Sunday, 31 August 2008

Mammon repelled from Norton Folgate

On 15 August a government Planning Inspector rejected an appeal by the City of London Corporation against the refusal of its planning application to demolish and redevelop parts of Norton Folgate.

The area is characterised by Georgian houses, Victorian warehouses, the art deco decoration of the former Nicholls and Clarke 1930s shopfront, historic street features and patterns resonant of the mediaeval Priory of St. Mary Spital.

The application had a contentious history. Tower Hamlets' planning officers, with backing from CABE (the government's Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment), had recommended that Council Members grant planning permission for the scheme on the basis that the scale, height, detail and designs proposed made a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the conservation area. English Heritage did not object. However on 25 June Council Members rejected the application after hearing the objections of local residents and of The Georgian Group, The Victorian Society, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the Spitalfields Society and the Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust. The objectors pointed out the merit of the area's historic buildings and character and the damage, including the demolitions and the loss of light and overshadowing, which would result from the over-scale and inappropriate nature of the redevelopment proposed.

The Inspector had made a site inspection and noted the locally listed buildings, the fine 1886 buildings of Blossom Street, the 1880 Norton Folgate terrace and its rear wash houses, water towers and the historic road surfaces. The Inspector considered representations from the City Corporation and objections from local residents, architects and the Spitalfields Trust before reaching the decision. Tower Hamlets Council's officers found themselves objecting to the scheme which they had previously recommended. The Inspector decided that the scheme as designed missed the opportunity to enhance the Conservation Area and that the loss of existing historic buildings and other features taken together would cause "considerable harm to its character and appearance as a whole".

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