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Boris approves demolition of Fruit & Wool

Spitalfields site. Pic:Stephen McKay

London Mayor Boris Johnson approved the demolition of Spitalfield’s historic London Fruit & Wool Exchange and redevelopment of the site in a City Hall public hearing.

Johnson said that the considerable improvement on the scheme, the budget for affordable housing and job opportunities were factors which convinced him to approve the plans.

The Mayor’s decision came at the end of the public hearing after both the opponents and supporters of the proposals pleaded their cases.

He concluded: “It may be that there is a better scheme out there. But no such scheme has the chance to attract such developer support.”

The opposing group included locals, architects and members of community groups.

Dan Cruickshank of the Spitalfields Trust said: “The Spitalfelds Trust is not against change, but what is important is the nature of the change. Any development can be acceptable if it recognizes its characteristics, but the scheme will dilute the character of the area.”

Paul Johnston, architect and Spitalfields local added: “The fact that the façade is not used in the design shows how the design is very predictable and a poor cliché.”

The supporters of the plan emphasized the importance of improvement made to the current proposals. Chris Dyson, a Spitalields based architect said: “We are very much happier with Exemplar’s current proposals and their willingness to listen to the local opinion.”

The developers assured Johnson that the new building is “an excellent design” and that 2,600 office and retail jobs will be created.

Johnson took over the responsibility for a final decision on the redevelopment plans following two rejections of the planning proposals by Tower Hamlets Council.

Under the controversial proposals, the 1929 building located in the heart of the Brick Lane and Fournier Street Conservation Area will be replaced with a 20,000 square feet office block and retail space, while Dorset Street will be eradicated.

Johnson decided to call-in the decision claiming that the proposed scheme did not breach any planning policies and that the new use of space would generate employment and “contribute to the increasing offer presented by Central Activities Zone, serving to increase London’s world city status.”

In February community groups launched a public petition against the regeneration project, contracted by the City of London Corporation to private developer Examplar in 2010.

John Nicolson, Spitalfelds Community Group member then told EastLondonLines: “The Fruit & Wool Exchange is a building from the 1920’s and they want to smash it down. We object on a number of grounds.”

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3 Responses to Boris approves demolition of Fruit & Wool

  1. Bongo B

    October 16, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Googled “Fruit and Wool Exchange” to find out some history on this building and found it listed in top of ranking on Google. Clicked and taken to Exemplar’s website home page (with not even a nod to the Fruit and Wool Exchange – the reason of course why one would click the link ) which then doesn’t allow a “back” click…seems a somewhat contemptuous but not unsurprising regard for this historic building but hey, that’s progress…apparently…

  2. Ron Arnold

    October 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    The world is watching, Boris, and we will indeed follow the money if you and your cronies soil the history of Spitalfields and the historic Fruit and Wool Exchange. No one will travel across the Atlantic to see an office building, but I’ll be in front of the Fruit and Wool in late November in case you’d like to talk. I’ve seen too much history erased from Detroit (for nothing) and I can tell you that one of these times, people will realize what they are doing to themselves. It’s a cancer from the inside, filling the spaces where people lived and traded, even escaped the Nazis… soon to be gone, and what do you have left – no history, no Mickey’s Shelter, no “Gun” public house and no Dorset Street. We’ll not forget, Boris.

  3. Thanks to East London Lines for continuing to report on the demolition scheme from Exemplar Properties for Spitalfields Market’s 1929 London Fruit Exchange, Gun public house and Barclays Bank, also 17th C. Dorset Street. It is not correct though that Boris Johnson as the Mayor for London “took over the responsibility for a final decision”. He actually overturned a final refusal decision from Tower Hamlets Council, made on 31 May. Also there is an adjoining car park site you haven’t mentioned: the developers had permission from Tower Hamlets to develop this for offices – and there are 21,000 sq.m. of existing offices in the historic Exchange, so no justification then to destroy so much for what is actually a 320,000 sq. ft. office block and retail scheme. The Exchange is the second-to-last building left standing at Spitalfields Market after sweeping demolitions in 2003. If it is demolished, that will leave just one building left of Spitalfields Market. Hundreds and probably thousands of jobs will be negatively affected by this demolition. There are 61 businesses alone in the offices of the Exchange now. ELL need to ask who is going to occupy the new office block. If it is ICAP plc, relocating from Broadgate, then that is not job creation, it is job relocation causing massive displacement of existing jobs. It was Tower Hamlets Council’s Strategic Development Committee Members who established on 31 May that ICAP were Exemplar’s “potential future tenant.” Yes, there may be jobs created in the retail spaces (three or four shops), but these retail spaces could be created in a retained and refurbished Exchange. This decision would stop the eviction of the existing tenants and save Spitalfields Market which would decline as a vistor destination if this Market building is demolished.
    At the Hearing SAVE Britain’s Heritage announced that they are calling for the Listing of this extraordinary Spitalfields building, which was also home to a unique WW2 people’s shelter known as ‘Mickey’s Shelter’. Please would ELL now follow this as SAVE have issued a press release and are going forward. Tower Hamlets does not want this heritage destroyed: http://www.savebritainsheritage.org/news/campaign.php?id=244

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