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TV’s Dan Cruickshank leads fight to save Spitalfields future with new neighbourhood plan

PUBLISHED: 13:42 02 November 2020 | UPDATED: 11:28 03 November 2020

TV's veteran historian Dan Cruikshank joins campaign to save East End's heritage. Picture: John Moberly

TV's veteran historian Dan Cruikshank joins campaign to save East End's heritage. Picture: John Moberly

John Moberly

TV’s famous architectural historian Dan Cruickshank has been elected onto Spitalfields’ neighbourhood forum which has formally adopted plans for the future of the district.

The late Sir John Betjeman with a younger Dan Cruickshank touring Spitalfields in 1965 to save Huguenot 18th century dwellings. Picture: Spitalfields TrustThe late Sir John Betjeman with a younger Dan Cruickshank touring Spitalfields in 1965 to save Huguenot 18th century dwellings. Picture: Spitalfields Trust

He is well-known for his campaigns going back to the days of poet laureate Sir John Betjamin in the battle to save Spitalfields Christ Church and many 18th century Huguenot cottages facing demolition in the 1960s.

It was mainly Betjamin and Cruickshank whose fight led to the restoration of Hawksmoor’s historic Christ Church built around 1720 that dominates the Commercial Street skyline today.

Now Dan, who lives in one of the Huguenot cottages he helped save, has joined the forum that was set up five years ago to safeguard the future of the ancient City Fringe district from encroachment by developers who have already bulldozed historic properties including the former London Fruit and Wool Exchange.

He is endorsing the neighbourhood plan put together by volunteers which has now been submitted to Tower Hamlets Council before a referendum could be held next year.

Spitalfields Forum's James Frankcom... Spitalfields Forum's James Frankcom... "We've identified hot spot for anti-social behaviour that needs to be open to public." Picture: Mike Brooke

But it’s not just bricks and cobblestone roads forum members want to preserve. The area is plagued by night-time street yobs.

“We have identified a hot spot of anti-social behaviour,” forum chairman James Frankcom told the East London Advertiser.

“The ‘Ram and Magpie’ site next to Spitalfields city farm should be public open space, but needs management. So our plan supports any proposal that takes in this neglected corner.”

One of the main aims of the draft plan is also to help small businesses and shops facing rent rises from encroaching big business.

Dan Cruickshank (left) meets Spitalfields Forum founder David Donoghue in 2016 campaign to save original Eastern Counties railway arches. Picture: Mike BrookeDan Cruickshank (left) meets Spitalfields Forum founder David Donoghue in 2016 campaign to save original Eastern Counties railway arches. Picture: Mike Brooke

“This could be done by quadrupling workspace rent discount to 45 per cent from the 10pc in the current Tower Hamlets Local Plan.

Parks and open spaces would also be defined with legally protected boundary lines to prevent “nibbling away at the edges”, with the same status as the Green Belt around London.

Developers would be required to “green up” any new buildings which in the event would need to be in keeping with their surroundings rather than overshadow them, if the neignbourhood plan is passed by local referendum in 2021.

The proposals offer protection to 40 buildings, including iconic 1930s council blocks regularly facing prospect of being pulled down such as Brune House, Barnett House and Wheler House, as well as the original Eastern Counties railway arch at Fleet Street Hill off Brick Lane and other arches on the line near Bishopsgate opened in 1861.

Spitalfields Neighbourhood Plan now sent to Tower Hamlets Council for a red tickSpitalfields Neighbourhood Plan now sent to Tower Hamlets Council for a red tick

The forum’s new committee with Dan Cruickshank also includes Tower Hamlets Cllr Shad Chowdhury, Attlee community centre’s Tania Shaikh, Old Truman Brewery’s Jason Zeloof, London Tea Exchange boss Aliur Rahman and members of Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust, East End Preservation Society and Spitalfields Open Space organisations.


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