Lone protester sees off Tracey Emin’s bid to demolish Spitalfields 1920s architecture

Tracy Emin at a car boot fair maning her stall in Brick Lane

Tracy Emin at a car boot fair maning her stall in Brick Lane - Credit: Archant

A lone protester tonight saw off Artist Tracey Emin’s plans to knock down a listed 1920s building in a historic conservation area of London’s East End.

Tracy Emin at a car boot fair maning her stall in Brick Lane

Tracy Emin at a car boot fair maning her stall in Brick Lane - Credit: Archant

Conservation campaigner Paul Johnston addressed Tower Hamlets council’s planning committee which has rejected outright Emin’s proposal at Spitalfields to erect a modern five-storey studio complex next to the traditional building she already owns.

But the Turner Prize nominee had already thwarted the local authority in the face of the 58 objections to her modernist scheme and appealed last week directly to the government’s Planning Inspectorate. She didn’t even turn up for this-evening’s vote.

So councillors were left to decide in her absence what they would do if they still had the legal power to determin her application—and unanimously rejected the scheme because it would clash with the conservation area’s historic 18th and 19th century character.

It was left to activist Paul Johnston, himself an architect representing Spitalfields Community Group, to make the case against her.

Tracy Emin at a car boot fair maning her stall in Brick Lane

Tracy Emin at a car boot fair maning her stall in Brick Lane - Credit: Archant


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“It’s the wrong building for this site and the site is wrong for this building,” he told the East London Advertiser.

“My view is send the architect back to the drawing board to incorporate this existing locally-listed building into a new planning application—to come back with something that works, rather than demolish a building that has local historic value.”

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Emin’s plan involves demolishing numbers 66 to 88 Bell Lane to be replaced by a single-dwelling house with an artist studio linked to her home next door in Tenter Ground where the historic Shepherd’s Arch once stood which was destroyed in the London Blitz.

Her planning application attracted 69 written representations, all but 11 against.

Tracy Emin at a car boot fair maning her stall in Brick Lane

Tracy Emin at a car boot fair maning her stall in Brick Lane - Credit: Archant

Reasons cited by objectors include the “wholesale demolition of a heritage asset of considerable architectural and local historic value” while the design proposed would be “unsympathetic” to the historic character of the neighbourhood.

Emin’s scheme fails to meet statutory requirements to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the Artillery Passage conservation area, council officers determined.

Save Britain’s Heritage accused Emin of “riding roughshod” over local opposition with her decision to appeal to Whitehall ahead of tonight’s Tower Hamlets planning meeting.

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