Plea to Bishop to halt development next to Hawkmoor’s Spitalfields Church

An open letter from leading figures in art, architecture and heritage has been sent to the Bishop of London in a bid to save open space next to Hawksmoor’s historic Spitalfields Church.

It was sent to the Rt Rev Richard Chartres on the day a community delegation addressed Tower Hamlets Council pleading for the mayor’s support to protect the space around Christ Church.

Some 350 letters and a 600-name petition urging the space be returned to public use have also been sent to the council.

The petition calls for an alternative site for the temporary education centre put up in 1970 in the churchyard which a neighbouring church primary school wants to redevelop as a permanent education centre.

The ‘Spitalfields Open Space’ campaign, a coalition of local groups, wants public access returned to what it was in 1970 before the ‘temporary’ structure was thrown up.

Christine Whaite from Friends of Christ Church, who led Wednesday’s delegation to the Town Hall, told the Advertiser: “Everything is concrete around Spitalfields. But public health and wellbeing depends on green open space.

“I worked for the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and never imagined what we were doing about sustainable development in the Third World would be so applicable on our doorstep, in Spitalfields.”

Most Read

The group has 2,000 supporters at home and abroad who raised �10 million to restore Hawksmoor’s Grade I-listed masterpiece dating back to 1720, towering above the skyline around Commercial Street. The restoration led by the late Sir John Betjamin took 25 years.

The open letter asking the Bishop of London to step in says: “Spitalfields is the most densely populated area of London and is already awash with underused community facilities.

“Public green space is scarce. To build on this site is cultural and environmental vandalism.

“There is no need to build in the churchyard so close to one of the finest baroque churches in Europe.”

The letter is signed by Prof Kerry Downes, world expert on Hawksmoor, Lady Elizabeth Kennet who launched the restoration project in the 1970s, artist Tracey Emin, Dr David Souden of Heritage Alliance, John Swallow of the National Association of Head Teachers, and architects Sir Richrad MacCormac, Chris Dyson and Gus Alexander from the Royal Institute of British Architecture.