A long-running and at times controversial plan to redevelop the Festival of Britain era Chrisp Street market in Tower Hamlets has taken a step forward after the council formally issued a compulsory purchase order for the entire site.
If that order is approved by the Secretary of State, then the council and its developers will be able to push forward with their plans to demolish much of the area, leaving just a few 1950s buildings intact, and develop it into a modern cluster of towers.
The plans were approved in 2018, but not much has happened while the council negotiated with property owners. They’ve agreed on terms with most of the owners, but now says it had to issue the purchase order to force the remaining owners to sell.
The plan is to retain some of the 1950s buildings but demolish the rest.
The street market won’t go, but how it will survive has been the main bone of contention for the existing traders. There are fears that the revamped estate will see richer traders muscle their way in — it’s hard for a market trader to compete with a multinational coffee chain. There were also concerns from the traders about the lack of car parking, arguing that even though the area is rich in public transport and serves a local community, it needs a car park.
No one disagrees that the site needs improving, but how it’s done and the end result have held up the plans for a number of years.
The council is now pushing forward and issued a compulsory purchase order on the entire site. The council argues that it’s important for the whole block to be brought into single ownership to support the redevelopment plans.
The older residential buildings in the northern part of the Site, designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd and built as part of the Festival of Britain in 1951 will remain, as will a local landmark, the clock tower.
The main shopping parade, with flats above, will be retained, but have the covered walkways filled in and extended, making the shops larger — and maybe more expensive.
However, the rest will go. The aim to build several residential towers, with around 640 flats in them — an increase of 430 over what’s there at the moment. The mix is aimed to be 163 social rent, 37 shared ownership and 443 private sales.
One of the big losses is the architecture or more that the aspiration of the architecture as it was at the time. The buildings look tired today, but back then they were modern, radical even, stood out as beacons of aspiration to put overcrowded Victorian slums behind us. The replacement buildings are generic. They could be by anyone at any time in the past 20 years and be anywhere. They don’t inspire or excite the soul. They are generic slabs that’ll blend into the rest of the area, removing a focal point of architecture.
The CPO process is expected to take up to a year to complete, and then they can start redeveloping the site next year.