A multimillion-pound development to transform Whitechapel’s Royal London Hospital into Tower Hamlet’s new town hall is being led by a team of black and minority ethnic (BAME) women.
The programme is overseen by the corporate director, Ann Sutcliffe, and project director, Yasmin Ali, who also works with two female senior project managers.
Ali said: “Of course every member of the team, regardless of their gender or background, plays an important role. But I think it says a lot about our approach to truly representing the communities we serve that this project is being led by a team with such strong female and Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) representation.”
The old hospital building was bought for £9 million in 2015, and the renovation is estimated to cost around £115 million, £78 million of which is being covered by the sale of the old buildings.
Tower Hamlets council hopes the move to the new site will save public money in the long run as it will no longer be paying £5 million a year in rent to Mulberry Place, where the current civic offices are.
The building is being extended to ensure that services such as Tower Hamlets Homes and the Clinical Commissioning Groups, along with other bodies, are all available in one place. The new town hall will also offer the public access to meeting rooms and shared spaces.
The former hospital in Whitechapel opened in September 1740 and was a place in which many East Londoners had been born and cared for until its relocation in February 2012, after which the building remained empty and at risk of falling into disrepair.
Ali said: “Like so many people, I have a personal and emotional connection with the Royal London. It was the place where my father passed away and where I later went on to give birth to my eldest child. Many of our residents have shared similar stories with us. These memories remind me what an immense privilege it is to be able to bring this building back into use.”
Fifty-five per cent of Tower Hamlets residents belong to a BAME group. However, despite the borough ranking as the 16th most ethically diverse local authority in England, there has been a steady rise in racist and religious hate crimes, from 572 offences of this nature in 2017 to 829 in 2019.