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Campaigners launch second petition to challenge 'historic' Regent's Canal gasholder plans

PUBLISHED: 12:00 19 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:45 02 January 2020

The Bethnal Green gasholders, reflected in the Regent's Canal. Picture: The Gentle Author

The Bethnal Green gasholders, reflected in the Regent's Canal. Picture: The Gentle Author

The Gentle Author

Campaigners have launched a second petition in a bid to challenge a developer's plans to build flats inside another Victorian historic gasholder.

Bethnal Green No 2 gasholder taken by Malcolm Tucker in 1973Bethnal Green No 2 gasholder taken by Malcolm Tucker in 1973

Heritage campaigner Tom Ridge, of the East End Waterway Group (EEWG), has so far gathered signatures from almost 500 people objecting to St William Homes' application which includes building flats inside a second gasholder near the Regent's Canal.

The property developer originally wanted flats inside one of the pair of gasholders, known as numbers two and five, but now wants homes inside both.

Tom said: "London was the birthplace of the gas industry so we had all the best designed and most innovative gasholders in the world. There are very few of them left now."

Number two's columnar guide frame was built in 1865-66 while its neighbour's lattice frame - dating back to 1888 - is one of the few surviving examples of its type built by Samuel Cutler & Sons of Millwall, Tom said.

Local historian Tom Ridge campaigning to save East End's heritage. Picture: Mike BrookeLocal historian Tom Ridge campaigning to save East End's heritage. Picture: Mike Brooke

Campaigners fear that to build inside, the guide frames would have to be dismantled, risking damage.

They want them left in situ and the building work inside number five to take place without dismantling them.

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Number two's "brittle" cast iron columns and pedestals would be especially threatened by a move, while a building inside it would cast a shadow over the Regent's Canal, EEWG believes.

Local historian Tom Ridge campaigning to save East End's heritage. Picture: Mike BrookeLocal historian Tom Ridge campaigning to save East End's heritage. Picture: Mike Brooke

The campaigners want its interior space to be left vacant, but welcomes the homes inside number five as long as its frames remain in situ during the building work.

EEWG's first petition had urged St William Homes to abandon plans to demolish number two's guide frame altogether.

Alison Dowsett, St William Homes managing director, said: "We recognise the interest and significance of the gasholder structures. Following extensive engagement with the community our proposals, which have now been submitted to Tower Hamlets, include the retention of both gasholders.

"The proposed redevelopment will celebrate the area's unique character and open up this currently inaccessible space, providing much needed new homes - including affordable - jobs and 1.75 acres of public open space."

Bethnal Green No 2 gasholder taken by Malcolm Tucker in 1973Bethnal Green No 2 gasholder taken by Malcolm Tucker in 1973

She added the plans provide public access to the site and a "substantial" stretch of the canal for the first time in 150 years.

A detailed methodology for refurbishing the structures put together by a team of specialists will be produced and submitted for approval once planning permission has been granted and before work starts.

The petition can be found at change.org

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