Opposition grows to Sainsbury’s Whitechapel “skyscraper”

The almshouses at Trinity Green. Pic: Alex Hurrell

The almshouses at Trinity Green. Pic: Alex Hurrell

Sainsbury’s plans to build a ‘Dubai style’ 28-storey skyscraper in Whitechapel metres from London’s oldest almshouses should be scrapped, according to Historic England and local campaigners.

Historic England say that the proposed development to build hundreds of apartments above its redeveloped Cambridge Heath Road store would cause “major harm” to Trinity Green almshouses, a grade I listed historic building.

They said in a letter of support for the almshouses: “We concluded that the proposals would cause major harm to the historic environment, including substantial harm to the significance of a grade I listed building. […] The setting of the almshouses is currently defined by the clear sky above the long accommodation ranges, and the absence of pronounced modern development.

“If the application is pursued it remains our view that this scheme is not sustainable development, and that it should accordingly be refused.”

The redevelopment of Sainsbury’s store on Cambridge Heath Road is part of Tower Hamlets Council’s £900m ‘Whitechapel Masterplan’ which aims to create 3,500 homes and 5,000 jobs in Whitechapel by 2025. A final decision on the proposal will be made in March.

Sainsbury’s say the development will “build on the momentum of positive change as Crossrail transforms the Whitechapel area.”

Third generation resident, Thomas Antoniw, started a campaign group, ‘*Friends of Trinity Green*’ to protect the almshouses, which has gathered over 330 members in a few weeks.

Antoniw said: “The proposals in their current form are extremely damaging.”

“When you build a skyscraper, it’s going to be there for good. We need to recognise just how remarkable the setting of the almshouses is and how remarkable it is that it’s survived for 320 years.

“Sainsbury’s can achieve exactly what they want with buildings of different forms. Why do it in a form of building that would cause harm to a historic asset?

“Sainsbury’s are refusing to take on board some of the community’s feedback and potentially revisit their proposals.”

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs spoke about the proposals at a public meeting on January 21, saying: “Most of the borough probably don’t want a forest of tall buildings in Whitechapel. Sainsbury’s want to build a supermarket about 60 per cent bigger than the one they currently have, with underground car parking and about 35 stories of apartments on top of the site. That’s come down by seven floors but I think it needs to come down quite a bit more.”

The proposals come as Sainsbury’s chief financial officer, John Rogers revealed last year that the retailer intends to raise £150m in profits in similar projects, building hundreds of apartments above stores in locations including Fulham, Nine Elms and Ilford. This announcement was made shortly before Sainsbury’s reported a loss of £72m as competition between major supermarkets becomes increasingly competitive.

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