I’m sorry to keep on about the Bell Foundry, but I sense that time is of the essence, partly because there are only six weeks if there is to be a judicial review.
Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, has said that he wants to review the decision to turn it into a hotel, even though it was announced in his name. Yet, some of the reasons why the decision was made in the way it was lie not in his Department, but under the Department for Culture, Media and Sport which funds and oversees the operation of Historic England.
In the Sunday Telegraph yesterday, Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, announced a new body called the Heritage Advisory Board. It does not say who chairs it, how it will operate, and I note that it does not apparently so far include members from Red Wall constituencies, as Dowden himself says it should. But it does include Samir Shah, the chair of the Museum of the Home, which has traditionally had a long-term association with East London trades, when it was the Geffrye Museum; and Anna Keay, who is Director of the Landmark Trust, which was a pioneer in the 1960s in developing and restoring sites of industrial archaeology.
Could Jenrick perhaps use this newly constituted body to examine a) why did Historic England choose to ignore the importance of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry ? b) why was it not possible for Historic England to intervene with the owner at an early stage to encourage constituting it as a charitable trust (could there, for example, have been Compulsory Purchase ?) c) should there be a change in the system of assessment which recognises the use of a building, as well as its fabric ? d) if Jenrick thinks that the decision was the wrong one, is there a way he can now intervene ?
Historic England has issued a press release saying how much it loves the plans for redevelopment. Funny that. Not many people seem to share this view, including Robert Jenrick.