Voters to decide Spitalfields' future in referendum

How City encroaches onto Spitalfields

How City encroaches onto Spitalfields - Credit: Jeremy Freedman

Voters go to the polls on November 11 in a referendum to decide on the proposed Spitalfields Neighbourhood Plan, which campaigners say would protect the district from encroaching over-development.  

Three polling stations are being set up at Toynbee Hall, the Montefiore Centre and William Davis Primary school.

London Assembly's Unmesh Desai (left) tours Brick Lane with Spitalfields Forum members

London Assembly's Unmesh Desai (left) tours Brick Lane with Spitalfields Forum members - Credit: Mike Brooke

The Neighbourhood Plan aims to influence all future planning decisions and could be formally adopted by Tower Hamlets Council next year, if it is approved at this vote. 

It has been put together by Spitalfields Planning Forum, which was set up in 2014 and was itself officially recognised by the town hall in 2016.  

Forum secretary David Donoghue... developers "turning our neighbourhood into soulless streets".

Forum secretary David Donoghue... developers "turning our neighbourhood into soulless streets". - Credit: Mike Brooke

“The referendum is a one-off chance to have a real say in the future of Spitalfields,” the forum’s secretary David Donoghue told the East London Advertiser.

He claimed developers "want to turn our neighbourhood into soulless streets with high-rise buildings at high rents that nobody can pay". 

“Only a neighbourhood plan can prevent big offices pushing out small businesses and making it harder for families to live here,” David added.  

The move follows a similar neighbourhood plan adopted in May for the Isle of Dogs after a successful local referendum. 

Protest march in the summer over redevelopment scheme in Brick Lane

Protest march in the summer over redevelopment scheme in Brick Lane - Credit: Mike Brooke

But the proposed Spitalfields plan comes too late to influence Brick Lane’s biggest redevelopment in decades at the Old Truman Brewery, that led to protests and marches in the summer. The scheme was delayed by the campaigners — but eventually got planning approval.

Most Read

It could be in time, however, to stop the Holland Estate near Petticoat Lane “from ever being knocked down”, which protesters say faces City encroachment on its doorstep.  

Area of neighbourhood plan

Area of neighbourhood plan - Credit: Google

The Spitalfields plan stretches from Wentworth Street in the south to Cheshire Street in the north and from Bishopsgate in the west to Deal Street and Allen Gardens in the east.

It aims to stop developers “nibbling away at the edges” by defining legal boundaries that would protect Allen Gardens, Spitalfields City Farm, Elder Gardens, Christ Church Gardens and the Chicksand open space.   

Neighbourhood plan for Spitalfields

Neighbourhood plan for Spitalfields - Credit: Lucinda Rogers

Voters living west of Brick Lane and south of Hanbury Street vote at Toynbee Hall in Commercial street, where all business voters also vote wherever their they are located.

People living east of Brick Lane and north of Hanbury Street Street including Calvin Street and Quaker Street vote at the Montefiore centre in Hanbury Street.

Those in the Weavers polling ward including Brick Lane and its side turnings  north of the main line railway vote at William Davis Primary school in Cheshire Street.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter