Loss of built heritage in Tower Hamlets
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NEWSLETTER January 2016


See website at

It is called “Our Borough, Our Plan: A New Local Plan First Steps”.

Consultation started 14 December 2015 and finishes 8 February 2016.

Everyone concerned by the on-going loss of built heritage in Tower Hamlets must read pages 52-57. Suggestions (p.56) include ‘identifying non-designated heritage assets to the Local List and updating conservation strategy’.

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Please answer the two questions on page 57, by 8 February: online via website or email to:

There is a Consultation Response Form and the Topic Area is “Historic Environment”.

Question 1: “Do you agree with our proposed approaches?” i.e. all or some of the suggestions on page 56.

Question 2: “Is there anything not discussed that we should be considering?”

Answer: Review of Local List and updating conservation strategy needs to start asap with the publication of a timetable and criteria for local listing so that local residents and others will know what is required when they are nominating a building or structure for addition to the Local List. New or extended conservation areas need to be considered at the same time, as non-designated heritage assets are better protected in conservation areas. Review and updating (with additions to Local List and firm proposals for new/extended conservation areas) must be carried out in spring and summer 2016 (during the preparation of then Draft Local Plan) and not left until after adoption of new Local Plan in Autumn 2017.


The conservation team at Tower Hamlets has included better heritage protection in its work plan for 2016/2017 but there is no actual date. An excellent motion on Heritage and Community Assets was passed at the council meeting on Wednesday, 20 January but it has to be implemented by officers asap. Unless we make full use of this unprecedented consultation opportunity, better protection measures will be left until end of 2017, by which time many more heritage assets will have been demolished by high-volume housebuilders.

I have been requesting specific additions to the Local List since 2006. Woolmore Primary School, workhouse building in Southern Grove and London Chest Hospital have been formally rejected. All the others have just been ignored. A proper system has to be set up and nominations supported by as many residents and non-residents as possible.

Developers are proposing to simply retain the façade of the main 1850s building at the Chest Hospital. The workhouse building and Cheviot House, together with the LEB building in Cambridge Heath Road and other council-owned buildings are being sold to fund the establishment of a new Civil Centre at the old London Hospital building. I and a few others are doing what we can to save the workhouse building and Cheviot House from demolition for yet more identical blocks of flats. But it may well be that multiple requests from members of all organisations will be needed asap for a sale condition (retention, sympathetic repair and adaption for residential use) and addition to the Local List.


The Third Newsletter December 2015 reported the DCMS decision (based on advice from English Heritage and a review response from Historic England) to issue a certificate of Immunity from Listing with respect to the two historic gasholders at Bethnal Green. This lasts for five years and will allow National Grid to demolish the holders.

Historic England has now decided that the No. 1 gasholder at Poplar “does not meet the criteria for statutory listing in a national context” (Reject at Initial Assessment Report). This will allow National Grid to demolish the holder.

Although the little gasholder guide frame at Poplar has the country’s first box lattice girders (which are also the first and only surviving examples of their particular type in the country), Historic England states that there is a bigger and better example at Kennington which has “landscape interest” because it is seen from the Oval Cricket Ground. It goes on to claim that Poplar lacks “landscape interest” but as the two photographs show it is well seen from a public walkway on the east side of the River Lea.

The little gasholder’s guide frame and the brick meter house and the rise and fall of the tide in this part of the river add to the drama of their location.

A gasholder expert has appealed Historic England; and on Monday 25 January, your correspondent and Mark Taylor of EEWG, together with the expert, met with Jim Moore the Joint Venture Manager at National Grid plc, and two colleagues. We suggested that, regardless of the HE decision, they and their partner Berkeley Homes should keep the No. 1 in its entirety, together with its (rare) dry well and the brick meter house (which is probably the only surviving example in London) in the proposed small park within the 20 acre residential development (on the site of the Poplar Gasworks).

We also asked that a circular block of flats is built inside the magnificent No.5 lattice guide frame at Bethnal Green; and that parts of the No.2 columnar guide frame are displayed in a small canalside part of the proposed park, to the west of the No. 5. The No. 2’s guide frame is more “classical” and better proportioned than the guide frames of the similar listed gasholders at Bromley-by-Bow and King’s Cross.

It looks as if Historic England is not going to list a single gasholder in the whole of London north of the river and in the western part, south of the river. Apart from the group of listed gasholders at Bromley-by-Bow in the east and the relocated gasholders at King’s Cross in the west, all the magnificent icons of the Victorian townscape in between systematically disappeared.

EEWG will continue with its efforts to persuade National Grid and Berkeley Homes (and their joint venture company St William) that at least two of their residential developments would be considerably enhanced by the in situ retention of historic waterside gasholder guide frames.


The Third Newsletter December 2015 also reported the deferral of the decision on London & Quadrant’s Bream Street application.

Following the article on the application in the East London Advertiser (December 17 2015), an edited version of a letter from Tom Ridge was published in the paper December 24 2015.

A letter (dated 11 January 2016) to the Chair of the LLDC Planning Decisions Committee was sent “in connection with your committee’s forthcoming site visit to Bream Street”. This was supported by a letter from Mike Fox of SAVE Britain’s Heritage.

Tom Ridge and Mark Taylor represented EEWG at a meeting on 18 January 2016 with Ed Tibbetts (L&Q project director for Bream Street) and a colleague. And a further letter (dated 25 January 2016) to the Chair of the LLDC Planning Decisions Committee was sent just before the committee’s site visit on 26 January 2016.

We understand that discussions are ongoing and there is a probability that the application will be determined by the committee at its meeting on 23 February.

Tom Ridge

East End Waterway Group

new eewg logo East End Waterway Group
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.
Copyright © 2016 EAST END WATERWAY GROUP, All rights reserved.

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