Fight to save the Cass arts campus in Aldgate ‘will continue’ despite £50 million sale

Sold: the Cass's Central House in Whitechapel Road. Photograph: London Met
Sold: the Cass’s Central House in Whitechapel Road. Photograph: London Met

Campaigners will fight on to save a university building in Aldgate despite a multi-million pound deal to sell it off to developers.

A bitter dispute over the future of the Cass in Central House, Whitechapel Road – home to the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design – has seen protests by staff and students and its dean Robert Mull resign in December in opposition to the scheme.

On Friday London Metropolitan University announced the sale of Central House to Frasers Property UK (FPUK) for £50 million.

The developers leased it back to the university until August 2017, when students will be moved to the London Met campus on the Holloway Road, north London, in a £125 million project.

But campaigners are battling to see the Cass’s Central House listed as a community asset, calling it “unique and impossible to replace”.

Despite the deal, they vowed to pursue an application for listed status put to the council before the sale under the Localism Act, hoping to set up an independent art school in the building.

A London Met spokesperson said: “We have negotiated a sale price which is significantly above the expected market value, which means we can put even more resource into our One Campus, One Community project to create a new home for the Cass and all of our students in Holloway.”

Resident and architect Esther Waterfield, convenor of a group of 60 people opposing the scheme, told architect website BD online the sale would not stop their campaign.

“It’s not a surprise because we were aware it was a bit of a race against time,” she said. “It just means the owner is a different person. We will continue.

“It’s not just a white, middle class thing – it’s really used by everyone.

“There are a lot of people who got behind this who really want an art school at Aldgate. This is a battle worth fighting.”

Ms Waterfield, who is partner at McKinney Waterfield in Stepney Green, added: “Aldgate is getting lots of glossy new office blocks which offer employment but not public access like the Cass does. It’s unique and impossible to replace.”

Central house was originally build in the 1960s as a textiles warehouse and opened as the Cass in 2012 with its interior revamped by German architect Florian Beigel.

It has received support from architects David Chipperfield and Richard Rogers and Tate Gallery director Nicholas Serota.

FPUK chief executive Simon Lear has said it will consider options for Central House over the next few months and consult local stakeholders and residents.

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