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.”