Public pledge to protect Limehouse Cut, London’s oldest canal

Campaigners are going ‘full steam ahead’ for a conservation area to be set up to protect London’s oldest canal after a public consultation last night pledged to stop further encroachment by developers.

Tower Hamlets Council held the open meeting in its second bid to set up a preservation zone along the Limehouse Cut, first opened in 1770, after its previous attempt was overturned earlier this year in the High Court.

The campaigners, led by local historian Tom Ridge (pictured at last night’s meeting), failed to save the original 1920s Poplar Labour Exchange on the banks of the canal being bulldozed.

“There’s been a lack of historic buildings in the East End being ‘locally listed’ for preservation,” Tom warned the meeting.

“A conservation area along the Limehouse Cut must preserve historic buildings to remind future generations of London’s waterside heritage.”

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The East End has London’s unique, six-mile waterways ring, he pointed out, connecting The Cut, Regent’s Canal and Hertford Union Canal with the Lea River.

“British Waterways is only concerned with making money,” he insisted. “It’s supposed to be the statutory authority looking after our canals.”

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The meeting attracted conservationists from across London. Del Brenner from the Regent Network group revealed that The Cut had been ‘neglected’ and hadn’t been dredged “for at least 35 years” which caused his boat propeller to get snared up last week by an old, discarded mattress.

The comments are being used in a report to Tower Hamlets’ cabinet after the public consultations end on Sunday.

An attempt to set up a conservation area was overturned in February on technical grounds when a judge ruled that consultations had been one-sided.

Written comments can be submitted to the Town Hall until Sunday, or emailed to

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