Demolition of Jewish hospital to go ahead

pic: Hala Elnahas

The demolition of the last surviving Jewish maternity hospital, Mother Levy’s, will go ahead this month despite opposition from campaigners and councillors, it was announced this week.

The announcement came a day after the council voted for Mayor Lutfur Rahman to begin talks with development company, Peabody, to avoid demolition.

A group who are campaigning to save the hospital, Save Mother Levy’s, presented their petition to the Tower Hamlets council meeting on Tuesday.

Currently the online petition has over 520 signatures and campaigners are calling for developers, Peabody, “to keep and convert the front parts” of the hospital.

A public consultation was held in November, at which Save Mother Levy’s campaigners and Peabody, the developers, came together to discuss the proposals.

The campaigners were especially keen to have the consultation after demolition works began earlier than planned. Peabody explained that it was “the result of an error on the part of the demolition contractor, Squibb Group.”

Council planning officers have said that any redevelopment should keep the two cottages at the hospital on Underwood Road, Whitechapel also known as Mother Levy’s. In October EastLondonLines reported on the plans to demolish the hospital.

The council also called on “Peabody to reconsider their designs to spare the cottages or part of the façade to preserve the heritage of the buildings” in the motion.

But the council said of their limitations: “The site has no formal protection from demolition however, since it is not listed or in a conservation area – two factors that dictate the level of power the council has to intervene.

English Heritage declined the request made to list the buildings and as a result, our power is limited to considering the demolition methodology used on site, rather than the historic character of the buildings.”

However Peabody said the cottages could not be refurbished because they “are not large enough by modern standards to be converted to family houses.” The social housing association said: “If we retain the two cottages, we will lose seven units.”

Peabody’s plans are to build 33 new homes. Tom Ridge, a Save Mother Levy’s campaigner said: “We understand that the scheme would provide 33 new homes: 9 for sale on the open market, 11 for shared ownership and only 13 for affordable rent.”

Peabody aims to submit a planning application in January next year.

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