Campaigners Vow Never To Give Up On Norton Folgate

By Londonist Last edited 40 months ago
Campaigners Vow Never To Give Up On Norton Folgate
Photo: Joshua Eiffel
Photo: Joshua Eiffel
An artist's impression of how part of the Norton Folgate redevelopment would look.
An artist's impression of how part of the Norton Folgate redevelopment would look.

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.

Last Updated 17 March 2015


The problem is planning permission for a horrible scheme is already in place, the scheme being proposed now is fantastic. Add to that the area is a mish mash of derelict land and townhouses, this development will only enhance the area and allow the public to interact with it. This faux outrage when barely any buildings are to be lost is ridiculous. Also the misleading articles and pictures the Save campaign is using is laughable.


Not true Adam - over 70% of the buildings will be demolished! Much of what's left will be simply bland, characterless, facades for corporate big businesses with the actual building behind and essence of its use and history destroyed. The fact is that most if not all of the new buiildings proposed are unlikely to survive for 30 years before they too are replaced, along with the remaining ancient facades supposedly being saved in this scheme (which cannot survive a rebuild behind them).

The reason some of the buildings earmarked for destruction are derelict is that the developer has deliberately allowed their leases to expire and therefore engineer an assumption of failure and redundance which you evidently have bought into. The same happened in the 70s when many of the amazing Georgian terraces that survive today were empty, roofless and ready for the wreckers' ball. British Land thought and wanted them to appear worthless - now they are worth millions - and much much more both aesthetically, historically and commercially than any crass steel & glass replacement a developer would build now.

British Land's proposals are driven by nothing more than short term profit. What makes the area so interesting, successful and popular for visitors and residents will be destroyed by this scheme - and much of what had narrowly survived the hair brained plans back in 1977 by the very same organisation.


I personally think the proposed scheme for Norton Folgate is good, and a vast improvement on the current planning permission and the existing area. The issue is, if this scheme is challenged the previous permission can still be developed.

Is this really worth saving:

A vacant car park (on left) and post-war pastiche building on the right.

This is the consented scheme with existing planning permission:

Now that is bland and characterless.

Neil Evans

The tone of comments against the campaigners is unpleasant to say the least.


Personally I think this development is an improvement. The quality of thought and consideration is brilliant. Campaigners against it I fear are acting in a reactionary way because they believe nothing should change. Have you seen the state of the streets at present? its run down and ugly. What's proposed restores the heritage elements of the scheme as well as enhancing them for the needs of the present. A largish building is proposed. it's a brick building that I believe is contextual and appropriate not out of scale at all.


My guess is that whoever is the Mayor will call it.

After Tower Hamlets reject it and British Land appeal.

The current incumbent would go with British Land without question.

Greg Tingey

See also multiple posts on the ecxellent "Spitalfileds Life" blog - please take a look

Jeffrey Efremis Sofroniou

Why are people so keen to demolish the history of London? Assuming we agree that some of the streets are called 'dead end and semi-derelict' so what? Why do we have to replace the existing, historical fabric of this great city with glass and concrete? We're not short of development in London. Every corner you turn, there's another monstrosity being erected and for what?........ MONEY for the BIG boys. The Mayor has sold us down the line, bowing down to the corporates and selling off the family silver to China, Russia and the Arabs. Leave London to the Londoners you money grabbing parasites!


I can't tell you how grateful I would be if someone could post a link to the actual plans so we can all see what you're talking about.

Mark Wheeler

Hi, I have lived on Folgate street for 17 years. As Adam says, planning has been in place for a less attractive corporate set of buildings for a while now. Pragmatism is needed here. Permission has now been granted to demolish these lovely warehouses retaining only their facades which I objected too in the original planning process.

The Trust has suggested some great ideas however this has come out after the current planning had been given permission (please correct me here if I'm wrong however some research on the LBTH suggests that this is the case)

So BL has paid many millions for a site with planning permission. All the protest in the world is not going to stop BL building at least what they have permission for. Now this extant plan is a bit rubbish and as I said I objected to it at the time but it is already in place.

So a pragmatic approach is needed here. We have something awful coming in, but the owners want to build something that is subjectively better. Those that think otherwise I say 'Wool and Fruit Exchange'.

The other point that local campaigners make is the local lack of places for small businesses. I run a small business. I don't put my small business in central London locations! This is a corporate business area not shoreditch or Whitechapel! Its neighbour opposite has 10,000 plus ft floor plates and is several hundred meters high. This is not some little pretty area unaffected by nasty corporate culture. Its is slap bang in the centre of an area of huge change!

Spitalfileds was kept beautiful by the same people leading this campaign from the same company that tried and to a degree succeeded in damaging it. So Immense respect to the Trust. Keep fighting as some horrible building have, and will continue to go up. But pick your wins. The win can't be the lovely plans that you have drawn up because millions will be lost by an investor who already has planning permission. They can't back down and won't and don't need to either.

I care about the area, I want to see the best that can be go up be built but it will be corporate, it will have a plaza, it will have corporate eateries and it will look pretty good. Not as good as the trusts plans I grant you but no one is going to build those.

The first battle 5 years ago was lost with the first planning, lets see what can be rescued out of this.

Oh Robert and Greg re your comment on Adam - I don't see your pic on your comments. Faceless bravery. You will see my smiling mug around Spitalfields street every day. I love the comments from people with the b''ls to say who they are even if I think they are completely wrong.


This area is going to the dogs as all the interesting quirky places vanish to be swallowed up by huge companies. Spitalfields proved that conservation and understanding what attracts people to the area, works! However when I visited yesterday I could have cried. The city wants to steamroll over everything and spitalfields market had been taken over by topshop and a ridiculous number of security guards. The boarding up of a huge swathes of building on the approach to bishopsgate and lack of transport so large amounts of people had to keep walking to find bus stops that buses actually stopped at made it like a wasteland on the open building weekend!

What people like in the area besides small businesses and quirkiness is the history seeping through. And British Land want to obliterate that.