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Spitalfields Forum looks for green space to weed out the concrete jungle

PUBLISHED: 19:03 11 June 2016 | UPDATED: 23:07 11 June 2016

James Frankom (left) and David Donoghue pour over street plan of Spitalfields neighbourhood in search of open space

James Frankom (left) and David Donoghue pour over street plan of Spitalfields neighbourhood in search of open space

Archant

A search is on for any bit of green space in one of London's most tightly-packed City fringe neighbourhoods to create a 'breathing space' and help tackle air pollution.

First historic meeting of Spitalfields Neighbourhood Forum at Christchurch Vestry after its recognition by Tower Hamlets CouncilFirst historic meeting of Spitalfields Neighbourhood Forum at Christchurch Vestry after its recognition by Tower Hamlets Council

Members of the newly-recognised Spitalfields Neighbourhood Forum are worried about over-development in the ancient parish from an ever-expanding neighbouring City Square Mile which could eat up any bit of land that’s not nailed down.

They agreed at their first historic meeting to seek out any spec they could find to include in the Spitalfields Neighbourhood Plan to be submitted to Tower Hamlets Council.

“Parks and open spaces are desperately needed,” the new forum’s secretary James Frankcom explained.

“Spitalfields is so densely-populated that most people don’t have the luxury of a garden—so we’re commissioning searches to find where there is open space.

“There are spaces the council doesn’t recognise which are more at risk of being built on and being lost to the community.”

The forum, which gained recognition in April as a legally-constituted neighbourhood consultative body, brings back community power to the parish for the first time in 160 years. The last time the community excercised any real influence over its civic affairs was the last parish meeting in 1856.

Now the Localism Act has paved the way for more neighbourhood involvement in the way the urban landscape is being reshaped.

A handful of activists met in the Vestry Room at Christ Church for the forum’s inaugural meeting chaired by Bishopsgate goodsyard veteran campaigner David Donnoghue.

He told the East London Advertiser: “Our search is part of a need to reduce pollution which is at critical levels.

“This is one of the most critical areas of pollution in London—the junction of Commercial Street and Great Eastern Street, for example, is the worst spot in London.”

The new mayor of London, Siddiq Khan, was in Aldgate last month to announce plans to extend London’s Ultra Low Emissions zone while on a visit to Sir John Cass Primary, one of four schools in the East End facing critical levels of air pollution.

The forum, which heard a presentation on what the Town Hall needs for an area plan from the council’s Ellie Kuper Thomas, is worried about open spaces the council doesn’t recognise and wants them recognised—before any further development—as potential town or village greens which it says would stop them being lost for ever.

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