Sainsbury’s tower block will ‘devastate’ historic Almshouses, say residents

Almshouses Trinity Green Mile End Road
Historic: the Almshouses on Trinity Green. Photograph: Tom Antoniw

Whitechapel residents are up in arms over Sainsbury’s “devastating” plans to erect a 28-storey tower block just 100 metres from the historic Trinity Green Almshouses.

The grade I-listed Almshouses on Mile End Road were built in 1695 for retired or injured mariners, under the supervision of Sir Christopher Wren.

But last April Sainsbury’s submitted plans to build a complex with a large supermarket, cafés and restaurants next to the upcoming Whitechapel Crossrail station – within 100 metres of the Almshouses.

Campaigners say views from the picturesque Trinity Green will be blighted by the tower block that is “completely out of scale with the locality,” if the supermarket’s scheme gets the go ahead.

Tom Antoniw, a third generation Almshouse resident, has launched the Friends of Trinity Green campaign group, which has attracted over 350 supporters so far.

“The Almshouses is the most significant and historic site in Whitechapel,” Mr Antoniw said. “As a public space and setting it’s unique.

“To lose the view would be devastating for future generations. It’s particularly annoying they are going about it in the most visible and damaging way possible. They are building the tallest element of the structure right next to the grounds.”

Almshouses Trinity Green
View of the Almshouses, which are still inhabited by residents. Photograph: Tom Antoniw

Sainsbury’s has defended its plans, claiming that the development will provide Whitechapel with affordable housing and employment opportunities.

The scheme will provide Tower Hamlets with 559 new homes, 89 of which will be social rented homes. But the offering falls far short of the council’s 35 per cent target for affordable housing.

Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, has added her support to the Friends of Trinity Green campaign. She said: “There is no question that London is in desperate need of new homes, and Tower Hamlets is no exception. So it’s crucial that new developments include sufficient levels of affordable housing and do not price residents out.

“I would urge the developers to reconsider their current proposal, to put forward new plans that include more affordable housing and that do not conflict with London’s architectural heritage.”

A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “We have been engaging closely with Tower Hamlets and the local community for well over a year to make sure our plans will deliver the best possible scheme for Whitechapel and much needed homes. Our planning responds in a way that is sympathetic and complementary to the local environment.”

Tower Hamlets Council has not set a date for the planning committee meeting but expects to make a decision this spring. The council declined to comment.

Almshouses with impression of Sainsbury's tower block
‘Devastating’: An impression of Sainsbury’s tower block. Image: Friends of Tom Antoniw

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