Small businesses given notice to leave Spitalfields Fruit and Wool Exchange by Christmas

Fruit and Wool Exchange, Spitalfields.

Small businesses housed within the Fruit and Wool Exchange in Spitalfields have been given notice to leave by Christmas despite the rejection of development plans for the site.

The plans, proposed by developers Exemplar, would replace the historic Fruit and Wool Exchange with a 30,000 foot office and retail complex. They have been blocked by Tower Hamlets Council twice.

The future of this site seems uncertain as, despite these failed attempts, the leaseholders in the Exchange were issued with notices by the City of London Corporation who own property asking them to leave by December 1 .

A spokesperson from the City of London Corporation said: “The building was coming towards the end of its economic life, it was beginning to lose money.”

He said that the leaseholder being issued with notices during this period of planning dispute was just a “coincidence.”

“The businesses were given notice a few months ago and it would have happened regardless.”

The Corporation confirmed that the building will be closed whatever the outcome of Tower Hamlets Council’s decision.

Dan Cruikshank, a TV historian and chairman of the Spitalfields Trust said to the East End Advertiser: “It seems like Scrooge telling traders to go just before Christmas.”

“It’s mind boggling and absurd to empty the building for no reason and won’t impress anyone.”

Eighty small businesses are being pushed out of the Exchange. A tenant, who wished to remain anonymous, has been working for a publishing company based inside the building. He said: “We still hope we’ll have a say in it. I heard an agreement has been made to stop [the City of London Corporation] from leaving the building empty.”

Another tenant from a shipping company that has been in the Exchange for 16 years, also declined to be named, but said:  “In this hierarchical world it all seems to be about who can offer the most money.” He said of the developers: “They won’t be able to bribe Tower Hamlets Council because they’ve already rejected the plans, they’ll have to go about it another way.”

Another tenant said: “Many businesses have been here for 16 years or more, it seems a shame that they are now being turfed out. It can be very hard for small businesses.”

Exemplar are reluctant to comment on the current situation.

It is likely that the developers will now take the decision to a planning appeal.

Contact the campaign to save the Fruit and Wool Exchange via their Facebook page.

By Louisa Plumstead

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