Decision on Brick Lane ‘hijab gates’ postponed

Photo: Artist impression of proposed Hijab Gates

After sparking 158 objections and not a single letter of support, residents of the Brick Lane area now have reason to celebrate.Tower Hamlets council suspended the final decision on the ‘hijab gates’ just hours before the decisive meeting was supposed to take place.

The plans to erect large metal arches over Brick Lane were temporarily withdrawn from the meeting scheduled for 7 pm last night. Due to the massive opposition from locals, the plans will now be subject to ‘further community consultation.’ The council said the designs could now be modified, while opponents of the gates hope the plans will be abandoned completely.

A council spokeswoman said: “Due to the large amount of public interest shown over the proposed Brick Lane Arches, the planning applications which were due to be heard by the Development Committee on 4 March have been withdrawn to allow time to build upon the extensive community engagement and consultation the council has already done. “

The structures, intended to loosely represent headscarves, are designed to be part a £1.85m cultural trail to celebrate the diversity of the area, itself part of an £8.5m renovation scheme.

Will Palin, secretary for Save Britain’s Heritage said, “I am very pleased that Tower Hamlets have accepted that the scheme is both unpopular and inappropriate. I think this is a good opportunity for the council to think more carefully how they could spend the money and address some of the issues this affair has spotlighted, such as the general appearance of Brick Lane.”

Residents have voiced concerns that the so called ‘hijab gates’ could create racial divisions and tensions by being unrepresentative of the multi-cultural area.  The artist Tracy Emin, who lives locally, said in a letter to the council: “I am shocked to learn that the scheme is budgeted at £2m and I strongly feel that rubbish collections, vermin control, education and improved policing are more important to resolve.”

The council has previously defended the plans, saying the headscarf was associated with many cultures apart from Islam and that the structures were “only loosely based on the sculptural form of a headscarf, reflecting the many cultural backgrounds that have occupied and sought refuge in and around Brick Lane over the centuries.”

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