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EAST END WATERWAY GROUP

NEWSLETTER JANUARY 2020

GASHOLDER SPECIAL EIGHT: BETHNAL GREEN

The planning application from St William Homes was submitted to Tower Hamlets in mid-December 2019; and is likely to be going out for public consultation for 21 days from the end of January 2020.

It would seem that the “methodology for refurbishing the structures” will not, as expected, be part of the application and will be “submitted for approval once planning permission has been granted and before work starts” (St William Homes statement, East London Advertiser 19 December 2019). This probably means that objections re. dismantlement etc. will not be included in the case officer’s report to the committee; and that discussion on this and related issues at the planning committee meeting will not be allowed as the methodology is not part of the application.

As approval of the methodology is likely to be given by officers without public consultation, all the problems associated with the dismantlement of the historic guide frames (as set out in the online petition to Tower Hamlets Council) will not be considered by the planning committee (Strategic Development Committee). Matters of legitimate public concern will not, therefore, be subjected to public scrutiny.

Under new arrangements, St William Homes was allowed to make a pre-application presentation to the planning committee in November 2019. The Tower Hamlets Report which accompanied the presentation includes the concise but misleading statement at 7.5 that the developer is “proposing to retain both gasholder frames and construct radial buildings within them”. This clearly indicates that the frames are to be kept on their in-ground tanks for in situ refurbishment (conservation) and that the buildings will be constructed inside the original frames. However, the developer’s methodology for refurbishing the frames is almost certain to involve dismantlement rather than retention, and re-erection around the newly-constructed buildings.

EEWG has been told that the methodology for refurbishing the No.2 and No.5 gasholder guide frames has still to be finalised and that in situ refurbishment (conservation) has not been ruled out. Even so, all the costs will have been worked out for the viability report (which is part of the planning application), and we fear that the methodology is almost certain to require the DISMANTLING OF THE GUIDE FRAMES FOR OFF SITE CONSERVATION AT AN ENGINEERING WORKS AND RE-ERECTION AROUND NEWLY-CONSTRUCTED BLOCKS OF FLATS.

Detailed conservation methodologies are usually excluded from planning applications and dealt with by conditions, which require their later submission and approval by officers. This is generally acceptable because the items needing repair and conservation are usually repaired/conserved in situ or on site and are not removed from the listed building. In this case, the so called refurbishment methodology should be part of the planning application as it is likely to require the removal of the entire structure from its site in the Regent’s Canal Conservation Area. Removal was necessary in the case of the four gasholder guide frames which were subsequently re-erected at King’s Cross but the No.2 and No.5 gasholder guide frames at Bethnal Green do not have to be removed for re-erection elsewhere. Removal and re-erection of these heritage assets is like dismantling an entire listed building for its off site repair/conservation and subsequent re-erection.

The fourth bullet point in our online petition to Tower Hamlets Council is now incorrect with reference to the expected inclusion of the methodology in the planning application. But dismantlement for off site conservation would be more expensive than in situ conservation, and would risk damage, require new connections and reinforcements and would result in serious and unnecessary loss of authenticity.

Furthermore it is the world’s oldest surviving gasholder guide frame which is most at risk. Especially the classical pedestals containing the heads of the concealed holding-down bolts (which attach the No.2 guide frame to the circular wall of its in-ground brick tank). Like the superimposed classical columns, the classical pedestals are made of cast-iron which although very strong is brittle and must be handled with great care. Efforts to get at and release the nuts on the heads of the holding-down bolts inside the hollow pedestals are likely to damage exceptionally rare historic fabric and seriously diminish the ability of the pedestals to support the superimposed columns and their connecting girders.

With respect to the EEWG’s objection to a block of flats inside the No.2 guide frame, EEWG understands that this is the only way St William Homes can “retain” the No.2 guide frame i.e. for the sale of private flats in the block to cover the costs of “retention”. But these costs and the costs for the “retention” of the No.5 guide frame would be significantly reduced by in situ conservation, allowing them both to be covered by the sale of private flats in the two blocks inside the original No.5 guide frame.

About 540 people have signed the online petition to Tower Hamlets Council.

MANY MORE SIGNATURES ARE NEEDED FOR TOWER HAMLETS COUNCIL AND ST WILLIAM HOMES TO GIVE FULL AND PROPER CONSIDERATION TO THE NEED FOR IN SITU CONSERVATION OF THE No.2 AND No.5 GASHOLDER GUIDE FRAMES; AND THE NEED FOR THE No.2 GASHOLDER GUIDE FRAME TO REMAIN OPEN SO THAT IT IS SEEN AGAINST THE SKY AND REFLECTED IN THE WATERS OF THE CANAL, AND CONTINUES TO MAKE A FULL POSITIVE CONTRIBUTION TO THE CHARACTER AND APPEARANCE OF THE REGENT’S CANAL CONSERVATION AREA (see first three bullet points in online petition for essential information re. the gasholder guide frames).

No. 2 Gasholder at Bethnal Green

No ?? Bethnal Green

Photographed by Malcolm Tucker in 1973 - click for large version

If you have not already done so, please sign the online petition asap and encourage others to sign

Sign the petition - click here

Would supporting organisations please inform their members and others about this newsletter and the urgent need for more people to sign the EEWG’s online petition to Tower Hamlets Council

www.BIT.do/plan-object is a direct link to the petition on change.org

Video cast of Strategic Development Committee Wednesday, 20th November 2019

NB. The previous petition was to St William Homes so would all the people who signed it, please also sign the petition to Tower Hamlets Council: demanding a circular grassed public open space inside the No.2 gasholder guide frame; and demanding the in situ conservation of the No.2 and the No.5 gasholder guide frames.

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.
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