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

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.

Tower Hamlets Development Committee

Papers from the Development Committee meeting can be found via this link:

Further Information

For further information related to this press release, please contact Clare Wood,, 07956 888 432.