Campaigners seeking to prevent the Old Truman Brewery company building shops, offices and a pedestrian walkway on a car park it owns off Brick Lane have failed in their latest legal bid to stop the scheme going ahead.
The Court of Appeal last week rejected a challenge to one element of a High Court ruling made last September that the decision to grant permission for the plans should not be overturned on procedural grounds.
The development committee of Tower Hamlets Council, then under Labour control, gave consent for the scheme in September 2021, having previously deferred its decision at a meeting it held in April 2021.
The three appeal court judges did not accept the argument that a council rule which prevented one of the four councillors who attended the September 2021 from voting on the scheme because she attended it virtually, having been at the April meeting in person, was unlawful or irrational.
The plans, which centre on the car park at junction of Brick Lane and Woodseer Street, would see a wall around the car park, built in the 1980s, removed and new buildings erected of up to five storeys in height and some additional units added to existing ones.
Council planning officers had advised that the plans conformed to local planning policies, with objections that the changes would be detrimental to other local business assigned “very little weight” in view of the “small scale of changes proposed in relation to the wider Truman Brewery changes over recent decades”.
Brewing ceased at the Truman complex, which sits on both sides of Brick Lane, in 1989. It was bought in 1995 by Ely Zeloof, who ran a clothing import and export business based in Fashion Street, another turning off Brick Lane. Other members of the Zeloof family have subsequently repurposed the brewery buildings for office, cultural, retail and entertainment use.
In May 2022, Lutfur Rahman, shortly after becoming Mayor of Tower Hamlets in elections that saw Labour lose control of the borough, vowed with reference to the brewery company plans to “protect important cultural sites in our borough from predatory developers”.
Since then, the council has drawn up and put out for consultation a masterplan for a Brick Lane Central supplementary planning document, whose boundary encloses most of the brewery estate. The council says the proposed SPD is a response to “the scale and pace at which change has occurred in the area” and an attempt to find ways of building affordable homes there, “to ensure that local communities can remain in their area”.
The Spitalfields Trust has the option of taking its case against the September 2021 council development committee decision to the Supreme Court.