The Gentle Author has drawn attention to the fact that the Custom House – a fine, but very austere public building facing onto the Thames just by the Tower – is due to be turned, like the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, into a luxury hotel by its owners, an offshore company based in Bermuda.
He treads lightly over the oddity that HMRC, the previous owners of the building, transferred ownership to an offshore company in Bermuda long ago, on condition that they remained in the building for twenty years.
It’s not an easy building to convert and it is in a tricky location, but could surely be turned into something a bit more interesting and imaginative than another hotel. But it’s difficult for anyone to make proposals because of the overseas ownership. It was a clever way for HMRC to do it, because it avoids public scrutiny and because those who were responsible for it will by now have retired – perhaps in Bermuda themselves.