The Jewish Maternity Hospital in Whitechapel, known as Mother Levy’s”, is to be demolished and replaced by a five-story housing development. It is the East End’s last surviving Jewish hospital.
Tower Hamlets council gave permission to developers Peabody to tear down the former hospital, sold for £2,7 million, after they approved what is called ‘prior notice of demolition’.
According to planning law, the social housing association is allowed to obtain permission to rip down the building before filing for a planning application for a new development as it is not part of a Conservation Area, nor listed by English Heritage.
“We can only prevent demolition in certain circumstances. Primarily when a building is listed or is in a conservation area”, said a council spokesperson.
Known as Mother Levy’s Nursing home, the hospital had been operating since 1911 and was primarily founded by Alice Model, whose mission was to help sick mothers and babies. It was the first organisation of its kind in the country to provide maternity nurses and home helps.
Historian and veteran campaigner, Tom Ridge, says that the demolition of this “pioneering institution” would be a “gross act of cultural vandalism”.
He is also leading the petition against the development taking over the Jewish Maternity Hospital.
Sharman Kadish, director of Jewish Heritage UK says that Peabody has also disregarded the historic significance of the cottages surrounding the main building.
“Peabody is determined to knock down the site as soon as possible. But we would like to suggest a compromise that they keep the cottages intact while turning them into housing properties. Also, we would like them to set up a blue plaque on the front of the cottage with Alice Model’s name on it”, she told Eastlondonlines.
In his campaign newsletter, Ridge writes: “Although the two small ‘cottages’ are not nationally or locally listed they are unique and distinctive buildings and would represent the only surviving former Jewish maternity hospital in England and the pioneering achievements of Alice Model MBE”.
So far, Peabody has rejected the proposal of keeping the cottages intact.
“They are really only interested in packing in as many tenants as possible”, says Kadish.
Peabody stresses the fact that they are a non-profit organization, committed to the improvement of the local community.
Peabody Chief Executive, Stephen Howlet, said: “Peabody has long worked with communities in London to deliver sensitive, high quality affordable housing and regeneration activities. We are a charity whose aim throughout our 150-year history has been to relieve poverty in London.
“In line with this, we’re committed to working with the local community to ensure we recognise and commemorate the history of this neglected site while also providing much needed affordable homes that will foster economic and social regeneration in Tower Hamlets”.
Representative Neil Young, from Peabody, explained that a report from the English Heritage said the site was ‘neither a unique instance of Jewish welfare provision in the East End nor has negligible architectural interest’.
“Despite this finding, Peabody is committed to honoring the site’s history”, he said.
The development group, currently finalizing its plans for the new housing development, will hold a consultation event on November 7th for the public to raise questions or concerns.
It will be held at the Osmani Centre, Underwood Road from 3pm to 7pm.