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Shock for Spitalfields Trust as work begins on changing historic Arnold Circus ‘without public consultation’

PUBLISHED: 15:00 21 October 2020 | UPDATED: 16:58 21 October 2020

Historic Arnold Circus bandstand looking down towards Shoreditch and Calvert Avenue. Picture: Google

Historic Arnold Circus bandstand looking down towards Shoreditch and Calvert Avenue. Picture: Google

Google

Fury has erupted over work that’s begun on altering the heritage Arnold Circus aimed at blocking through traffic which has led to a protest to Tower Hamlets Council.

Unique street lay-out of Arnold Circus opened in 1900 by Prince of Wales. Picture: GoogleUnique street lay-out of Arnold Circus opened in 1900 by Prince of Wales. Picture: Google

Alterations are being made to the East End’s historic Boundary Estate which was one of the first urban planned municipal housing schemes in the world, built between 1890 and 1900.

It has a unique street lay-out centred around Arnold Circus, behind Shoreditch Church, opened in 1900 by the Prince of Wales, later King Edward IIV.

But the Spitalfields Trust which has been campaigning to protect East End heritage since the 1970s is furious that the council is altering the unique street layout and architecture and starting the work under its Liveable Streets programme without proper public consultations.

“We had been waiting for the final consultation—but instead works started last week,” the trust’s administrator Heloise Palin told the East London Advertiser. “The Council should have consulted on the final plans and given people a chance to express their views.

Households on Boundary Estate use this historic old bandstand as a community meeting place. Picture: ArchantHouseholds on Boundary Estate use this historic old bandstand as a community meeting place. Picture: Archant

“This is not the place for expensive and ill-conceived enhancements. The council seems to have missed that this is already an area celebrated for its design and architecture.

“The simplicity of the Arnold Circus design should not be tampered with.”

Meetings have now been booked with the council today (October 21) to explain what their final plans are after what the trust says was “a small uproar”.

The area of “national significance” is recognised as a model philanthropic housing development by the London County Council which has 10 listed structures around Arnold Circus alone, at the top end of Club Row, in the Boundary Estate conservation area.

Snapshot from the past... Boundary Estate, early 1950s, known in those days as 'Shoreditch Buildings'. Picture: Tower Hamlets ArchiveSnapshot from the past... Boundary Estate, early 1950s, known in those days as 'Shoreditch Buildings'. Picture: Tower Hamlets Archive

It has “an extraordinarily high concentration of heritage designations” where the architecture and landscaping are harmonious and exceptionally high quality, the trust points out in a letter to councillors.

The trust doesn’t oppose making the circus a pedestrian area, but says “a complete transformation is entirely unnecessary”.

The circus retains historic York Stone pavements with granite kerbs around the perimeter. It needs sensitive repair and restoration rather than wholesale change, Spitalfields Trust points out.

Even the original cobbles survive under the tarmac laid down in the 1950s and “the possibility of uncovering them should be explored”.

Arnold Circus today... unque town planning from 1890s that Spitalfields Trust wants preseved. Picture: GoogleArnold Circus today... unque town planning from 1890s that Spitalfields Trust wants preseved. Picture: Google

The council insists it consulted residents and businesses in Bethnal Green last October, with 2,000 responses to a survey online and to booklets sent to addresses. Allowances are being made for Arnold Circus with its “historical significance and unique character”. All existing York stone paving would be preserved, while last week’s preparation work was said to be in Navarre Street and not the Circus itself.

Promises were made to “take feedback in the consultations before deciding on final plans”, but Spitalfields Trust says this has failed at Arnold Circus.

The whole programme has led to opposition springing up from households around Columbia Road and from traders in Roman Road, adding to this latest Arnold Circus protest.


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