Britain’s oldest shul renews battle against proposals for 21-storey tower
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Britain’s oldest shul renews battle against proposals for 21-storey tower

Bevis Marks' rabbi says the tower would 'limit ambient light coming inside and really put us into more darkness, making it more difficult to pray and enjoy the beautiful space'

A ceremony at the Spanish and Portuguese Jews Congregation, at Bevis Marks Synagogue, London.


(C) Blake Ezra Photography 2015.
A ceremony at the Spanish and Portuguese Jews Congregation, at Bevis Marks Synagogue, London. (C) Blake Ezra Photography 2015.

Britain’s Jewish community is back in battle with developers seeking to build a 21-storey building in central London just three metres from one of the world’s oldest and most famous synagogues.

The chairman of the iconic Grade I listed Bevis Marks Synagogue, built in the 18th century and still in use today, has asked for help lodging objections to a proposed tower on the shul’s east side, which would affect both light and prayer.

In January 2019, developers submitted plans for a huge new building at 33 Creechurch Lane that would “dwarf” England’s oldest synagogue, but communal objections to the planning authority appeared to have defeated the bid.

Proposals for the tower on the plans, show it dwarfing Bevis Marks

Now, after making slight alterations to the plan, the developers are back for a second time, despite London’s Jewish community having already shown how such a mammoth building yards from the shul would affect its light, the heritage environment, and potentially the building’s structure and foundations.

Posting resubmitted plans earlier this month, the planning application is now once again under review, and members of London’s Jewish community who are concerned about the tower’s impact only have two weeks to register their objections.

In his latest update video to congregants, Bevis Marks’ Rabbi Shalom Morris said the tower would “limit ambient light coming inside and really putting us into more darkness, making it more difficult to pray and enjoy the beautiful space”.

He added: “The synagogue will be in its shadow for most of the day. We’re really concerned about this and would ask you to please reach out to the City of London planning board to let them know that it’s simply not appropriate for a synagogue that means so much to London and to the international Jewish community.”

Watch Rabbi Shalom Morris explain the significance of its windows and light:

Shul chair Jonathan Solomons said: “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, 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.”

He said the height and proximity of the tower would result in “an overbearing built form that would damage the historic setting” of the synagogue, result in “a substantial reduction in natural light and privacy in the surrounding historic courtyard” and may even cause structural damage.

“The building would dwarf our site and tower over the synagogue and the Rabbi’s house. Please take a few minutes to register your objection.”

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