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Development of Spitalfields' Fruit and Wool Exchange building refused

Councillors in Tower Hamlets have refused a planning application by developer Exemplar for the conversion of the 1920s Fruit and Wool Exchange building in Spitalfields. 06 Jun 2012

The plans, which involved the regeneration of a 2.4 acre site into a 300,000 square feet office and retail complex, were opposed by local residents.

The residents' group objected to the proposed partial demolition of the Exchange building.  The building's facade was intended to be refurbished, with a new pedestrian street being opened to the public.  However, the development would have seen the demolition of a multi-storey car park, the Gun Pub and a bank.

Tower Hamlets had put the application on hold in March pending the outcome of discussions with Exemplar to address the need for improved job and housing schemes.  Exemplar had worked with the Council to amend the proposed scheme.

 “We are very disappointed that Tower Hamlets Councillors have decided to refuse the application against the recommendation of their officers," said Exemplar director Clive Bush, according to Property Week. "For more than two years we have consulted extensively to create a scheme of the highest architectural quality with a mix of uses that would add to the vibrancy of Spitalfields".

“Stirling prize-nominated architects Bennetts Associates have designed a building of exceptional quality which directly addresses the character and history of the area," he said.  "Refusal of the application is a missed opportunity to create more than 3,000 jobs and bring significant investment to Spitalfields that is strongly backed by council policy."

“From the support received we know many local people will be disappointed that this site will potentially remain empty for years to come. We will review the reasons given for refusal and consider our next steps in due course," said Bush, according to the report.

Exemplar was appointed by the City of London Corporation in August 2010 and entered into a development agreement for the regeneration of the site, including the London Fruit and Wool Exchange building and the 1960s White's Row Car Park. Public consultation then took place, including meetings, workshops and public exhibitions which helped form the future proposals.

The planning application was first submitted in late 2011, and then amended following input from the Council and local community. The proposed scheme would have delivered new grade A space including 260,000 sq ft of office and 40,000 sq ft of retail, restaurant, café, SME and community space. Completion was scheduled for early 2015.