No ‘call in’ for Norton Folgate as government turns down demand for public inquiry

At risk: the Norton Folgate site buildings endangered by the British Land scheme. Photo: Spitalfields Trust

Plans to build in a conservation area in Spitalfields will not face a public inquiry, the Communities Minister has announced.

Campaigners had urged Greg Clark to call in the Blossom Street scheme, which they say will “damage” the area’s character, after it was given the green light by London Mayor Boris Johnson in January.

Mayor Johnson had overruled Tower Hamlets planning authority to call in plans to demolish historic buildings and replace them with office space and apartments.

Conservation group Spitalfields Trust have accused Mr Clark of failing to scrutinise the London Mayor’s decision, but vowed to pursue their judicial review challenge against the scheme.

“The Spitalfields Trust is disappointed that the Secretary of State has chosen not to call in British Land’s damaging Blossom Street application for Public Inquiry,” a spokesperson said.

“He gives no specific reason for this decision – simply stating that the Secretary of State believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.

“The Blossom Street application was already taken out of the hands of the community by the London Mayor who overturned the local authority’s decision to refuse the scheme. If the Secretary of State had called this in for Public Inquiry, he would actually have been supporting the local decision making process by scrutinising the Mayor’s decision.”

A legal hearing, granted by the High Court on all four grounds put forward by the Trust, is scheduled for 26 April.

Developers British Land, who put forward the scheme along with AHMM, declined to comment on the judicial review. But a spokesperson said they welcomed Mr Clark’s decision: “We are pleased that the Secretary of State has decided that the case for a Public inquiry is without merit.

“We now look forward to commencing work on the rejuvenation of the Blossom Street site at the earliest possible opportunity, creating much-needed new office space for London’s tech communities.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government was approached for comment and had not responded at time of publication.