Tower Block ‘shadow’ threat to 1696 Trinity Green Almshouses at Mile End Gate
PUBLISHED: 07:00 10 February 2016 | UPDATED: 08:25 10 February 2016
The first historic buildings in east London to be saved for posterity are facing their worst threat in 120 years from being cast in shadow by plans to build a 28-storey tower block just yards away.
Heritage bodies have opposed the plans while hundreds of supporters have rallied to defend Trinity Green Almshouses at Mile End Gate.
Now campaigners and residents are worried by Sainsbury’s scheme tagged onto the end of the huge Whitechapel redevelopment when Crossrail opens.
They are lobbying Mayor John Biggs and local MP Rushanara Ali before the proposed scheme goes to Tower Hamlets Council for planning approval.
Conservation bodies such as the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and English Heritage have also written to the Town Hall, while hundreds of supporters have rallied to defend the unique red-brick 17th century enclave from being overshadowed.
“This is one of only two places in the East End where you can actually live in a Grade I-listed building—the other is the Tower of London,” campaign co-ordinator Thomas Antoniw, 29, told the East London Advertiser.
“The tower would be less than 80 yards from these grade I-listed buildings. It’s worrying.
“London planning policy states when you design a building you have to take into account the impact on the environment and its historical buildings, which the designers haven’t done.”
The campaigners also worry about an influx of cars because the Sainsbury scheme doesn’t provide any parking for the 580 new residents who would be moving in, added to the stream of shoppers who use the supermarket car-park, which would have an impact on the whole neighbourhood.
The buildings were constructed for “decay’d Masters and Commanders” in 1695, the only remaining 17th century almshouses in central London which also played a role in starting the conservation movement 200 years later, in 1895, in a campaign to rescue them from demolition. A monograph was published as part of that campaign that later became the Survey of London, which continues to this day.
Today’s residents of Trinity Green say they’re ready for a fight to protect this historic corner of London’s East End.
Retired Catherine Sullivan, 68, who has lived there 36 years, said: “The tower block will cast a shadow over the almshouses and ruin everything. We won’t be able to enjoy the sun.”
Neighbour Charlie Douglas, 25, said: “We have a good community here and hold barbecues in the summer. The tower will ruin the atmosphere because no-one will want to interact if they’re being overlooked.”
The green itself was being used this week for rehearsals by the Deaf and Hearing Ensemble theatre company to create outdoor theatre for September’s Liberty Festival at east London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
The theatre company’s Jennifer Bates, 33, said: “This space feels calm, non-busy, where we come to be creative and free. A skyscraper would change it and make this place feel like it’s in an industrial urban area instead of this lovely, quaint courtyard with its trees and grass and open sky.”
Friends of Trinity Green, which was set up by sympathisers, now has more than 300 supporters who signed up in just three weeks.
They include retired health manager Marion Goodrich, 62, who said: “I’ve admired these almshouses for the last 30 years. I pass them three times a week and often go in and walk around this beautiful public space.
“I’m just astonished that the tower block would cast the whole place in shadow. The almshouses need to be protected.”
The Friends oppose any development that would be seen above the roof-line of the terraced almshouses, as recommended by Historic England.
The plans are expected to go before Tower Hamlets council in the spring.
The authority itself owns many of the almshouses, as well as the chapel at the end and the green which is open to the public and maintained as a public park.
This unique community space has an unspoilt skyline looking west and east, with no visible signs of modern development. The Sainsbury tower block at the beginning of Cambridge Heath Road, critics point out, would end all that.