UKHBPT Press Release – Future of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry site – Boutique hotel approved

Press Release

For Immediate Release

Release Date: 14 November 2019

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Planning Committee Votes to Allow Boutique Hotel

on the Historic Whitechapel Bell Foundry Site

The United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust (UKHBPT), Factum Foundation and the many partners and supporters in the business world and local community are deeply saddened by the decision of Tower Hamlets Development Committee to grant planning consent for a boutique hotel on the site of the historic Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

The site is Britain’s oldest single-purpose industrial building where Big Ben, the Liberty Bell, Bow Bells and many of the world’s great bells were made. Developer Raycliff Whitechapel LLP had submitted an application to convert the site into a boutique hotel and hospitality venue, which Tower Hamlets planning officers had subsequently recommended for approval. The Development Committee’s decision means that the Foundry will be gone forever, along with the skills, the jobs and the community pride and social cohesion that sprang from the site of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

Stephen Musgrave, Chairman of UKHBPT said:

“The committee’s decision to support the developer’s spurious plans for the old foundry buildings fails to take into account the financial viability of the offered alternative foundry use, the powerful planning case against the application, the irreversible heritage damage to an internationally renowned building and the opposition of people from across the local community, London and the world. Nonetheless, without our collective efforts the Foundry would have been lost without a whimper, as those tasked with the defence of our historic assets stood by and watched. An important national debate has taken place. We have forced the developer to make substantial improvements to their original plans but we remain unconvinced that their pastiche designs for the historic element will be anything but a short-term sop.”

Adam Lowe, Founder of Factum Foundation said:

“Tower Hamlets Development Committee has chosen to ignore Factum Foundation’s commitment to establish on the site a financially viable 21st-century artistic foundry based on our internationally renowned preservation and training work that merges new technology and craft skills. It has chosen to ignore the operational experience of UKHBPT at its other UK heritage sites and the proven benefits such operations bring to the broader community. Financial viability is a central tenet of everything these partners do and their business case would have seen the retention of a new and thriving foundry business with global reach.”

Clare Wood, Chief Executive of UKHBPT said:

“The Committee seems to have been swayed by the developer’s sketches of a small imitation bell workshop as part of a themed coffee shop space, their decision seemingly based on a few unrealistic visualisations. The heart and soul of the building and its reason for being will be gone. Instead of being a revitalised place of pilgrimage of global interest and a huge boost to the local economy it will be another boutique hotel of no interest to anyone but its transient clientele.

Despite the extraordinary, unpaid efforts of the many partners and professionals who fought to save the building this is a sad day for Britain’s vulnerable heritage buildings and an indictment of the planning process. Heritage stands at the heart of our communities and, as a result of today’s decision, is now more than ever under threat.”

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Notes to Editors

United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust (UKHBPT)

UKHBPT is a registered charity which specialises in the restoration and rejuvenation of historic buildings at risk of decay or demolition. UKHBPT transforms these historic buildings into local assets, creating job opportunities and catalysing wider social and economic benefit. UKHBPT charity number: 1059662

www.ukhbpt.org

Factum Foundation

Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation, founded in 2009 by Adam Lowe and based in Madrid, is a not-for-profit organisation using new technology in the preservation of at-risk cultural heritage.

http://www.factumfoundation.org/

Tower Hamlets Development Committee

Papers from the Development Committee meeting can be found via this link: https://democracy.towerhamlets.gov.uk/mgCommitteeDetails.aspx?ID=312

Further Information

For further information related to this press release, please contact Clare Wood, clare.wood@ukhbpt.org, 07956 888 432.

Our campaign

The United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust’s plans for the Whitechapel Bell Foundry

For more information about the United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust and Factum Foundation’s plans for the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, please go to www.ukhbpt.org and www.factumfoundation.org

 In July 2019 Banco Santander released a video about their relationship with Factum “A story of how Santander is changing the way banks and companies work”.  https://youtu.be/9oLoj4mPF9Y

For all press and media enquiries about our campaign and plans please email: news@ukhbpt.org

Why the Raycliff planning application to turn the Whitechapel Bell Foundry into a boutique hotel should be rejected. Application PA/19/00008/A1

There is a perfectly viable proposal put forward by the United Kingdom Building Preservation Trust together with its partner, Factum Foundation to continue to operate a full-scale working foundry. This proposal has a credible business plan, experienced management and funding available. The trust has done this before to great success. Support for this proposal will ensure that Whitechapel retains one of London’s finest craft facilities in the world, adding to the cultural and artistic value of Whitechapel for years to come.

This speculative and inappropriate change of use for the foundry as proposed by the developer must be rejected.

  • Whitechapel Bell Foundry is Britain’s oldest continuous business established in the 1570’s. Given this unique status the foundry is listed grade2*.
  • Whitechapel Bell Foundry is a global British brand and a part of London’s rich cultural heritage and Whitechapel’s DNA.
  • In June 2017 the foundry was deliberately closed despite an offer in March 2017 from the United Kingdom Building Preservation Trust to acquire the foundry at its market value. This offer was rejected and the foundry closed in June 2017 solely to enable a developer to seek a change of use and redevelop the site.
  • There is no market evidence to demonstrate that a foundry cannot continue to operate on the Whitechapel site as it has done for hundreds of years. Refusing to sell the foundry as a working foundry is not evidence, it is cultural vandalism.
  • The continuous use as a foundry is the optimum viable use and the right use for this unique site. ALL alternative uses should be rejected.
Petition
Members of East End Preservation Society deliver their petition to Save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry to Downing St in 2017 (photograph Sarah Ainslie)

Notwithstanding these fundamental points there are additional reasons why a boutique hotel with a private members club and rooftop swimming pool should be rejected.

  • The local population are overwhelmingly against this proposal. Some 20,000 people have signed the petition against the development. Community groups such as Spitalfields Trust, the East End Preservation Society and the East End Trades Guild all support saving the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.
  • The neighbouring East London Mosque was not consulted by the developer and considers the scheme proposed to be wholly inappropriate. The mosque wishes to see a rejuvenated foundry neighbour with whom they can build skills and training partnerships for the local community.
  • The suggestion that the scheme includes a reinstatement of a working foundry is tokenism. The concept of a working foundry on 12% of the original foundry site placed alongside a café is simply unworkable and with considerable health and safety risks. Founding bells and brewing coffee in the same area is not sensible and will not happen.
  • The scheme contradicts the Council’s ‘Whitechapel Vision Rejuvenation Prospectus’ and the GLA’s ‘Thames Estuary Production Corridor’.

Where to send your objection

You can write an email to planningandbuilding@towerhamlets.gov.uk or you can send a letter to Town Planning, Town Hall, Mulberry Place, 5 Clove Crescent, London, E14 2BG. Be sure to include your postal address and the application reference PA/19/00008/A1

Sign our petition on change.org and follow our twitter account for campaign updates.