One of the consequences of having been so involved in all the discussions and debates round the Whitechapel Bell Foundry is that I am much more alert to the way that historic building controls are being swept aside by the application of free market principles to planning and development and a view that the preservation of the past is just an irritation and encumbrance put in the way of inevitable urban change. Recently, one of the city planners was quoted as saying that there used to be idiots who wanted to keep the old alleyways of the City and some of the old restaurants, shops and barbers, but now everybody could see the benefit of only having big high rise office developments and chain stores, like every other great city in the world. I found myself thinking, I am one of those idiots. I thought that the City had traded on being distinctive and special, a place of trust with its roots in the past, not just a pastiche of every other bland, corporate city centre everywhere else in the world.
This is merely a way of introducing the fact that I have been alerted to the risk of the Bevis Marks Synagogue, which opened in 1701, being overwhelmed – dwarfed – by two gigantic, insensitive office developments which will tower over it blocking its access to natural daylight.
There is no longer an opportunity to object to the office building in Creechurch, which has already been stopped once before Coronavirus and should surely be stopped by the City’s planning committee when it meets in April. But there is still time to object to the even bigger one down at the end of Heneage Lane in Bury Street:-
Just as important, they are keen to raise the profile of the Bevis Marks Synagogue and awareness of its historic interest. I am happy to do what I can to help.