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The unique No. 1 gasholder at the Poplar Holder Station, Leven Road E14, is to be demolished, together with two other gasholders and the single-storey brick meter house on the east side of the No.1 gasholder. (See footnote 1)

Prior approval for the demolition was granted by Tower Hamlets Council on 2 September 2016. EEWG was kindly informed of this fact by the Borough Conservation Officer in his 23 December 2016 email reply to Tom Ridge’s email asking him and his colleagues to save the No. 1 gasholder.

Mark Taylor found the case officer’s report of 31 August 2016 on the Council’s website.

Please read this closely for an object lesson in the systematic and non-transparent disappearance of built heritage. Note particularly that, although there was a public consultation period, it was only advertised by a site notice. Also note that although the conservation officer’s email states that prior approval cases are limited to matters of methodology and site restoration, the fourth paragraph under MATERIAL PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS informs us that:

A response from Historic England has been provided outlining the reasoning behind the decision not to list the structures on site …”

My apologies for not checking the status of the No. 1 gasholder before launching EEWG’s online petition to save three historic gasholders on the waterways in Tower Hamlets.

The PETITION with 3,917 signatures was sent by Mark Taylor to the Plan Making Team on 2 January 2017. The email from the East End Waterway Group includes a map locating the LBTH residents who signed the petition.

Our warmest thanks to you all for helping to make what is probably the biggest consultation response to the Council’s current Local Plan.

I have asked the conservation officer whether it would be possible to save parts of the unique gasholder guide frame for incorporation within the very extensive residential development of the former Poplar Gasworks site. (See footnote 2)

A copy of the EEWG email to the Plan Making Team has been sent to the conservation officer in support of my request for what could be a piece of public art and a memorial to the No. 1 gasholder, the Commercial Gas Company and Samuel Cutler and Sons of Millwall:

  • designed in 1876 by Robert and Henry Edward Jones, the father and son engineers of the Commercial Gas Company, which was the East End’s own gas company from 1840 to 1949

  • built 1876-78 by Samuel Cutler and Sons of Millwall, constructional engineers who specialised in the erection of gasholders in London and elsewhere

  • an important version of the demolished 1876 prototype at Hove and now England’s oldest surviving gasholder with a wrought-iron lattice guide frame

  • its nineteen elegant tee-section standards are England’s first and only examples of their type: each with a vertical tapering lattice girder at right angles to a vertical tapering plate girder

  • these highly distinctive and innovatory curved girders established the box lattice principle subsequently used in the later and more numerous lattice guide frames with straight box lattice girders and straight box lattice standards (such as the No. 5 at Bethnal Green)

  • …has local interest as a distinctive and elegant late C19 gasholder, which was among the first frames of wrought-iron lattice construction with an entirely (in-ground) concrete tank (Historic England Reject at Initial Assessment Report no. 1429523 December 2015.





The Borough Conservation Officer’s 23 December 2016 email also included an online reference to a public consultation: “Draft Local List Selection Criteria”. EEWG was not informed of this consultation, despite last year’s campaign for a review of the Local List and nominations for CHEVIOT HOUSE (supported by the Twentieth Century Society) and the SOUTHERN GROVE WORKHOUSE (supported by the Victorian Society).

Furthermore, members of EEWG participating in the Local Plan consultations knew nothing about this particular consultation, which is “ part of the current public consultation process relating to the draft Local Plan (including the draft Conservation Strategy) ” Tower Hamlets Local List Review.

With reference to the section on Selection Criteria and Appendix A Existing Local List Nominations, I have (on behalf of EEWG):

  • welcomed the local list criteria

  • welcomed the inclusion of Cheviot House and the two Bethnal Green gasholders on the list of existing nominations

  • questioned why Southern Grove Workhouse not included

  • questioned why No. 1 gasholder at Poplar not included

  • expressed concern that buildings within Conservation Areas are excluded from the local listing process

Whilst it is very pleasing to see that the Bethnal Green gasholders are on the list of existing nominations, it is to be hoped that Tower Hamlets Council will regard the 3,917 signature petition as a sufficiently massive indication of public support for their addition to the Local List or will allow the petition to be re-submitted during the proposed public consultation between July 2017 and August 2017. And, in either case, start immediate negotiations with National Grid for the retention and incorporation of their guide frames within the proposed canal-side park.

It is also very worrying to note that the nominated gasholders (and the four nominated buildings) will not be added to the Local List until final adoption by the Cabinet in October 2017: by which time National Grid will probably have used the 2015 General Permitted Development Order to apply for and get prior approval from Tower Hamlets Council for the demolition of the No. 2 and No. 5 gasholders at Bethnal Green.

NB: The Local List Review, as part of the current Local Plan process, should have started last spring. (See footnote 3)

EEWG has done all it can to save a few parts of the No. 1 guide frame at Poplar and the two magnificent guide frames at Bethnal Green. It is outrageous that the residents of this borough are completely powerless to stop or even alter the systematic and non-transparent disappearance of our built heritage. This also happens to be part of London’s built heritage, which the London Planning Director of Historic England has called on Mayor Sadique Khan to put “at the heart” of the next London Plan.

EEWG appeals to all those who signed the gasholder petition, and our friends in Tower Hamlets and elsewhere in London, to do everything possible to make more people (particularly decision makers) aware of the disappearing built heritage in Tower Hamlets; and encourage Tower Hamlets Council to stop the disappearances and make an immediate start on properly protecting its built heritage.

Tom Ridge

East End Waterway Group


As readers of the Special December 2016 and January 2017 newsletters will know, even this recently-listed principal named building in the Victoria Park Conservation Area is threatened by a current planning application (supported by Historic England). If approved, it would result in the demolition of the listed south wing and the demolition of the roof and ventilation tower on the listed main building of 1855; and their replacement by a much larger roof and much larger ventilation tower, which would harm the listed main building and the conservation area.

Unfortunately, Tom Ridge’s two petitions (which both need to be signed by the same person) have yet to take off like the gasholder petition.

So far, only 150 people have signed the first petition (mainly about the listed building); and only 35 people have signed the second petition (mainly about the three proposed blocks of flats).

Please read the background notes to the first petition and compare the front elevations of the main building in the Special December Newsletter. When reading the background notes, please also read the missing second paragraph from section on roof.



Please remember that whilst my letter of objection will be written in support of all the points made in both petitions, it will only count as one objection. For my letter of objection and all the other necessary letters of objection from tenants’ and residents’ organisations and amenity societies to be effective, they must be supported by thousands of the same people signing both my petitions by 22 January 2017.

In my forthcoming letter, I hope to elaborate on some of the points. For instance, the fake heritage tower would not only be higher and taller than the original shortened ventilation tower, it would also be raised over the back or corridor part of the main building. And it would be much wider than the original tower, which is a vertical continuation of the ‘frontispiece’ embellishing the central part of the central advanced block.

SAVE Britain’s Heritage and the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society are writing letters of objection; and it is more than likely that the Victorian Society will also write.

Tom Ridge

Footnotes (back to top)

(1) The holder station is the only surviving part of the Commercial Gas Company’s Poplar Gasworks, opened in 1878 on the west bank of Bow Creek. This is the tidal part of the River Lea, where colliers from N.E. England discharged their coal for making into town gas. The volume of town gas was measured by large meters in the meter house, before storage in the gasholders. The meter house forms a group with the unique No. 1 gasholder and is a very rare survival in London, which was the birth place of the gas industry.
(2) The development by joint venture St William is to include open space and is one of ten sites in the Poplar Riverside Housing Zone; and, as well as making free use of what was public land, is likely to be part of the GLA.
(3) With respect to the Review’s section on Background, the NPPF was introduced in 2012 (see especially paras. 126, 156, 157, 168 and 169) and in the same year English Heritage issued a GOOD PRACTICE GUIDE FOR LOCAL HERITAGE LISTING (four years before Historic England’s Advice Note 7). Clearly, since 2012, Local Planning Authorities have been expected to maintain their Local Lists and to review them as an integral and initial part of their local plan procedures.

It is good that Tower Hamlets has now got round to reviewing its Local List as an integral part of its current Local Plan consultation. However, it was announced in “Our Borough. Our Plan: A New Local Plan First Steps”, which had a consultation period from December 2015 to February 2016. The Consultation Response Form included a question on the proposal re. identifying and adding non-designated heritage assets to the Local List, and updating Conservation Strategy. The Local List Review should, therefore, have taken place in the Spring and Summer of 2016, not the Spring and Summer of 2017 (see EEWG NEWSLETTER JANUARY 2016 – New Local Plan for Tower Hamlets and Explanation for long answer, also EEWG NEWSLETTER MARCH 2016 – Save Cheviot House and the Workhouse).

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Local residents, schools, community groups, amenity societies and businesses working with the Canal & River Trust, Tower Hamlets Council and others for the protection and beneficial use of the six mile waterway ‘ring’, its historic buildings, structures and habitats.
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