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London Fruit Exchange tenants out by Christmas, City Corporation insists

PUBLISHED: 07:05 12 June 2012 | UPDATED: 13:10 12 June 2012

Brushfield St looking towards Fruit Exchange and Spitalfields Church

Brushfield St looking towards Fruit Exchange and Spitalfields Church

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Small enterprises have been given notices to quit London’s historic Fruit & Wool Exchange because the City Corporation wants them out by Christmas anyway—even though a proposed redevelopment has been kicked into touch, it has emerged.

The tenants received hand-delivered notices the day after Tower Hamlets Council rejected developers’ proposals to replace the 300,000 sq ft Exchange in Spitalfields with a modern office complex.

But the developers, Exemplar, still hadn’t gone for an appeal to the Mayor of London by yesterday—almost two weeks after the Town Hall’s rejection, the Advertiser has learned.

“The referral to the Mayor is a statutory procedure,” said a City Corporation spokesman. “Exemplar have made no decision on whether to appeal and have taken no steps to do so.

“The notices to quit were coincidental—we have been seeking vacant possession of the Exchange for some time.

“The services are now at the end of their economic life and the building is uneconomic to run without major capital, which will require all the tenants to leave.

“The building was to be closed regardless of Tower Hamlets’ decision.”

But Tower Hamlets insists the application only has to be referred back to Boris Johnson “if developers want to continue”. They advised protesters that it was being referred back.

Boris has to decide whether to back Tower Hamlets and protesters led by TV historian Dan Cruikshank and former BBC Breakfast presenter John Nicolson—who both live in the Spitalfields Conservation Area—or let developers go ahead.

Cruikshank, who chairs the Spitalfields Trust, said: “I would be surprised if Boris overturned the council’s rejection or ignored the massive local opposition.

“But we are prepared for the worst and will consider briefing a QC if it goes to a public inquiry.

“It seems like Scrooge telling traders to go just before Christmas. It’s mind boggling and absurd.”

Conservationists say the scale of redevelopment would destroy Spitalfields’ bohemian character with its historic roots back to the 17th century when French Huguenot refugees set up silk-weaving workshops.

It would have meant The Gun pub disappearing and threat of office encroachment onto streets where many silk-weavers’ terraced cottages survive today.

But the scheme was turfed out by Tower Hamlets councillors on May 31 after previously being halted in March.

A council spokesperson said: “It was refused due to the extent of demolition and the impact on Brick Lane and the Fournier Street Conservation Area.”

Exemplar had agreed to more subsidised space for small enterprises and to put £1m into a kitty for projects stalled due to the recession.

But that wasn’t good enough for the council which insisted the character of the area must being kept.

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