Date set for public referendum on Spitalfields' development future

London Assembly's Unmesh Desai (left) on fact-finding tour of Brick Lane with Spitalfields Forum members

London Assembly's Unmesh Desai (left) on fact-finding tour of Brick Lane with Spitalfields Forum members - Credit: Mike Brooke

The date has been set for a public referendum to decide if Spitalfields should have its own Neighbourhood Plan to rein in “creeping over-development” from the City. 

The plan put together by the Spitalfields Neighbourhood Planning Forum has been formally adopted by Tower Hamlets Council which has now agreed that voting on it takes place on November 11.

November 11... date set for vote on Spitalfields neighbourhood plan

November 11... date set for vote on Spitalfields Neighbourhood Plan - Credit: Lucinda Rogers

It makes policies on businesses, open spaces and heritage sites within half a mile of Brick Lane legally enforceable in a bid to protect it from overdevelopment.

“We hope people and businesses see this as a chance to protect and improve the area,” lead campaigner Tania Shaikh said. “We want to protect Spitalfields’ vibrant and special character for future generations.”  

Boundary of Spitalfields neighbourhood plan

Boundary of Spitalfields Neighbourhood Plan - Credit: Ordnance Survey

The Neighbourhood Plan defines “the prevailing character of Spitalfields” to prevent what campaigners call “City creep” around Brick Lane.  

The boundaries of all the parks and gardens, as well as Spitalfields City Farm, would be given Green Belt status to protect them from encroachment.


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New developments would have to include “green infrastructure” such as tree planting as part of their planning applications, or fund relevant projects if not possible. 

Holland Estate... neighbourhood forum wants it protected from City encroachment 

Holland Estate... neighbourhood forum wants it protected from City encroachment - Credit: Spitalfields Forum

Heritage status is suggested for 30 buildings which don’t have such protection at present, including long-standing social housing blocks such as the Holland Estate in Bell Lane that was recently threatened with demolition.

The plan includes quadrupling “genuinely affordable rent discount” for small and independent businesses in all future commercial developments, an idea drawn up with the East End Trades Guild.  

First meeting of the new Spitalfields neighbourhood forum in 2015

First meeting of the new Spitalfields Neighbourhood Forum in 2015 - Credit: Mike Brooke

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It was put together by Spitalfields Neighbourhood Forum, which was formally recognised in 2016 and includes people who live or work in and around Brick Lane.

The plan was endorsed by an independent planning inspector appointed by the council earlier this year. 

But the final say is with voters on November 11. Those on the electoral register in the defined area who are eligible to vote in local elections can take part.

Businesses can also have their say as the plan is deemed a business area. 

Neighbourhood plans were given legal status in “localism” legislation in 2007, with 21 now adopted in London.

The Spitalfields forum hopes to follow the success of the Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Plan, which was overwhelmingly approved in a public referendum in May. 

Spitalfields... facing City encroachment

Spitalfields... facing City encroachment - Credit: Jeremy Freedman

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