Spitalfields case study
The Government’s Statement On The Historic Environment For England, launched on 23 March 2010, features a case study (reproduced below) on MOLA’s community engagement work at Spitalfields. The Government’s Statement sets out how heritage contributes to a wide range of government objectives. It provides the context for Planning policy Statement 5, the new planning statement on the historic environment which supersedes PPG15 and PPG16.
Case Study Spitalfields: archaeology, regeneration and public benefit
Archaeological excavations in Spitalfields in London E1 were commissioned by the Spitalfields Development Group under PPG16. The work, carried out by Museum of London Archaeology, yielded important discoveries including 10,500 Roman and medieval burials, valuable research about more recent burials, 50 buildings including the medieval priory of St Mary Spital and evidence across 1.5 hectares of diverse 16th-19th century neighbourhoods including French Huguenots, Irish and Jewish settlers.
However, it was the imaginative approach to stakeholder engagement and inclusion which captured public imagination. The developers and archaeologists celebrated the archaeological discoveries in ‘real time’, creating opportunities for school tours, multi-media displays about archaeology, and a visitor centre on site that attracted 27,000 visitors in 24 weeks.
Thousands of local children, families, businesses and special interest groups – including groups initially against the development – actively participated in unearthing the historic and contemporary identity of Spitalfields. Community ownership of those stories was key, and the developers commented that the cumulative success of the stakeholder engagement programme was one of the single biggest factors in turning around local opinion.