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Bishopsgate campaigner Donoghue elected first ‘Headborough of Spitalfields’ since 1729

PUBLISHED: 13:57 26 October 2016 | UPDATED: 13:57 26 October 2016

David Donoghue elected Headborough of Spitalfieolds [photo: Jeremy Freedman]

David Donoghue elected Headborough of Spitalfieolds [photo: Jeremy Freedman]

Jeremy Freedman

Veteran campaigner David Donoghue who beat off City developers trying to encroach on London’s East End with skyscrapers at the old Bishopsgate goodsyard site has been elected to an ancient parish office that was last occupied almost 300 years ago.

What might have been... Donoghue's campaign stopped this shaddowy skyline appearing at BishopsgateWhat might have been... Donoghue's campaign stopped this shaddowy skyline appearing at Bishopsgate

He was sworn in as ‘Headborough of the Hamlet of Spitalfields’ last night at the first annual meeting of the newly-established Spitalfields Planning Forum.

The persistent fighter who took on the developers and stopped a “Berlin Wall” of seven skyscrapers being thrown up on the former goodsyard when Boris Johnson was London’s mayor was elected at the historic Hanbury Hall for a 12-month term.

The post was last occupied in 1729 when parishes outside the City walls such as Spitalfields, Shoreditch and Norton Folgate looked after their own governance, before Boards of Works and Boards of Guardians were established and two centuries before London’s metropolitan boroughs appeared.

Now the government’s Localism Act allows communities to set up neighbourhood planning forums to have an influence on what developments are likely on their doorstep.

Donoghue on the night his Spitalfields Forum got Tower Hamlets recognition in December 2015Donoghue on the night his Spitalfields Forum got Tower Hamlets recognition in December 2015

The first to set up in east London was the Shoreditch East forum in 2012, followed by forums at Spitalfields and the Isle of Dogs recognised last December by Tower Hamlets council.

The Spitalfields Forum is a spin-off from the long-running battle against the controversial Bishopsgate proposals which would have cast massive daylight shadow across a large swathe of Shoreditch—until new London Mayor Siddiq Khan put the buffers on the scheme earlier this year.

Last night’s meeting also looked into proposals to save Allen Gardens and Spitalfields City Farm which have no formal protection from building encroachment, as they are simply “Metropolitan open space” and not officially registered as protected parkland, the Forum heard.

Allen Gardens was only created through slum clearances in the 1960s on land that was partly a wartime bombsite with temporary post-war prefab housing thrown up at one end.

Donoghue's battle prevented this skyscraper proposalDonoghue's battle prevented this skyscraper proposal

Now the forum is working with the national Land Registry Office to define who owns the space and to get it declared a “town green”, using the 2006 Commons Act, and to have its city farm recognised as “an asset of community value”.

It also wants public consultations on future plans for the neighbourhood to get families in Spitalfields involved in monitoring planning issues over the next few years.

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