Saturday, 20 September 2008

Another Letter to the Planners

In Memoriam
1-5 Tenter Ground, Bell Lane Elevation, circa 1900-2008. (
Is the Fruit and Wool Exchange next?)

Dear Laura Webster

I was not surprised that you decided to allow the partial demolition and redevelopment of 1 -5 Tenter Ground, only that you showed the courage and integrity to refuse these at the first attempt. What happened? Did the higher-ups intervene, and take it out of your hands?

You said, in refusing the first application, that "the extensive demolition, design, scale and bulk would not preserve or enhance the character and appearance of a locally listed building and Conservation Area." None of this has changed with the new application. If something is true in May, how can it be no longer true just a few short weeks later? With some candour, you call the Bell Lane elevation "simple and attractive." Amen to that. So why not act to keep it?

I do not blame you in the least. I guess Planning Case Officers have to do as they're told, just like in any hierarchical setup. Nor do I expect a reply to this letter (though your silence will speak volumes).

So yet another period building in Spitalfields gets pounded to dust, with scarcely a murmur of protest. Does this have something to do with the celebrity-status of the applicant? You have to wonder. Am I a sore loser? You can say so I guess. Will I alone mourn it? I don't think so. Where will this slow-moving hurricane of demolition end? Is the Fruit and Wool Exchange next?

It is a curious thing that ordinary local people, in particular residents of the housing estate opposite, whose views you choose to disregard, want in the main to keep these buildings, while the trendy conservation professionals all want to pull them down. It is a cruel irony, don’t you think? And whatever happened to Highways’ objection to traffic entering the building across the pavement? Were they overruled? Pedestrian safety, an issue in May, just fell off the agenda in July. Pedestrians can go hang, I guess.

You’ve countenanced the merging of three separate premises into one. Doesn’t this go against the grain of government planning policy, as well as plain common sense? You said that “numerous” people will be working there. Oh really? You know that for a fact, do you? You do not cite any evidence for this. Up to ten households and businesses rubbed along together there in times past. What happens when the new owner retires to the Bahamas? Will this rebuilt 1–5 Tenter Ground someday be boarded-up and empty?

I bear no ill-feeling toward the applicant, my new neighbour. This is all about the building. It is my misfortune to feel great distress at the destruction of fine old buildings. Is this so odd? Many people, myself included, will feel hugely let down by the planning process. I predict a Soviet-like silence and indifference to my protests. But at least I have ventilated my indignation with this letter (which will be posted on my blog). It takes away some of the hurt. This is therapy!

Yours faithfully

Peter Sinden