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Appeal: Time Out ‘fine dining market’ would harm conservation area

Spitalfields / iStock: 507154624

A proposal by Time Out magazine to convert a former stables in East London into a multi-floor food court has been blocked, because the proposed roof alterations would ‘erode the identity’ of the surrounding conservation area.

LOCATIONSpitalfields, London
AUTHORITYTower Hamlets Borough Council
INSPECTORCullum J A Parker

The appeal concerned a disused and “landlocked” building in Spitalfields, East London, accessed via an entranceway fronting onto Commercial Street, a busy arterial road that forms part of the London inner ring road. The building is comprised of an L-shaped, slate-roofed former stabling block, and an atrium area covered by corrugated metal sheeting.

In 2014, Time Out media group converted a historic building in Lisbon into a food market curated by its editorial team. It has since expanded this format to five cities across North America. The appeal scheme sought to bring the format to London by converting the appeal building into a “class A3 fine dining food market”, with 17 restaurants spread across multiple floors.

The council voiced various public safety concerns, noting that traffic collisions on the stretch of road outside the building are higher than average. Inspector Parker pointed out that many of these incidents resulted from “people not being aware of their surroundings”, noting that “you cannot legislate against stupidity”. He also afforded little weight to concerns that visitors would have to negotiate stairs “while carrying metal cutlery”.

The site sits within a designated cumulative impact zone (CIZ). Applied in areas with a high concentration of alcohol-related issues, CIZs require alcohol licence applicants to demonstrate that their plans would not exacerbate the problem. 

At the inquiry, local people submitted evidence of antisocial behaviour in the area including “urination, defecation and sexual acts”. Parker found it “difficult to see how proposals for a ‘fine dining’ experience under use class A3 would specifically exacerbate these concerns”.

The Spitalfields Society, which was granted Rule 6 status at the inquiry, raised concerns over noise disruption caused by customers leaving the appeal site at closing time. Again Parker was not persuaded, noting that these concerns were based on the assumption that all 400 patrons would leave at the same time, and all would engage in antisocial behaviour.

The site lies within the Brick Lane conservation area (CA). Given the landlocked nature of the building, Parker considered, its roof-scape is integral to the contribution it makes to the CA. The scheme would involve replacing the existing roof of the building with a “bituminous roofing cap sheet”, for soundproofing purposes.

Parker agreed with the council’s suggestion that although the slate roof is not original and was replaced in 2012, it still represents the building’s “harmony and narrative connection with the past”. The loss of the slate roof would “erode the identity” of the CA, he ruled, and alternative soundproofing solutions had not been satisfactorily ruled out. The scheme’s heritage benefits, which would include the removal of graffiti from the main entranceway, were not sufficient to outweigh this harm.

Parker also took issue with the scheme’s layout, noting that the only disabled toilet would be on the second floor and therefore reliant on lifts being operational at all times. Although he found no specific policy dictating that accessible toilets must be at ground-floor level, he noted that “common sense suggests [the] location is impractical”, considering it an example of poor design.

In his conclusion, Parker ruled that the scheme’s public benefits could not outweigh the “less than substantial” harm to the CA he had identified. The appeal was therefore dismissed.

The inspector’s report – case reference 3188112 – can be read here.

Image credit | Shutterstock




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