British Land accuses Spitalfields Trust of Norton Folgate ‘corporate plaza’ slur

PUBLISHED: 14:43 17 July 2015 | UPDATED: 23:08 18 July 2015

Norton Folgate... blossom tree at centre of Blossom Street pedestrian plaza

Norton Folgate... blossom tree at centre of Blossom Street pedestrian plaza

British Land

The company behind the controversial redevelopment of Norton Folgate’s Georgian neighbourhood next to London’s famous Spitalfields market has accused protesters of wrongly describing the scheme as “corporate plazas for big corporate occupiers”.

Now you see it... Aerial view of Norton FolgateNow you see it... Aerial view of Norton Folgate

British Land has sent an open letter this week to the Spitalfields Trust which is organising a ‘human chain’ on Sunday surrounding the site ahead of Tuesday’s Tower Hamlets council planning meeting which decides if it goes ahead.

The developers accuse the trust of failing to respond to its offer to meet and thrash out their differences.

“Instead, you have sought to characterise the scheme publicly with reference to ‘glass and steel offices’, ‘corporate plazas’ and ‘big corporate occupiers’,” British Land’s development director Mike Wiseman says in the letter.

“This is manifestly untrue and is disappointing that you have chosen to misrepresent our plans, despite the time we have spent consulting and amending the design in line with many of your comments.”

Norton Folgate... computer impression of Blossom Street scheme next to Water Poet tavernNorton Folgate... computer impression of Blossom Street scheme next to Water Poet tavern

Spitalfields Trust became “extremely alarmed” to find the City of London Corporation had bought up a large part of the conservation area and was encouraging British Land.

The City Fringe neighbourhood has been caught up in 40 years of controversy over “corporate encroachment”.

The latest scheme would breach Tower Hamlets guidelines for the Elder Street conservation area with its buildings dating from the 1720s, the Trust points out.

British Land told the East London Advertiser today that it had changed its approach to Elder Street by redefining the block as a number of separate buildings “with proportions in line with the surrounding properties”. It has also introduced varied parapet heights, wooden sash windows and brickwork variations.

Norton Folgate... how computer sees Elder Street proposalNorton Folgate... how computer sees Elder Street proposal

It was also rethinking the scheme on the main Norton Folgate thoroughfare, between Shoreditch and Bishopsgate, which “now retains more of the historic fabric than we originally conceived.” The scale and mass was being reduced, the external cover changed from a precast to a brick solution and smaller windows would be included “which evoke the Georgian grain”.

The company has also committed to keeping the fabric of the Blossom Street warehouses with their wooden joists, cast iron columns, brickwork and tiles. It wants to re-establish timber floors and ceilings which had been replaced with concrete over the years, as well as repairing the historic parapet line.

Spitalfields Trust, nevertheless, is unhappy with what it sees as “City encroachment” into Spitalfields—so is going ahead with Sunday’s 3pm “human chain” protest as a show of solidarity to safeguard the ancient Liberty of Norton Folgate.

The fate of Norton Folgate is being decided at Tower Hamlets Town Hall planning meeting at 7.30pm on Tuesday.

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