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Spitalfields Trust in 11th hour bid to buy Norton Folgate from City of London to stop demolition

PUBLISHED: 19:52 14 January 2016 | UPDATED: 19:52 14 January 2016

Area of Norton Folgate British Land wants to bulldoze

Area of Norton Folgate British Land wants to bulldoze

Spitz Trust

Campaigners trying to stop an historic Georgian corner of London from developers sending in the bulldozers have made a surprise offer tonight to buy the site.

Alternative preservation of Norton Folgate proposed by Spitalfields Trust Alternative preservation of Norton Folgate proposed by Spitalfields Trust

The offer has been made just four days before London Mayor Boris Johnson uses his executive powers to decide what happens to the ancient Liberty of Norton Folgate.

The controversial plans for high-rise office blocks between Spitalfields and Bishopsgate right on the boundary with the City of London have been at the centre of a battle for the past two years.

Hundreds of protesters joined hands and ringed the huge site last summer in a show of solidarity, led by TV historian Dan Cruickshank.

Now the Spitalfields Trust—which has come forward with a billionaire backer for their alternative plans to preserve the neighbourhood’s Georgian character—has written to the City Corporation offering to buy Norton Folgate at a higher return than presently agreed with British Land, the current developers.

'Hands on' protest as campaigners link up to encircle Norton Folgate in July 2015 'Hands on' protest as campaigners link up to encircle Norton Folgate in July 2015

It has the backing of Danish billionaire, financier and conservationist Troels Holch Povlsen who the trust says is keen on its alternative proposals.

He is said to be willing to buy the site from the Corporation at a price matching any return promised by British Land.

The trust is fighting to stop encroachment into the East End by City developers spreading out from the Square Mile.

This forgotten quarter of London “could then be revitalized in a sensitive manner” that would “show appropriate respect” for the nature of the Conservation Area.

Campaign to preserve Georgian character of Norton Folgate Campaign to preserve Georgian character of Norton Folgate

This alternative scheme promises reasonably-priced office space, affordable housing, high quality design that retains the historic grain of the site and a good commercial return for the City Corporation.

Existing buildings would be repaired and developed. The scheme would also offer locally-focused employment and a better mix of affordable and private housing, while revitalizing the area at a fraction of the cost in a sympathetic and sustainable manner.

The current planning application for tower office blocks is being decided by London Mayor Boris Johnson at City Hall on Monday, after over-ruling Tower Hamlets Council which rejected British Land’s scheme last summer.

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