(JHE) — Leaders of Britain’s oldest synagogue — Bevis Marks in London — have raised renewed concerns that a planned new high rise building across the street would dominate the space, cut the synagogue off from light and access, and possibly provoke structural damage to the more than 300-year-old building.
“There is a current planning proposal for a 21 story building to be built a matter of metres from the synagogue door,” Jonathan Solomons, Chairman of the Bevis Marks Synagogue Committee, said in a statement.
Due to the sheer scale of the building and its proximity, it will inevitably have a significant impact on our functioning and place our beloved building at risk. When plans were originally submitted in 2019, a large number of us raised our objections however planning has recently been resubmitted so we must continue to let the City of London and the developers know of the strength of our feelings […]
The building would dwarf our site and tower over the synagogue and the Rabbi’s house. I therefore ask again for you to take a few minutes to register your objection.
Bevis Marks, a Grade I listed building, was built in 1701 and is administered by the Spanish and Portuguese Sephardi Community. In 2019 it received a nearly £2.8 million grant from the National Heritage Lottery Fund for “vital restoration work and conservation for its collections” so that they can be displayed in a new section of the synagogue complex.
Solomon’s statement was posted November 18 along with a YouTube video of Rabbi Shalom Morris discussing the importance of the windows and light in the sanctuary and also detailing concerns about the planned building.
After alarm was raised early last year over the possibility that the 20-storey tower block could be built, the plans were reconsidered. But only slight changes appear to have been made. According to the City of London planning board, the new building project would still entail the following, which includes revisions made after the synagogues objection to the original plan was considered:
Demolition of the existing building and redevelopment of the site to provide an office building […] and a retail unit comprising basement, ground floor, mezzanine and 19 upper floors, together with cycle parking and associated works.
In his statement, Solomons listed specific concerns:
1) The height and proximity of the tower would result in an overbearing built form that would damage the historic setting of the Grade I listed Synagogue. It would also reduce the natural light through the eastern windows and thus harm the daytime experience of the Synagogue’s interior.
2) The tower would result in a substantial reduction in natural light and privacy in the surrounding historic courtyard thus diminishing its attractiveness for the many daytime events and celebrations held throughout the year.
3) The construction of such a large building so close may cause structural damage to the Synagogue’s 300-year-old foundations. The demolition and construction works would also cause unacceptable noise and vibration disturbance to the Synagogue’s daily prayers, services and many other events.
4) During the construction period there would be no access to the Synagogue for people with disabilities.
He provided an email address and link where people could address their comments and concerns to the City of London planning board.