Tracey Emin withdraws appeal to build ‘Stalinist’ block in Spitalfields conservation area

PUBLISHED: 13:58 12 December 2016 | UPDATED: 13:58 12 December 2016

Tracey Emin wanted to put up this 'Stalinist' building in Spitalfields conservation area

Tracey Emin wanted to put up this 'Stalinist' building in Spitalfields conservation area

TH Council

Artist Tracey Emin has pulled out of her controversial plans to tear down a period building in a conservation area in London’s East End and put up what critics called “a Stalinist crematorium” in its place—much to the relief of the neighbourhood.

Spitalfields' reprieved 1927 period tenement block in Bell Lane [photo: Toby Glanville]Spitalfields' reprieved 1927 period tenement block in Bell Lane [photo: Toby Glanville]

She already had the scheme rejected by Tower Hamlets Council for a modernist arts block at Bell Lane, next to her converted Victorian warehouse in Spitalfields, back in February.

But the outlandish artist—famous for the “unmade bed” she turned into an artwork a decade ago—lodged an appeal to the government’s Planning Inspectorate, , despite the 58 objections to her modernist scheme including Save Britain’s Heritage and the Spitalfields Society.

It was lone protester Paul Johnston from the Spitalfields Community Group who turned up to a council planning meeting in February and persuaded councillors to reject the scheme.

He said at the time: “It’s the wrong building for this site and the site is wrong for this building.”

Spitalfields campaigner Paul JohnsonSpitalfields campaigner Paul Johnson

The reprieve for the locally-listed 1927 tenement block that Emin bought two years ago has been welcomed today by Spitalfields Neighbourhood Planning Forum.

The Forum’s David Donoghue told the East London Advertiser: “People are relieved that she’s dropped her scheme for that ‘Stalinist crematorium’ which was totally out of kilter with the character of the neighbourhood.

“Once you let one horrible thing go, then it sets a precedent and everything else happens which destroys a neighbourhood—this is a victory for common sense.”

Emin had already ignored the local authority before her scheme was rejected and didn’t even turn up for February’s planning meeting by going directly to the government’s Planning Inspectorate the week before.

Yet her previous application had already been agreed when she simply wanted to convert the three-storey dwelling block into creative arts studios.

A Town Hall spokesman said: “The council has learned from the Planning Inspectorate that the applicant had decided to withdraw the appeal. The only way to take the redevelopment forward would be to submit a new application.”

Save Britain’s Heritage welcomed Emin withdrawing her appeal which was due to go to a public inquiry in the New Year, now reprieving the 1927 tenement.

Its director Henrietta Billings said: “Great care was taken to design this delightful, modest 1920s tenement building in Bell Lane to blend with the traditional scale of the narrow streets around it.

“The historic streets in this area buzz with life thanks to their human scale, in spite of intense development pressures from the office towers of the City just a few hundred yards away.”

The reprieved building has neat and well-articulated window bays on both street fronts with restrained architectural detailing, the heritage organisation points out. It was built by Stepney Borough Council to help solve the 1920s’ post-war housing shortage.

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