FORMER LONDON CHEST HOSPITAL ~ Stop demolition and fake heritage!
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STOP FAKE HERITAGE AND HELP SAVE THE HISTORIC ROOF AND THE VETERAN BLACK MULBERRY TREE AT THE FORMER LONDON CHEST HOSPITAL
PETITION TO CHAIRMAN OF HISTORIC ENGLAND AND MAYOR OF LONDON BOROUGH OF TOWER HAMLETS
FORMER LONDON CHEST HOSPITAL (PA/16/03342 and 03343)
We the undersigned ask Historic England and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to recognise and acknowledge that the C17-style composite roof of the former London Chest Hospital:
• was not as badly damaged as shown on LCC Bomb Damage Map No.52
• only suffered minor WWII damage and the 1855 timber roof trusses which needed repair were exceptionally well repaired with very little loss of historic fabric, and the attics could and should be adapted for residential use
• and its truncated C17-style ventilation tower, are the most prominent key elements of the listed 1855 main building, and exemplify its historic association with the western ornamental part of Victoria Park (the 1855 main building was designed as a grand C17-style “country house”* to replace Bonner’s Hall which was a C17 country house built on the site of the ancient Stepney Manor House or Bishop's Hall and demolished for this part of the Victoria Park Estate, and most of the western ornamental part of Victoria Park was laid out on fields, which for 946 years had belonged to the Bishop of London as Lord of the Manor of Stepney)
• with its seven flat-topped roof structures and multi-functional walls (for supporting the roof structures and the visible part of the ventilation tower and housing the upper concealed parts of the innovative and exemplary system of warming and ventilating to provide a warm dry microclimate for the mid-C19 treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis) together with its truncated C17-style ventilation tower (for the removal of stale air) illustrate the importance of the listed 1855 main building as the exemplar of the mid-C19 chest hospital
• with its eight 1855 timber roof trusses, only two inserted steel roof trusses and original multi-functional walls, is a key element of more than sufficient significance to be retained, repaired and adapted for residential use rather than demolished and replaced by the western part of a steel-framed, double-width fake heritage roof with only two flat-topped roof structures and fake heritage chimney stacks supported on the steel frame of the fake heritage roof (two 5-storey stair towers also need to be retained for access to the flats in the historic roof)
We the undersigned also ask Historic England and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to recognise and acknowledge:
• that Crest Nicholson’s proposals for the demolition and the fake heritage replacement of the composite roof would cause substantial harm to the significance of the Grade II-listed building and this harm would not be outweighed by the benefit of a new double-width fake heritage roof with 10 attic flats, as stated in the April 2018 fabric assessment; nor would it be outweighed by the proposed public benefits, which are all being provided to outweigh the harm caused by proposed demolition of the listed 1865 south wing; the proposed changes would also detract from rather than enhance the character and appearance of the Victoria Park Conservation Area
• that Crest Nicholson’s biased and completely inadequate structural condition survey fails to “demonstrate … that the significance of the fabric of the existing roof has been seriously compromised through a combination of WWII damage, poor maintenance and poor quality post-war repairs”*; and is not sufficiently sound for the purposes of determining Crest Nicholson’s planning application
• Crest Nicholson’s listed building fabric assessment (27 April 2018) completely ignores the facts that:
• the roof was not badly damaged in WWII
• the timber roof trusses needing repair were well repaired in conjunction with metal wall ties in the upper parts of the side walls
• the C17-style composite roof and its multi-functional walls were planned to accommodate the upper parts of an exemplarary system of warming and ventilating the hospital – the assessment includes a so-called “truss by truss analysis” which is nothing more than a set of small close-up photographs of the usual ‘problems’ in a large historic roof which would be dealt with in a proper repair and adaptation for residential use, but Crest Nicholson is a high-volume house builder and is clearly seeking to avoid the effort required and wants to build a new double-width roof with twice as many attic flats; the assessment fails to provide a “clear and convincing justification” for the substantial harm and is not sufficiently sound for the purposes of determining Crest Nicholson’s planning application.
• that the protected in situ veteran black mulberry tree is a cultural icon associated with Bishop Bonner and a living memorial to six men and women who lost their lives as a consequence of the high-level blast from the parachute mine which, on the night of 19 March 1941, exploded on the roof of the hospital chapel causing extensive damage and the decapitation of the adjacent black mulberry tree (within a few years short branches were growing from the top of its surviving trunk)
• that the protected in situ veteran black mulberry tree is in what was part of the southern curtilage of C17 Bonner’s Hall (now the Grade II listed building’s northern setting) and both the tree and the northern setting constitute a landscape which is a heritage asset within the setting of the Grade II listed building and exemplifies the historic association between the listed 1855 main building and the western ornamental part of Victoria Park; and is an essential part of three unique views and two unique ‘open space links’ connecting the Grade II-listed building and its “spacious parkland”* setting with the Grade II*-registered Victoria Park, which share ‘group value’ (List Entry Description No.1433870)
• that of the three settings in the “spacious parkland”* setting, the northern setting with its protected in situ veteran black mulberry tree (the heritage asset) makes the greatest positive contribution to the significance of the Grade II-listed building and to the character and appearance of the Victoria Park Conservation Area
• that Crest Nicholson’s proposed 6- and 8-storey block F&G ignores Historic England’s pre-application advice to safeguard the “spacious parkland”* setting of the listed building and for the height and scale of new buildings to defer to the former hospital and complement the character of the surrounding conservation area; it would, in fact, occupy most of the heritage asset, which is the most significant part of the listed building’s “spacious parkland”* setting, and obstruct three unique views and seriously harm two unique ‘open space links’, and part G would rise four storeys above the eaves of the former hospital and part F would require the relocation of the cultural icon and living memorial from its historic location in part of the former curtilage of C17 Bonner’s Hall and near the site of the hospital chapel
• that the proposed block would cause substantial harm to the significance of the heritage asset and the Grade II-listed building; and the proposed changes would detract from rather than complement or enhance the character of the surrounding conservation area
• that the removal of the western part of part F of the proposed block would allow the in situ retention of the cultural icon and living memorial and better reveal the significance of the listed 1855 main building as a C17-style “country house in spacious parkland”* and as a former chest hospital in pleasant grounds for the outdoor recreation of the in-patients, and would also allow more open space in the heritage asset to enhance the only direct ‘open space link’ between the “spacious parkland”* setting and the parkland in Victoria Park
• that a reduction in height of the proposed block from 6- and 8-storeys to 4 storeys would allow the new building to defer to the former hospital and the truncated ventilation tower to be seen from Bonner Hall Gate (the main entrance to Victoria Park), and would also allow the partial reinstatement of the only direct visual link between the Grade II*-registered Victoria Park and the Grade II-listed building
In the light of all the new information and further research (fully set out in Tom Ridge’s letter of 2 March 2018), which demonstrates that (with respect to the composite roof and heritage asset) the Grade II-listed building and its setting is more significant than indicated in List Entry Description No.1433870, we the undersigned ask Historic England to reconsider its pre-application advice and to issue new advice for the retention and repair of the composite roof; and for reductions in the footprint and overall height of proposed block F&G and for the in situ retention of the protected veteran black mulberry tree as a cultural icon and living memorial.
For the same reasons, we the undersigned ask London Borough of Tower Hamlets to be mindful of its duty:
• to take account of the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of the Grade II-listed building and its setting
• to give greater weight to the conservation of the Grade II-listed building and its setting in response to the additional significance of the composite roof and heritage asset (NPPF para.132)
• to require a “clear and convincing justification” from Crest Nicholson for the substantial harm caused by the proposed demolition and replacement of the composite roof, and the excessive height and bulk of proposed block F&G, and the proposed relocation of the cultural icon and living memorial from its historic location (NPPF para.132)
• to refuse consent for the demolition and replacement of the composite roof, and proposed block F&G and the proposed relocation of the cultural icon and living memorial, as Crest Nicholson has failed to demonstrate that the substantial harm is necessary to achieve substantial public benefits that outweigh the substantial harm (NPPF para.133)
• to look for opportunities for new development in the Victoria Park Conservation Area and within the setting of the Grade II-listed building to enhance or better reveal their significance; and to encourage proposals which preserve the heritage asset as it makes a positive contribution to and better reveals the significance of the Grade II-listed building (NPPF para.137)
* Historic England’s pre-application advice letter of 5 May 2016.
Click these links for background information - Tom Ridge's 2 March 2018 letter of objection to Tower Hamlets and the 16 April 2018 amendments please go to www.residents-first.co.uk
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