as Brick lane like the casbah in Algeria, the streets of Harlem or parts of lower Manhattan in NYC remains a global landmark of history culture and architecture and one of the last streets of this period in london
    Tower Hamlets MUST stop this takeover which will destroy the entire street
    I will campaign tirelessly to stop this
    It must be made a heritage site and sympathetically renovated..
    A lewton
    Formerly of 31 Fournier st E1

  4. June 12, 2020

    I will be writing, I have had enough of the destruction.

  5. June 12, 2020

    It seems that Tower Hamlets Council is rapidly turning itself into an agent for the interests of big business. Their ill conceived planning strategy is largely responsible for driving many thousands of working class residents out of the borough over the past decades. It’s not the people who work for the council who are to blame but the self serving politicians who run it. Indeed just as the residents of the borough have been purged by the Council’s gentrification agenda the employees are now being abused as the Mayor attempts to coerce the workforce into signing a new contract that will weaken their terms and conditions of work. Good luck with the campaign!

  6. paul loften permalink
    June 12, 2020

    Memories are brushed aside by those who bully their way into power and think they can bully their way in everything that they do when they are in power. Its not the first time that a Truman site has caused discontent. I have a memory of the Truman Brewery as it was around 1958 in Raven Row, behind the London Hospital where my Grandmother lived at the time. The same chimney stood there on the corner of Whitechapel road with the white Truman letters running down. I recall that I saw on one visit the Chimney being demolished. On the Truman site, they built a new building and was used as a post office depot with vans coming into the entrance in Raven Row , day and night. There was constant noise and also fumes that caused many complaints from the residents there. In the end, my grandmother had to move away from the little house she had lived in all her life.
    What a horrible sight this glass and concrete blocks are ! In fact, they are structures that are deliberately designed to destroy memory and the personal feeling of being in a place that you can identify. You could be anywhere and not recall where it actually was because there are a million places just like it everywhere

  7. Ros permalink
    June 12, 2020

    This is too much. Any thought that we might have a kinder and more caring society post pandemic seems a pipe dream. Tower Hamlets ha already lost so much that was worth preserving – please don’t let this be another piece of destruction.

  8. Ken Stewart permalink
    June 12, 2020

    Lived in the east end and when I go back there I could cry. Old buildings can be reused and cleverly Intigrated to make use of their architecture. Instead of just building buildings that don’t stand the test of time and look cold and uninviting. Won’t be any local shops etc just office space and empty shops as nobody can afford the rent.

  9. June 12, 2020

    I’ve put my objection in to the Council, more in hope than expectation. As Ros notes above, it will be just the same after Covid-19, and it’s dismaying to note that if this case gets called in, like the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, the judge and jury will be Robert Jenrick, who appears to be not above doing a developer who is a Tory donor the odd favour…

  10. June 12, 2020

    My friend has just made me aware of this and I will writing to Tower Hamlets to protest against this development which itself seems to contravene planning guidance.

    5.10 The proposal is a clear improvement in the quality and appearance of the site over the present situation. The new building will respect and remain consistent with the scale of its immediate surroundings.

  11. Chris Ashby permalink
    June 12, 2020

    Thanks for bringing this issue to our attention. My email objection has just been submitted and I hope it is effective. Best wishes.

  12. Jonathan van Halbert permalink
    June 13, 2020

    Oh Lord! Our Planners and Avaricious Developers keep doing this. Ripping down

    our wonderful Old Buildings.. What sickens me is that, they then stick up old Black

    and White Photographs on their walls of how it once was… We are a very sad Society

    who seem to have learned nothing from History.. How can we stop the rich and powerful?

    From doing their worst…

  13. Peter permalink
    June 13, 2020

    Objection submitted. Thank you for drawing attention to this.

  14. Jill Wilson permalink
    June 13, 2020

    The word that really rang true with me is “soulless” as this describes perfectly what this proposed development would be…

    I recently went behind the infamous facade of the Fruit and Wool Exchange and that was the exactly the word that described what it felt like – just bland glass and steel blocks that could have been anywhere in the world, and where there was no life or character.

    I find it hard to believe that the developers can’t understand what they would be destroying – the very thing that makes Spitalfields such a special place. I have done some work with a property developer who did a lot of work in Southwark, another historically fascinating place, and he was able to re-purpose old buildings in a sensitive and imaginative way so it can be done…

    Come in Tower Hamlets – get your act together, and stop the needless destruction!!

  15. paul loften permalink
    June 13, 2020

    I submitted an objection today

  16. Jansos permalink
    June 13, 2020

    I hope that public objections to the scheme will have the desired effect. I have submitted my objection to the scheme. IMO the last thing the area needs is another drab and dreary manifestation of concrete and glass. People flock to Brick Lane and its surrounds because of its uniqueness. If that is destroyed there will be less of a compelling reason to visit.

  17. teresa fenner permalink
    June 16, 2020

    How sad to see another piece of our history destroyed.
    Surely Tower Hamlets could convert the existing buildings
    into affordable housing. With more and more office
    staff working from home this should surely negate the need
    for more concrete and glass office blocks.

  18. Rachel Hopkin permalink
    June 17, 2020

    The market went from being a hub for independent creativity to a corporate slate of boredom to serve the office workers nearby. Please don’t further erase the identity of the area with this monotonous monstrosity.

  19. S Thomas permalink
    June 17, 2020

    Objection submitted – thank you for raising this.

  20. Penny Bowden permalink
    June 18, 2020

    I spent a very happy year working in the PR Department of Watney, Mann & Truman and just loved that building and the people who worked with me. They were a part of the local community and vice versa. It was a privilege to work in those surroundings.
    Allowing such a development will not do anything for the dynamics of Spitalfields. There is a need for low cost housing to encourage above all young people needing a leg up on to the property ladder. Furthermore, precedence should be given to those with existing family ties to stay in the neighbourhood and grow the community into the future without compromising its rich historical and architectural past.

  21. June 19, 2020

    I have just submitted an objection. It’s heartbreaking to see so little imagination used when development of sites like this become available. It’s like they don’t even try.

  22. Charly permalink
    June 22, 2020

    Is this development even going to be desirable or required in this post covid world. So many businesses are already shutting down offices in the city because they have realised that they are very expensive and it’s cheaper for people to work from home. Therefore building corporate office buildings seems very short sighted for this development. There’s so much office space that is already sitting vacant. Also another shopping centre really??? When so much of retail and stores in particular are on its knees. Who’s going to have the money to move in here. Seems I’ll thought through and very risky as a business decision. The impact to the local area will be devastating. The reason people go to brick lane is the atmosphere. If you get rid of that then no ones going to go to another bland development. Therefore the developers will just shoot themselves in the foot. Doesn’t make any sense from a business or cultural point of view. We don’t need another shopping centre. And London does not need offie space. Maybe use the building to create homes but needs to be done sympathetically. Without destroying the fabric. Which can be done with good architects. And not just developers wanting the biggest bang for their buck

  23. June 25, 2020

    Thanks for the last minute call out. These cold temples to Mammon are possibly going to be like mausoleums as people shop on line, work from home, don’t have disposable income and we enter the final stages of the climate emergency.
    Who now owns and inherited the land and is now selling is another same old story.

  24. Judi Jones permalink
    June 25, 2020

    Thank you bringing attention to this – I have submitted my Objection – I wrote it while feeling furious, sad, disappointed, helpless and yet determined. What else can we do but voice our opinion? The unimaginative, idiotic attitudes of those that control the town planning and development are given a free reign it seems. These corporate Frankensteins scratch each other’s backs to get plans put into action – they create monstrosities, line their pockets then drive home to their houses well away from the communities they have destroyed. But hey – that’s progress isn’t it. It makes me scream!

  25. Sue Mayer permalink
    June 25, 2020

    Thanks for reminding us about the deadline. I have sent in my objection. This is all very depressing. I am not holding my breath but maybe somebody will listen to us.

  26. Angela Dietrich permalink
    June 26, 2020

    This proposal sickens me…it’s obviously part of a plot designed to destroy the character of a unique part of London, making it look as non-descript and alienated as possible so that local people will be unable to identify with their roots.
    Please stop this development and deploy your resources elsewhere, like in the Docklands, for example, where there’s virtually nothing left to spoil.

  27. Micky Sayid permalink
    June 26, 2020

    Thanks for being this to my attention. Email sent and objected

  28. Dave Roberts permalink
    June 28, 2020

    It may well be the case that the current crisis has accelerated the change that was coming because of the internet. The high street as we have always known it was in decline anyway and two days ago a major shopping mall operator went into liquidation. This has been on the planners and developers table for some time, many years, and will probably fall foul of economic reality in that there will be nobody to buy the things they want to sell.

  29. Carol Lake permalink
    May 29, 2021

    Since when in the UK did we call shopping centres ‘malls’?? Enough of Americanisms. As the for the plans, there needs to be affordable housing included for local residents. The shopping centre is not be needed as there are plenty of independent shops and restaurants near by. Why spoil the wonderful architecture? If anything, give the are a good clean.

  30. October 15, 2021

    We live in the North West. My ancestors were weavers living on Brick Lane. My daughter now lives in the area. Last week we did the weavers tour, so interesting. Steeped in history, walking in my ancestors shoes. Very few weavers houses left now. Brick Lane and the whole area is our heritage and must be protected.

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS