East London Advertiser – 4 page special on London Fruit & Wool Exchange


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Today the East London Advertiser features the fight to save the London Fruit and Wool Exchange from the demolition ball. Last week London Mayor, Boris Johnson, gave developers, Exemplar, the go ahead to demolish this landmark building with it’s rich wartime history, and replace it with a large floor plate office scheme, deep in the heart of historic Spitalfields.









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Assembly Member John Biggs joins campaign to Save London Fruit and Wool Exchange


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From The East London Advertiser

“John Biggs has tonight (Weds) announced he’s joining the 11th-hour heritage campaign to save the 1920s’ art deco building at Spitalfields, in the heart of his City & East London constituency. Saying “I am proud to add my support to the campaign to fight for this beautiful building which survived the Blitz.”

The Mayor of London’s decision last week to approve its demolition—with only its facia remaining—has roused anger among campaigners after it had twice been rejected by Tower Hamlets council.

“The Fruit and Wool Exchange is part of the charm and heritage in this much-loved area of Spitalfields,” said Biggs.

But all that will soon be swept aside, despite a long-running campaign by TV historian Dan Cruickshank who accused Boris Johnson of using autocratic powers against local democracy when he gave evidence at last Wednesday’s public hearing at City Hall.

Architect Paul Johnston put forward an alternative at the hearing on behalf of Cruickshank and the Spitalfields Community Group to show how the Fruit Exchange could be developed while preserving the character of the area.

He said: “London needs to show that it can sympathetically repair, regenerate and rebuild itself and not allow developers versed in bypassing planning policies to ignore the community and raze neighbourhoods.”

Read the full article here


Boris gives the green light to Exemplar


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At a meeting at City Hall last night, London Mayor, Boris Johnson over ruled LBTH Councillors who had voted across party lines, unanimously, twice previously to reject this scheme.

Using powers granted to him in 2008 he was able to ‘take over’ the application, which had previously been refused planning permission by Tower Hamlets Council.

Representatives of the Spitalfields Community Group spoke vociferously against the scheme, alongside Dan Cruikshank representing the Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust, Cllr Carlo Gibbs and LBTH Planners.

One of those in favour locally is the Rector of Christ Church Spitalfields, who spoke in favour of the demolition and re development.

He felt that the view from the Church steps will be improved and he will no longer have to look at an unsightly car park.

A pity then that the view to Hawksmoor’s Baroque masterpiece will be somewhat obscured by a block larger than Wembley football pitch, and one who’s own architect, Rab Bennett referred to as “blocky” in design – what a lost opportunity when the retention of historic Dorset Street, angled to the left would have provided a wonderful vista of Spitalfield’s architectural gem. 

It seems the Rector, who was previously incumbent in Fitzrovia, may well have crossed paths with Exemplar before in regarding developments in that area.

Mayor Boris Johnson gave the following reasons for his decision:

“These plans will not only restore the façade to its former glory, but regenerate the Spitalfields area with thousands of new jobs, and brand new commercial opportunities. It will also make a vital contribution to the wider London economy and have a significant impact not just on Tower Hamlets but on surrounding boroughs as well. I can find no reason to refuse permission and am of the firm view that this ambitious and important redevelopment should go ahead.”


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Tenants given Notice to Quit says East London Advertiser


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Today the East London Advertiser reveals that tenants in the historic London Fruit and Wool Building have been given notice to quit by December 1st.

“Small businesses have been given notices to quit the historic London Fruit & Wool Exchange as the controversy over its future deepens.

The locally-listed building at Spitalfields in London’s East End, bordering the City, has been at the centre of a planning battle to stop developers bulldozing the area, including The Gun pub and nearby Dorset Street, and putting up a massive office and shopping complex.

Tower Hamlets council has twice blocked the scheme, now believed to be referred back to the Mayor of London.

Boris Johnson has to decide whether to back Tower Hamlets and protesters led by TV historian Dan Cruikshank and former BBC Breakfast presenter John Nicolson—who both live in the Spitalfields Conservation Area—or let developers go ahead.

Cruikshank, who chairs the Spitalfields Trust, told the Advertiser: “I would be surprised if Boris overturned the council’s rejection or ignored the massive local opposition.

“But we are prepared for the worst and will consider briefing a QC if it goes to a public inquiry.”

The controversy took a new twist this week when the City of London Corporation, which owns the 300,000 sq ft Exchange, issued leaseholders with notices to quit by December 1.

“It seems like Scrooge telling traders to go just before Christmas,” added Cruikshank.

“It’s mind boggling and absurd to empty the building for no reason and won’t impress anyone.”

The Exchange dates from 1929. The basement was used as a public air-raid shelter during the Blitz, with many of the shelterers’ cartoons and graffiti from 1941 still remaining on the walls seven decades on.

Protesters say the scale of redevelopment would destroy Spitalfields’ bohemian character with its historic roots back to the 17th century when French Huguenot refugees set up silk-weaving workshops.

It would have meant The Gun pub and the whole of Dorset Street disappearing where many silk-weavers’ terraced cottages survive today.

But the scheme was turfed out by Tower Hamlets councillors on May 31 after previously being rejected in March.

Broadcaster John Nicholson, who led a residents’ protest at the Town Hall, said afterwards: “It’s a victory for the community against a big developer who felt certain of victory.”

The authority rejected Exemplar’s offer to pay for social housing elsewhere in exchange for the office development.

A council spokesperson said later: “It was refused due to the extent of demolition and the impact on Brick Lane and the Fournier Street Conservation Area.”

Exemplar had agreed to more subsidised space for small enterprises and to put £1m into a kitty for projects stalled due to the recession.

But that wasn’t good enough for the council which insisted on housing being included and The Gun pub and Dorset Street being kept.

The application has to be referred back to the Mayor of London if developers want to continue, Tower Hamlets warned. They also have the right to appeal to the Secretary of State if Boris turns them down as well.”

Mike Brooke East London Advertiser 10-6-12


Planning Permission Refused for Fruit & Wool Exchange


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Last night at the Town Hall, Tower Hamlets councillors voted across party lines to strike down Exemplar’s plans for the demolition of the Fruit & Wool Exchange, Gun Pub and Dorset Street and reject the advice of their own planning – and conservation – officers who argued strenuously that the demolition should go ahead.

A sole dissenting voice was Councillors Helal Abbas who praised Exemplar’s scheme, but in the end abstained in the vote.

Councillors agreed with us that;

– The Fruit and Wool, Barclays, and the Gun Pub are fine old buildings worthy of saving

– 16th Century Dorset Street should be saved and re-opened

– housing should be re-introduced on site

– a mixed use development with ground floor shops would provide jobs for local people.

This is an extraordinary victory for local opinion against a big

developer, and saves a huge chunk of Spitalfields from being absorbed

as bland City office space.

A huge thank you to all of you who campaigned with us on this

issue, and who recruited friends and colleagues. Without your letters,

texts, and e mails this battle would never have been won.

Thank you too to our friends in the Spitalfields Trust who  stood

shoulder to shoulder with us in the campaign.

Additional information and history on the Fruit and Wool Exchange can be found here:

Save the London Fruit and Wool Exchange Facebook Page

Spitalfields Life Blog – At The Fruit and Wool Exchange 1937

Building Design feature alternative scheme


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The proposed alternative view for the site designed by Johnstons Architects

From Building Design On Line

“Firm is challenging fellow local practice Rab Bennetts to major redevelopment project

Battle lines are being drawn in east London where a local practice has unveiled rival plans it hopes will see off a major redevelopment designed by Rab Bennetts.

Johnston Architecture, working with historian Dan Cruickshank, has drawn up a rival design it claims preserves more of the historic fabric of Spitalfields. It also involves the recreation of a monumental 18th century arch that was destroyed in the Blitz.

Developer Exemplar hired Bennetts Associates two years ago to come up with an office and retail scheme replacing two blocks near Hawksmoor’s Christ Church

Bennetts Associates’ plans include demolishing all but the facade of the 1929 Fruit&Wool Exchange

Bennetts’ scheme was recommended for approval at a recent Tower Hamlets planning meeting but councillors raised concerns over affordable housing and local employment. They are set to reconsider it by the end of next month. Campaigners have taken advantage of the delay to try and convince site owner City of London Corporation to think again.

Paul Johnston, founder of Johnston Architecture, said: “I have the greatest respect for Rab Bennetts but I think his hands are tied by the developer whose eye is on the bottom line. He has tried very hard to give it a decent face but the scale of the proposed building, covering two historic street blocks, makes it a monster.”

Rab Bennetts said the two schemes were surprisingly similar and both involved demolishing most of the Fruit & Wool Exchange.

The plans include demolishing all but the facade of the 1929 Fruit & Wool Exchange.”


East London Advertiser feature The battle for Dorset Street


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Proposed Paternoster Lane

Proposed Paternoster Lane

“Campaigners in London’s East End battling to save the neighbourhood from developers have drawn up alternative proposals based around the Old Spitalfields Market—inspired by Rome.

Their plans recreate the 18th century Shepherd’s Arch destroyed in the Blitz, with a pedestrian square opposite Nicholas Hawksmoor’s 1720 Christ Church and an arcade of shops with classical colonnades. The narrow streets and alleys that Spitalfields is famous for would be kept.

TV historian Dan Cruickshank, a key figure in the scheme, told the Advertiser: “We’re trying to sustain Spitalfields’ historic character and retain Dorset Street with its traditional architecture, while developers just want to obliterate it.”

The developers, Exemplar, had proposed offices and shops on the site of the Fruit & Wool Exchange and White Row multi-story car-park opposite—but with no housing, which has been turned down by Tower Hamlets council.

Now a joint enterprise by Spitalfields Historic Building Trust and Spitalfields Community Group has called on Paul Johnston, a professional architect in Cheshire Street, off Brick Lane, to draw up the alternative scheme in detail.

He envisages a new Patternoster Lane and streets that have been lost in history, while opening up Dorset Street which has been reduced to a service road.

“Our plans based on the 1894 Ordnance Survey revert to a street pattern that’s much older,” he revealed. “We’ve measured the width of Dorset Street and Whites Row and are holding to those dimensions.”

Paul uses Rome for inspiration because he sees Hawksmoor’s Christ Church as Britain’s best example of baroque architecture which began in Italy. Housing, studios, workshops and apartments will line Dorset Street and White’s Row with commercial elements at upper levels on each side.

Shepherd’s Arch is the jewel in the crown. Walk from Liverpool Street into Middlesex Street, through Artillery Passage and across Crispin Street and the casual visitor would be greeted by the arch enticing them towards Christ Church, then onto Brick Lane.

Peter Boisseau takes this route every day.

“I step outside my front and my spiritual batteries are recharged,” he says. “Walking round corners with their odd views and old charm, the nooks and crannies, all make it special.

“But the developers want to remove everything that makes Spitalfields unique and replace these sound buildings with a mammoth, soul-sucking office block with a lifeless personality.”

The campaigners have already won the first round in the battle to save “the heart and soul of Spitalfields” after Tower Hamlets last month rejected Exemplar’s plans for an offices-and-shops multi-complex that would have obliterated Dorset Street.”

By Mike Brooke for the East London Advertiser.

Read more here 

Evening Standard reveals alternative plan for Spitalfields site


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Today, the alternative plans developed by the Spitalfields Community Group and the Spitalfields Historic Trust for the London Fruit & Wool Exchange site were revealed in the Evening Standard.

“Campaigners battling to save a historic part of Spitalfields from developers have drawn up ambitious rival proposals for the site – inspired by the “baroque plan of Rome”.

The design boasts aerial walkways, spectacular views of Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Christ Church and an arcade for independent shops sheltered by classical colonnades.

Under the plans the site will be pedestrianised but retain something of the “network” of narrow streets that Spitalfields is famous for.

The 18th century Shepherd’s Place Arch, which was bombed in the Blitz, will be reinstated as a grand entrance.

TV presenter and art historian Dan Cruickshank is one of the key figures spearheading the new scheme by the Spitalfields Community Group, details of which are unveiled for the first time today.

It is aimed at halting the planned demolition of a 9,000-square metre area of Spitalfields by developer Exemplar.

Although Tower Hamlets planners rejected their initial proposals last month, Exemplar  — contracted by site freeholders the City of London Corporation — is to try again”

To read the Evening Standard Article click here