Campaigners hoping to save the pretty and intriguing knot of medieval streets near Spitalfields that make up Norton Folgate say they will fight to the bitter end to save the area from developers.
Buildings in a two acre area from Blossom Street to Fleur de Lis Street that skirts around the Elder Street Conservation area — established in 1977 to block an attempt to destroy a street of houses dating back to the 1720s — could be demolished and turned into office space, shops and 40 apartments under plans lodged by British Land.
The Spitalfields Trust, originally formed by conservationist squatters in order to stop the proposed demolition in 1977 (also by British Land), has been campaigning with the Dennis Severs House on Folgate Street to oppose the demolition of the site.
"British Land is putting profit before human life," says chairman of the Spitalfields Trust, Oliver Leigh-Wood. "The buildings in Norton Folgate, the little cafes and shops, the independent businesses are what brings people to the area — not a corporate plaza.
"Of course, there's another side to the coin — huge companies like British Land make profits that boost people's pensions — but the fact is, if you destroy these areas, they'll never be rebuilt."
He says the campaign to protect the area has had a "huge response". "People have been saying the proposals are absolutely ridiculous — this is a conservation area which has been carefully selected. Even Tower Hamlets council wrote a report seven years ago pointing out this area needs looking after."
Dennis Severs House curator David Milne says an exhibition about the campaign at the historic property attracted thousands of visitors. "I've got hundreds of pages of emails of support from all over the world."
More information on the campaign to save Norton Folgate can be found here, where you can also find out how to object to the proposed redevelopment of the area.
By Robert Greer
For more about the history of Norton Folgate, read our article on the burning lions and horrific glass-eating bear here.