Tower Hamlets votes for controversial ‘shopping centre’ on Brick Lane

·4-min read
 (Tower Hamlets Council)
(Tower Hamlets Council)

A controversial plan to build a shopping mall and corporate offices complex in the middle of Brick Lane has been give the green light.

Tower Hamlets Council’s Development Committee voted two votes to one in favour of the proposal which would see parts of the Truman Brewery transformed into a five storey modern building in east London.

Owners also want to build a gym, rooftop and storage space at the Bethnal Green site currently home to dozens of market stalls, arts businesses, independent shops and galleries.

Locals said the outcome is “total madness” with thousands opposing the plans amid concerns a corporate plaza will drive up rents and strip Brick Lane of its identity.

The poll sparked further controversy after Cllr Leema Qureshi was unable to cast her vote because she was not physically at the meeting.

Cllr Qureshi, who attended virtually, told the Evening Standard she would have voted against the plans had she not been in amber list quarantine.

Ms Qureshi said: “There were so many residents who were really upset and they didn’t want to go ahead. Brick Lane is the heart of east London and it is very sentimental. It has hundreds of years of heritage.

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“People grew up there, people are running their businesses there and a decision like this is not straight forward.”

Ms Qureshi said she will be supporting calls for London Mayor Sadiq Khan to take control of the application.

“We need to listen to the residents because they are the ones whose lives will be impacted,” she added.

Owners want to build offices at Truman Brewery (Tower Hamlets Council)
Owners want to build offices at Truman Brewery (Tower Hamlets Council)

Heritage groups, residents and existing business owners have complained about the proposals,

Building preservation trust The Spitalfields Trust said it is "extremely disappointed in the Committee’s decision last night."

A spokesperson said: "The Woodseer Street scheme will have a seriously harmful impact on the character of the Brick Lane and Fournier Street Conservation Area and the community and businesses of the area.

"It was overwhelmingly and vigorously opposed by the local community.

"There were around 7,500 rejections received by Tower Hamlets for this one application which seems pretty extraordinary.

"It suggests people identify with Brick Lane like they don’t at other sites.

"Brick Lane is still very strongly somewhere where people work and live. It is still full of independent shops, material shops and curry houses.

"This isn’t the city and yet the character is very quickly becoming offices.”

People reacted on Twitter on Tuesday night following the approval of the application.

Residents likened the move to similar projects in Camden, Shepherd’s Bush Market and nearby Spitalfields.

Among the comments, one person tweeted: “Shocking. Another piece of London’s heart and history sold off.”

Others said: “Our curry mile and that especial bagel will never be the same. Gentrification has destroyed the passions of immigrants already.

“Heart and soul of the area been ripped out by Tower Hamlets council. For what? Capitalism and greed.”

“Nooooooo!!! They did it to Spitalfields and now Brick lane.”

Proposed elevation at ‘Black Eagle Yard’ (Tower Hamlets Council)
Proposed elevation at ‘Black Eagle Yard’ (Tower Hamlets Council)

However, some supported the concept in favour of bringing “prosperity to the area”.

In the sea of comments, one person tweeted: “It’s not a shopping mall and nor is it the destruction of any communities.

“It’s replacing a car park and some offices with mixed-use development with active frontage including new retail space, public toilets, and bike storage.”

Cllr Mukit confirmed the vote at two to one on September 14 after voting rules were changed to require in-person submission with the easing of lockdown.

Leading the meeting, Cllr Mukit said: “Only the councillors presented on April 27 committee meeting and are here in the council chamber may vote on this item.


“They are myself, Cllr Kevin Brady and Cllr Kahar Chowdhury.

“Cllr Leema Qureshi is also present however as she is attending online she cannot vote today on this item.”

The vote took place following protest rallies on Sunday in the latest community demos over the planning application.

Almost 7,500 objections have reportedly been registered at the town hall against 82 letters of support.

The decision was originally to be made in April but was deferred by Tower Hamlets Council.

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