Whitechapel Bell Foundry (60)

I have been listening in to the first day of the Bell Foundry Inquiry. It’s not a format I’m familiar with – much of it necessarily quite technical and concerned with the details and precedents of planning law.

Those presenting evidence on behalf of Raycliff, the developer, don’t seem to me to make clear, for obvious reasons, that there are three distinct parts of the building. First, there is the original eighteenth-century part of the building fronting onto Whitechapel High Street, charming and well preserved. Second, there is the big working part of the Foundry, alongside and behind the small courtyard in the centre of the site, also broadly eighteenth-century, but with nineteenth-century industrial additions, most of which Raycliff is turning into a large themed café. And then, there is the 1980s addition at the back by James Strike, sadly not listed, which Raycliff is planning to demolish as part of the new hotel, most of which is next door.

In other words, the great majority of what Raycliff proposes totally changes the Foundry’s use, only creating a small toytown foundry towards the front of the building, the great majority of the site being turned into ancillary facilities belonging to a big 103-room commercial hotel next door.

Not surprisingly, David Elvin QC, acting on behalf of Raycliff, disguises the amount of change of use and demolition, greatly exaggerating the benefit of what is proposed in the rooms at the front.

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