Thousands object to Brick Lane brewery development prompting delay

Proposals to redevelop the brewery were first submitted last year. Pic: Samuel Regan-Asante

Redevelopment plans for the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane have been delayed after more than seven thousand objections, forcing developers to redraw their plans.

Proposals to transform the Truman Brewery into retail and office space has come under fire by local residents sparking a record number of 7,051 council complaints. With just 79 letters in support of the build, plans for the remodel have now been deferred until June this year. This is to ensure that consultation exercises with local businesses can be carried out to take account for any concerns.

The Truman Brewery proposed changes to the building last February that would include retail space, two restaurants, a gym and offices. Once home to the world’s largest brewery, the site currently holds space for independent shops, market stalls, galleries and art businesses. 

However, local residents fear that if these proposals go ahead historic and cultural Bangladeshi heritage could be damaged. Local resident Holly Williams told EastLondonLines: “Adding a shopping mall and office spaces just doesn’t make any sense. It will drive away the main consumers from the area who appreciate the authenticity and uniqueness of the shops… it is awful that this is even being considered. Many POC [people of colour], Bengalis in particular live in the area and doing this will just drive them out.”

Nijjormanush, an independent Bangladeshi campaign group said: “The local Bangladeshi community remain some of the poorest in the country…if approved, the proposal would accelerate the displacement of these communities, and uproot those who have been settled in the area for decades, effectively leading to the end of Brick Lane as we know it.”

Opponents against the plans are showing their objections through social media by using hashtags such as ‘#SaveBrickLane’ and ‘#BattleforBrickLane’. Campaigners worry that the development will drive out small businesses and existing families as locals believe that the build will increase rental prices across the surrounding area.

Ian Bodenham from ‘Hunky Dory Vintage’- a shop that has been on Brick Lane for 13 years said: “There’s shopping centres already around. Basically, it could destroy all the independent retailers and all the rents will go up even though they’re already quite high…instead, it could be used to build some social and affordable housing.”

Hunky Dory Vintage shop where employee’s are strongly opposed to development plans. Pic: Garry Knight

The Spitalfields Trust (a trust that saves/repairs buildings from demolition or destruction) are just one organisation involved in the fight to protect the Truman Brewery. According to their campaign website, the Trust wrote: “It will undermine the authentic cultural quality of Brick Lane…we ask that the owners the Old Truman Brewery recognise the social responsibility which comes with ownership of such a large property.”

The Trust along with other residents argue that the proposals will offer nothing to local residents but will instead cause harm. The Tower Hamlets community say that local and genuinely affordable housing and work spaces are needed instead. Spitalfields Trust said: “We ask them [the Truman Brewery] to abandon this piecemeal approach and contribute instead to the creation of a development plan for the entire brewery that takes the community into account.”

Nijjormanush said: “The redevelopment proposals for the Truman Brewery would irreversibly transform the area by pushing long-established residents out of the area and pricing out long-established local businesses in favour of generic chain outlets.”

Williams said: “There is such a sense of community within this area…I believe many people will be saddened if the proposal goes ahead as it will just ruin the area. That is why many people are fighting against it. We do not want to see this change. The council needs to hear our voices.”

Tower Hamlets council said: “After hearing from objectors, supporters and the applicant, the committee deferred the application for more work to improve the affordable workspace, small business and independent retail offer, taking account of the issues raised around community cohesion.”

Truman Brewery were contacted but did not respond to requests for comment.

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