The AHMM’s intentions to redevelop the Georgian quarter of Norton Folgate in Spitalfields have already attracted controversy, with the plans being called insensitive to the local historic area. After sustained local protest, as well as that from TV celebrities, the Spitalfields Trust weighed in and, after serious consideration, Tower Hamlets refused permission for construction of the redevelopment. But the story hasn’t ended there.
Boris Johnson’s Plans for London
From the start, the project was largely seen as an unattractive proposition solely motivated by London Mayor Boris Johnson’s plan for ‘London’s globally competitive business cluster’ in the area. The complaints were about the appearance of the project as well as the gentrification. One property, a converted public toilet, was being sold for one million pounds. However, Johnson argued that the plans had been altered to be much more sensitive and attractive to the area and that redevelopment should go ahead.
So it was hardly a surprise when, after hearing of the planning rejection in the borough, Johnson was said to have decided to review the decision. Following his evaluation, he decided to overthrow the assessment of Tower Hamlets and allow construction to begin.
The Mayor as a Quick Reader
While many might not like his decision, they understand that as the Mayor of London he has the legal right to review their decision. However, certain factors in the timelines of action have led the Spitalfields Trust to accuse the Mayor of foul play. Notice of the rejection was made public at 9am on September 10, 2015, and by law, the Mayor’s Office would have two weeks to review and oppose the decision.
The Trust’s complaint is that the sheer amount of data, including preliminary planning designs, 3d architectural visualisation like the ones completed by http://www.redandgray.co.uk, costing and objections, would have taken up a good chunk of those 14 days to review. However, email records suggest a decision to let building go ahead was made as early as 10.48 on the same day as the rejection.
The Trust argued that the Mayor’s office waited a further 13 days until September 23, 2015, to announce the decision and gave the impression that a review has been undertaken when one had not.
The Spitalfields Trust has applied for a judicial review because of this, and so the saga continues.