Tower Hamlets Council rejects Tracey Emin’s bid to demolish historic Spitalfields building

Sizing up the place: Artist Tracey Emin.

Artist Tracey Emin’s hopes to build a five-storey house next to her studio in Spitalfields hit a snag last night as Tower Hamlets Council rejected her bid to demolish a listed building.

The council’s Development Committee agreed unanimously with planning officers that Ms Emin’s application to totally demolish the historic property on Bell Lane should be refused, noting the existing building had “exceptional architectural quality”.

Campaigners from several groups opposed the Turner Prize nominee’s proposal, with the council receiving 69 written representations, of which 58 were against the plans and just 11 in favour.

Ms Emin’s application would have seen the destruction of the existing property, built after the First World War by what was then Stepney Borough Council to provide much-need social housing.

Saved: the building on Bell Lane (left) and an artist impression of Tracey Emin’s plans

The new building would have included a lift to scale its five-storeys and an artist’s studio in the basement, with links to Ms Emin’s nearby property on Tenter Ground.

Supporters of the scheme argued Ms Emin’s house would “in future positively enrich the character and appearance of the streetscape and the conservation area, replace an existing building of little merit, and would bring both cultural and economic benefits to the area including helping to identify the area as an on-going artistic hub”, said the council officers’ report.

But the officers concluded that “on balance the scheme would have a negative impact the Artillery Passage Conservation Area with its demolition of a locally listed building of both historic significance and aesthetic and townscape merit”.

However, Ms Emin had already lodged an appeal to have government planning inspector overrule Tower Hamlets Council and have the final say.

Clem Cecil, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, one of the groups opposing her plans, said: “This is an extremely aggressive move on the part of applicant Tracey Emin and suggests that she wishes to force this through the planning process, whatever the opinion of the councillors, local people or preservation groups.”

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