British Land offers to keep old Georgian warehouse in Norton Folgate scheme

PUBLISHED: 12:49 20 November 2015 | UPDATED: 09:54 23 November 2015

Warehouse British Land now offering to preserve... but overshadowed by high-rise towers behind

Warehouse British Land now offering to preserve... but overshadowed by high-rise towers behind

Bitish Land

Developers have offered to preserve an old Georgian warehouse by modifying their controversial plans to bulldoze parts of the unique Norton Folgate neighbourhood of London’s East End.

They are submitting an amended application today to Tower Hamlets Council and the GLA that involves pulling down properties in two streets to make way for a commercial development with a nine-storey tower.

Aerial view of extent of buildings that could be demolished at Norton FolgateAerial view of extent of buildings that could be demolished at Norton Folgate

The climb-down follows ‘the Battle of Norton Folgate’ in the summer, near Liverpool Street station, when they faced a mass people’s protest.

Hundreds formed a ‘human chain’ along Blossom Street, Folgate Street and Norton Folgate itself in a show of solidarity in July, led by TV historian Dan Cruickshank, to symbolically protect an area of Georgian properties.

Tower Hamlets Council responded by rejecting the high-rise scheme that would overshadow parts of Spitalfields.

But the Mayor of London later over-ruled the Town Hall and local public opinion when he took over the process on September 23 to decide it for himself, after approaches from the developers.

July 2015... 'Human chain' protest at Norton FolgateJuly 2015... 'Human chain' protest at Norton Folgate

Now British Land, the developers who entered a scheme with the City of London Corporation to buy up the period properties, say they want to reach agreement with campaigners “to bring certainty” to the area.

They have suggested keeping historic warehouses at 12-13 Blossom Street, behind Norton Folgate, to allow some space for small firms.

“We believe retaining the warehouses is an elegant solution,” British Land’s Nigel Webb said.

“It will help all sides reach agreement over this important scheme that needs resolution, so that certainty can be brought to the local area.”

July 2015... 'Human chain' protest against British land development plansJuly 2015... 'Human chain' protest against British land development plans

The scheme includes a nine-storey office tower and promises of 2,500 jobs for City workers—but is still at odds with Spitalfields conservationists which fears its impact on the ancient neighbourhood with so little ‘affordable’ housing included.

What remains unresolved is the tower block the conservationists who say it is “obtrusively out of scale”.

Many of the traditional buildings due to come down, apart from 12-13 Blossom Street, have been the character of Norton Folgate for two centuries and are still in good condition. These have low-rent space for small businesses and start-ups which would not be able to afford costly commercial rates needed to make the new high-rise development profitable, campaigners point out.

British Land’s revised plans, meanwhile, go out for public consultation next week.

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