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Thursday, July 25, 2024

London Chest Hospital plans see 168 objections

Plans to redevelop a former hospital in East London and build 274 new homes have been met with anger from residents.

The development arm of Clarion Housing Group, the largest housing association in the UK, has submitted plans to Tower Hamlets Council to redevelop London Chest Hospital on Bonner Road in Bethnal Green.

A CGI view of some of the buildings. Image: Tower Hamlets Council documents

The plans would see the Grade II-listed hospital located close to Victoria Park, partially demolished and replaced with five tower blocks ranging from five to nine storeys.

Of the 274 homes, 121 would be ‘affordable homes’, including 76 homes for social rent and 45 shared ownership homes.

If approved, the plans would see two studio flats, 79 one-beds, 145 two-beds, 37 three-beds, and 11 four-beds built on site.

Latimer Homes, which is part of Clarion, has also applied for listed building consent so it can carry out repair works to the main hospital building, the South Wing and the Sanitation Tower.

Once repaired, the main hospital building aims to provide 54 new homes while the South Wing will be restored and will have a community space on the ground floor.

Site history 

London Chest Hospital was founded in 1848 to manage rising cases of tuberculosis and during World War One it treated injured soldiers who had come back from the Western Front and were suffering with the effects gas poisoning.

Over the years, the specialist hospital treated people suffering from diseases of the heart and lungs.

Since 1999 it had been run by the Barts Health NHS Trust but the site closed in April 2015 and services provided by the hospital were transferred to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the City of London.

The Victorian hospital is also the site of a rare, 400-year-old black Mulberry tree which was at the centre of a four-year campaign to protect it from property developer Crest Nicholson, which wanted to relocate the tree as part of previous redevelopment plans.

The East London Garden Society, which lead the campaign, said the tree could be well over 400 years old, making it the oldest-surviving tree in London’s East End.

Clarion has pledged to protect the Mulberry Tree. Image: Tower Hamlets Council documents

In May 2021, the campaign which was backed by actress Dame Judi Dench, resulted in a High Court judge overturning the previously approved planning application over concerns that it would damage the tree.

Clarion has promised it will protect the veteran tree and build a protective boundary around it so no one can touch it.

A new entrance plans to be built next to the tree and residents and passers-by will be able to enjoy views of the tree from seating areas.

Planning objections

During the public consultation stage, the plans received 168 objections including a letter signed individually by 85 residents.

Residents living nearby said their homes would be overshadowed by the development and argued they would lose out on some daylight and sunlight because of the height of the buildings.

One objector said: “The proposal presents an over-concentration of residential units for the site, it would be much more densely populated than neighbouring residential buildings and estates and make the area [untenable].”

How the front of the hospital and the development could look if plans are approved next week. Image: Tower Hamlets Council documents

Residents argued their views of Victoria Park would be negatively affected, and claimed their peace and wellbeing would be harmed during the construction phase.

One person argued Bethnal Green station is already “at capacity” during peak times, and fear an influx of new residents will worsen the situation.

Other residents aren’t happy with the removal of dozens of existing trees, though Clarion has pledged to plant 51 new trees around the site.

An online petition created by the Parkview Residents Association also objecting to the plans has been signed by 838 people.

The petition demands the height of the buildings be reduced to three, four and five storeys and wants there to be “genuinely affordable housing for local people including social housing”.

Other planning responses

The plans have received mixed responses from organisations including Historic England, The Victorian Society and Tower Hamlets Council’s housing department.

Historic England said it welcomes the latest plans as it was a “considerable improvement” compared to previous plans for the site.

The public body added: “We are particularly pleased to see the retention of the South Wing and more sensitive approach overall.

“We do still consider that some harm would arise from the scale and massing of the new buildings, and the loss of the former Nurses Accommodation Building which should be taken into account in determining the applications.”

The Victorian Society, a charity which supports the protection of Victorian and Edwardian buildings, said it recognises the improvements that have been made in the current plans.

Though the charity went on to say “there is room for further improvement”.

It said: “We welcome the retention and repair of the tower structure, yet there could be further enhancement to the building’s significance if the tower was restored to its original form, as can be seen in historic photographs.

“The original tower was the crowning feature of the hospital and made it a landmark, proclaiming the donors’ pride in providing much needed medical provision.”

A CGI view of some of the buildings. Image: Tower Hamlets Council documents

Housing officers at the council are in support of the proposed number of family sized homes within the ‘affordable’ rent tenure and also praised the number of wheelchair accessible homes.

Planning officers believe the “significant” public benefits set out in the plans outweigh “the harm to heritage assets” and the council’s strategic development committee has been recommended to give the plans the green light.

The plans will ultimately be heard at a council meeting next week (16 July).

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