Berry backs opposition to Brick Lane redevelopment plan

Left Sian Berry. Right Sadiq Khan. Pics: Chris King/PA Wire

Former Green Party co-leader Sian Berry has lent her support to the growing opposition to the controversial plans to redevelop the Old Truman Brewery site on Brick Lane.

Berry wrote to Sadiq Khan yesterday, asking him to halt the planning application for the development, a proposed shopping mall and office block.

Berry, who sits on the London Assembly, said that constituents, civic and community groups contacted her to express their worry about the impact the plans could have on Brick Lane and the area’s long-standing communities.

She asked Khan to exercise his power as mayor under the Country Planning Order 2008 to call in the application, which was approved by Tower Hamlets planning committee last month.

This comes after the Save Brick Lane coalition, made up of local groups, reached their target of the £10,000 needed to pursue legal action against Tower Hamlets to stop the development going ahead.

Berry told EastLondonLines: “The proposed development on this historically important neighbourhood in Brick Lane and Spitalfields risks erasing its rich and unique cultural legacy.”

“London’s traders, such as those on Brick Lane and the Bangladeshi community, have suffered deeply during the Coronavirus pandemic and continue to face economic difficulties. They must be protected during throughout our recovery, not displaced.”

Truman Brewery. Pic: Bernt Rostad

In her letter, Berry referenced the mayor’s Culture at Risk office, an external consultee on the officer’s report for the original planning application. She highlighted their acknowledgement of the negative impact on the cultural heritage and character of Brick Lane and the “potential for the proposed development to increase rental values in the local area.”

“Now is the time to prioritise independent businesses, not large corporations and stop putting pressure on rental values that could spell the death knell for small traders.” Berry said today.

“If this scheme goes ahead Brick Lane as a place of diversity and character and a home for the Bangladeshi community will disappear. This area is one that is rich in history and its physical character should be protected by the planning system against large, insensitive development.” The coalition said in their fundraiser.

Artist impression of New Dray Walk / Pic: Old Truman Brewery / Kanda

They said they don’t believe the approval of the application was a democratic process, with only three people on the planning committee agreeing to move the scheme forward despite “overwhelming public rejection.”

Standing tall at the centre of Brick Lane, Old Truman Brewery currently houses 300 small businesses and is regularly used for public events.

The redevelopment, designed by architects Buckley Gray Yeoman, would see the site transformed into a five-storey office block and shopping mall on a car park, also refurbishing two buildings already on the site.

Ariel view of the development site and three plots.

However, the redevelopment has been widely unpopular among locals. Before its approval in September, the council received 7,487 individual letters of objection, a letter of opposition signed by 140 traders on Brick Lane and one letter of objection signed by 556 residents.

Among those residents was Rory Henderson, 23, who believes it’s important to protect the heritage and culture of Brick Lane: “There’s such a beautiful character [in the area] that we should be trying to preserve, not destroy. We don’t need big developments taking over when there’s so many small businesses here that need our support.”

City Hall has been approached for a comment on Berry’s letter.

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