Curiouser and curiouser.
It has just been pointed out to me that Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has tweeted to say that ‘Like many I was saddened to see the foundry close. It was a unique part of our industrial heritage: 450 years of production from the Liberty Bell to Big Ben. I have commissioned a review of how the Planning Inspectorate and planning policy considers and defends heritage’.
So, the question must, and will be asked: why the hell did the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government issue a statement yesterday in Jenrick’s name and over his signature approving the redevelopment of the Bell Foundry as a boutique hotel ?
There are several possibilities:-
The Department felt that they could not overturn the recommendation of the Planning Inspectorate however much they may have wanted to. So, the statement was issued in the Secretary of State’s name without him being aware of it. This would not be good practice, but is imaginable.
The statement was issued with his knowledge, but he is now anxious to find a better solution than the one currently proposed and obviously shares the view that the planning system has made the wrong decision.
Someone else intervened and compelled the Department to issue the approval for reasons which it is fairly easy to imagine.
This is definitely promising and I have long felt that it could be helpful for the Secretary of State to consult Bippy Siegal and see if he would consider a fifty-year lease either to Re:Form or, if there is too much bad blood, to a newly constituted heritage trust, possibly under the auspices of the National Trust, which would preserve the historic site and reinstate its original use (actually, a modern version of its original use) as has been proposed by Factum Arte. He could at the same time be allowed to build the adjacent hotel, possibly with agreement that it could be several stories higher to compensate him from his financial loss.
In this way, Robert Jenrick could be the saviour of the Bell Foundry, as it seems from his twitter statement he would like to be, not the sole signatory on its death warrant. So, could Bippy Siegal.
Let’s hope !