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Cruickshank accuses Mayor of autocracy over London Fruit Exchange

PUBLISHED: 12:18 11 October 2012 | UPDATED: 18:53 11 October 2012

London Fruit Exhange in Spitalfields

London Fruit Exhange in Spitalfields

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Historian Dan Cruickshank has accused London Mayor Boris Johnson of using autocratic rule to overturn democracy in last night’s decision to let developers bulldoze the historic London Fruit Exchange.

The mayor overturned Tower Hamlets Council’s rejection of Exemplar Properties’ plans for a six-storey office and shopping complex in Spitalfields on the site of the Exchange building.

The local authority is now worried about “the historic character of Spitalfields.”

The doomed art deco 1920s building still has its auction room in tact and the remains of the famous Second World War public air-raid shelter in the basement which Dan Cruickshank has been campaigning to preserve.

“So much for democracy with Boris’s autocratic rule,” he told the Advertiser.

“He has reversed a democratic decision by Tower Hamlets to reject the plans in favour of redevelopment—it’s pathetic.

“Boris is judge and jury on our heritage. The whole process has come down to one man, despite a people’s petition with 800 names.

“One man makes decision that will blight the area for centuries for the sake of short-term advantages and profit.”

All that is to remain of the Fruit Exchange will be the façade in Brushfield Street once the bulldozers get rid of the rest—including the shelter run by wartime community leader Mickey Davis which later became the model for all London air-raid shelters.

The Mayor approved the plans at last night’s public hearing at City Hall for 100,000sq ft of offices and 10,000sq ft of retail units, creating an estimated 2,300 jobs, while the developers contribute £2 million towards Crossrail development at Liverpool Street station close by.

But a Tower Hamlets statement said: ‘We are disappointed that our decision was overturned and believe the reasons to support the conservation of the Fruit Exchange remain valid.

“We have concerns about the effect the development will have on the historic character of Spitalfields and believe it fails to provide housing as part of a genuinely mixed use development.”

Conservationists fear the redevelopment will encroach on an historic neighbourhood that includes 18th century Huguenot weavers’ cottages and alleys once stalked by Jack the Ripper.

But Boris Johnson insisted: “This will regenerate Spitalfields with new jobs and commercial opportunities and make a vital contribution to the wider London economy.

“I find no reason to refuse permission—this ambitious and important redevelopment should go ahead.”

Boris used powers granted in 2008 to ‘take over’ any strategic planning application.

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