Covid crisis forces vote on Spitalfields future to go online for planning forum’s AGM

PUBLISHED: 17:50 08 October 2020 | UPDATED: 18:07 08 October 2020

Spitalfields Forum'’s plan for future of this historic quarter of London's East End. Artwork: Lucinda Rogers

Spitalfields Forum'’s plan for future of this historic quarter of London's East End. Artwork: Lucinda Rogers

Lucinda Rogers

The annual general meeting of the forum that’s to decide the final draft plan for the future of Spitalfields is having to go online because of the Covid emergency.

Historic Spitalfields faces encroachment from City developers if it stays unprotected. Picture: Jeremy FreedmanHistoric Spitalfields faces encroachment from City developers if it stays unprotected. Picture: Jeremy Freedman

It is having to be run on Zoom to seek public approval to submit the Spitalfields Forum’s draft Neighbourhood Plan to the town hall for independent examination.

The draft plan results from five years of painstaking research since the forum was set up in 2015 and officially recognised by Tower Hamlets Council a year later.

“We have now finally reached ‘the end’ of that long and exhausting process,” forum chairman James Frankcom told the East London Advertiser. “This is the big one.

“Now we need people to join the online AGM and vote on the plan which is slightly amended from the one we circulated in the summer public consultations.

James Frankcom... James Frankcom... "We've finally reached 'the end' of long road to our neighbourhood plan." Picture: Mike Brooke

“This version includes the feedback we got from the people of Spitalfields and from businesses, organisations and charities.”

The public is being asked at the October 29 AGM to vote on the plan with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

A ‘yes’ vote sends it to the town hall for an independent inspector to examine every dot and comma to make sure it’s legally sound, then to be agreed by Tower Hamlets Council.

It’s back to the people of Spitalfields after that for a public referendum likely to be in May on the same day as a similar local referendum on the Isle of Dogs which has its own neighbourhood plan.

Boundary of proposed Spitalfields neighbourhood plan. Map: GoogleBoundary of proposed Spitalfields neighbourhood plan. Map: Google

The referendum would mean the Spitalfields Forum becoming a permanent statutory consultation body on planning applications, if the vote in May gives it the green light, for the defined neighbourhood area stretching from Bishopsgate and Middlesex Street in the west to Buxton Street in the east, including Brick Lane, and from Wentworth Street in the south to Cheshire Street in the north.

The Neighbourhood Plan would influence decisions on the environment and heritage of this ancient patch on the City Fringe. Developers would be required to add greenery to any new building or pay towards projects elsewhere. Gardens and other green spaces would be protected against developers “nibbling away at the edges” by defining legal boundaries.

Historic features would be protected by new builds restricted to the same height, scale and size of surrounding structures, unlike the domineering skyscrapers along Bishopsgate overshadowing many historic Huguenot dwellings. New schemes would also follow historic layout of streets and alleys in keeping with the area. Historic drinking fountains would be restored while lost cobbled streets once tarred over by post-War “modernism” might even be restored, making Spitalfields a unique heritage.

The online October 29 AGM starting at 6.30pm is also electing the forum council for the next 12 months. Deadline for anyone wanting to put their name in the hat is October 22. The draft neighbourhood plan is being made available shortly on the Spitalfields Forum’s website.

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