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The Truman Brewery in heritage ‘Smash and Grab’ on Brick Lane

Local activists dubbed have dubbed this the ‘Battle for Brick Lane’.

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‘Smash and Grab’ in Brick Lane. Aided by Tower Hamlets Council?

On Thursday 28th January, the East Yard of the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane was cordoned off. In the next couple of days, JCB’s moved in and removed the historic paving in the area. A week later Tower Hamlets Council confirmed that the works were a breach of planning control, in a statement issued by the local conservation group, Spitalfields Trust.

According to Tower Hamlets Council own 2009 Conservation Area Appraisal, the pavings that were removed had great historic value:

“The central area of the court also retains large areas of early and well-laid setts, their forms and locations markings, to a degree the location of lost brewery buildings. These historic and well-crafted surfaces possess great beauty.”

In a statement commenting on the removal of the historic paving, Spitalfields Trust said, “LBTH planning enforcement refused to issue a stop order to allow a proper investigation.” They went on to say, that only after the works were completed did the Council “execute a belated U-turn”.

Now you see it, now you don’t: Historic paving before removal Pic: Spitalfields Trust

The Battle for Brick Lane

The above ‘smash and grab’ chapter, is the latest in a long series of confrontations between the owners of the Truman Brewery and local activists dubbed the ‘Battle for Brick Lane’. The owners have recently submitted a planning application to covert part of the site into corporate offices and retail space with no housing.

Opposing the application is a coalition of community groups and activists, accusing the owners of pursuing a policy of social cleansing. These groups in turn have come up with their own community plan for the site, with a website and exhibition.

Accusations of ‘Gangster Capitalism’ by the Truman Brewery

The debate around the planning application has become quite heated. Local Tower Hamlets Councillor Puru Miah recently released a video interview, where an employee of a tenant of the Truman Brewery accuses them of using strong-arm tactics, in order to push through the application.

Recently the Runnymede Trust published a report documenting decades of regeneration policy in the area, which has led to the demise of small independent businesses in the area, titled ‘The Death of Brick Lane.” The Runnymede Trust have issued a letter objecting to the application, labelling it as social and racially’ cleansing the area.

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Written by Jack London

Jack London is a guest author and resident of Tower Hamlets.

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