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Tuesday, 14 January, 2003, 12:14 GMT
Spitalfields bows to market pressure
This is in spite of a hard-fought campaign by local residents and market fans, who argue that the market has a creative and vibrant atmosphere in keeping with the area.
In centuries past, Spitalfields has provided a burial ground for Roman London's noble dead, a mass grave for victims of the Black Death, and a stamping ground for that most famous of serial killers, Jack the Ripper.
The fate of the market appears to have been sealed by its location. It straddles the border between Tower Hamlets - one of the poorest boroughs in the UK - and the City of London, which commands some of the world's highest property prices.
Last October, the borough council granted planning permission for the development to go ahead after a 13-year battle. Already preparations are underway for the glass and steel edifice, which will house the 3,000-strong staff of the law firm Allen and Overy.
Among those stallholders to have lost their pitch is Madeleine Rogers, who had given up her job as a set designer to make a living selling her handmade retro lampshades.
Not only did the stall provide income to build her business, Mibo, but her designs caught the eyes of scouts from Selfridges, Elle Decoration and the Independent.
But last month, just as the Christmas rush was building up, Madeleine was asked not to come back: there was no longer room for her pitch.
Ballymore, the company which owns the preserved section of the market, is seeking planning permission to build two-storey shop units inside the shell, a move campaigners say would be like "Basingstoke coming to Spitalfields".
Not needed, not wanted?
Among those who would prefer to see the site used for community, rather than commercial, purposes is 72-year-old Michael Myers, a part-time taxi driver who lives in a flat in the old market building.
But not all locals are up in arms. The writer Jeanette Winterson, who lives within view of the coming building, says Spitalfields is an area that is constantly undergoing transformation. The City's encroachment is merely part of that process.
With several houses in the area selling for more than £1m, Spitalfields has already gone down that route, she says. "It's not a people's place anymore, the big money has arrived. And like other artists in the area, I'll stay for now and see what happens."
Do you shop at Spitalfields or live nearby? How do you see the future for the area?
What a great idea! Why not get rid of that old clock in Parliament Square at the same time, get one of those digital ones instead?
I come to London every spring with my partner, and our favourite thing about London is the buzz and hum of the markets. Our all-time favourite is Spitalfields. The location is atmospheric and the sites of the East End are wonderful.
Pepys and Johnson would have wept to hear the news. I treasure the posters and pillows I bought there on our last visit. See you again this May - hopefully with Spitalfields still intact. Don't destroy your heritage in favour of Starbucks! We have more than enough of that over here in America - and it's hideous.
Why don't the artists and market folk find somewhere else, and try to work out a way of benefiting when the inevitable yuppies arrive? There are plenty of grotty bits of London that could do with the kind of makeover that often follows!
What is happening at Spitalfields is typical of the type of development that has been making London less interesting in recent years. What I'd like to know is why councils persist in schemes that have no local support.
The Mayor and various star architects don't give a monkeys about the people who live in London and don't care about the City, they are in it for their own prestige. Tower Hamlets has shown itself to be a cowardly council, inefficient and afraid to say no to money.
More office blocks? ZZZZZzzzzZZZ. With a possible recession on its way and an erotic gherkin yet to be rented, are they necessary?
Having lived in east London for three years, I regularly pop over to Spitalfields on a Sunday morning. I think it is an absolute injustice to destroy one of London's most vibrant market places. Doesn't London have enough office blocks? What about what the people want?
Alex Jenkins, London
It's easily the best market in London. We need to fight to stop this. It's a bad, bad thing that they are doing. All of us need to come together on this as a city.
Don't worry - we can easily stop anyone demolishing Spitalfields. Planning permission is one of the few truly democratic processes left - anyone can protest, and if you do, they can't build. So get down to London Guildhall and start lodging complaints!
Since Spitalfields is being demolished for money, there could be a case for a deal, whereby heritage funding secures the markets future for a certain number of years. This may resolve the arguments of site owners and locals and also place a value on the importance of the market to Londoners.
Edward Bradfield, UK
The market is half the story. I've played in the regular five-a-side leagues they hold in the evening when the market's packed up. Also there's good clubs and galleries on the perimeter of the market. This development can't go through, just take a look north up Bishopsgate, there's a multitude of brown field sites within a mere 200 yards!! Over the years I've seen Spitalfields change from a largely unused shed through an extremely creative high point which is now being diluted by commercial interests.
It is a shame for one of the few places with character in the city to be treated like this. I lunch there regularly and there is a great mix of people from all walks of life thanks to the variety of sellers. It makes for a great atmosphere which is in contrast to the lifeless McDonalds and Starbucks.
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