Spitalfields planning forum gets legal recognition in bid to halt City encroachment

Jubilant... James Frankcom hugs Spitalfields Forum's Santokh Kaulder (left) and Tarik Khan

Jubilant... James Frankcom hugs Spitalfields Forum's Santokh Kaulder (left) and Tarik Khan - Credit: Archant

The ancient parish of Spitalfields bordering the City of London has effectively come back to life with the historic creation of its own neighbourhood planning forum which was legally recognised last night.

James Frankcom addressing Tower Hamlets cabinet meeting

James Frankcom addressing Tower Hamlets cabinet meeting - Credit: Archant

The recognition was made by Tower Hamlets council’s cabinet after months of campaigning by community activists fighting the onslaught of developers putting up yet more skyscrapers as the City expands ever outward.

Jubilant campaigners hugged each other at the Town Hall as the mayor gave his consent to the forum being recognised.

“The people of Spitalfields feel constantly under threat from developers,” the new forum’s secretary James Frankcom told the East London Advertiser.

“Up till now we’ve had to react constantly to what’s been happening. Now we can be proactive in the planning process.

Aproximate boundary of new Spitalfields planning forum [Google aerial map]

Aproximate boundary of new Spitalfields planning forum [Google aerial map] - Credit: Google

“We’re not there to stop development, but to enable people to have a say in shaping their neighbourhood future.”

The forum can’t halt development, but has to be consulted and does have the power to define guidelines for the future.

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James now wants to work towards more power being devolved to communities like Spitalfields and neighbouring Shoreditch.

“We’ve given people a voice,” he added. “Spitalfields is a strong community with a civic identity going back to the 12th century that now has to be consulted and advised on planning issues.

“It’s the start of a road to bring back stronger local influence, maybe one day have our own parish council now we have an identity back.”

It means the people can draft a neighbourhood development plan agreed by a local referendum which would be in power for 15 years to rid planning policy of ambiguities. This could stop the rise of skyscrapers which currently get passed because of ambiguous planning guidelines by actually defining what ‘higher buildings’ would be in the area.

The Spitalfields neighbourhood has been defined with a new boundary running to the NORTH along the Liverpool Street main line railway (with a small enclave added around Cheshire Street), to the WEST along Norton Folgate and Middlesex Street on the City border, to the SOUTH just below Wentworth Street to the EAST cutting through turnings just beyond Vallance Road.

This is an area that has been wracked with controversial City encroachment that still rages, such as the major schemes at Norton Folgate, Bishopsgate goodsyard and previously the London Wool Exchange, all applications taken away from the local authority by London Mayor Boris Johnson to make his own executive decision on whether they go ahead. Usually he says ‘yes’, despite public objections.

But the controversial former Bishopsgate goodsyard being decided by Boris on April 18 has been specifically excluded from the forum’s area of influence after the previous Town Hall administration of Lutfur Rahman deemed it a ‘London-strategic site’.

So the new boundary skirts along the goodsyard southern perimeter between Spitalfields, Shoreditch and Bethnal Green, rather than include it.