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Campaigners battle against developer’s London Chest Hospital demolition bid with 500-year-old ‘memorial’ tree ‘threatened’

PUBLISHED: 12:27 04 September 2018 | UPDATED: 12:56 04 September 2018

The former London Chest Hospital in Bonner Road, Bethnal Green. Pic: MIKE BROOKE

The former London Chest Hospital in Bonner Road, Bethnal Green. Pic: MIKE BROOKE

Archant

A Grade II-listed former hospital’s roof and 500-year-old mulberry tree are at the centre of a row between a developer and campaigners.

The London Chest Hospital in Bethnal Green. Pic: KEN MEARSThe London Chest Hospital in Bethnal Green. Pic: KEN MEARS

Members of the East End Waterway Group have called on Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs and Historic England chairman Laurie Magnus to save the roof of the former London Chest Hospital in Bonner Road, Bethnal Green, and the black mulberry tree.

So far 755 people have backed the group’s call on the council to throw out developer Crest Nicholson’s bid to demolish the roof as part of a wider bid to build 291 homes on the site.

The Victorian Society has also objected to the plans saying proposed new buildings rising up to eight storeys would “significantly harm” the hospital’s parkland setting.

In a letter on the council’s planning website the roof is described as being of little value heritage wise because of bomb and fire damage. But campaigners say World War Two bomb damage was minor and the roof should be restored to include attic rooms.

Campaigners have started a petition calling on Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs and Historic England to save the former hospital's roof and a 500-year-old mulberry tree in its grounds. Pic: KEN MEARSCampaigners have started a petition calling on Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs and Historic England to save the former hospital's roof and a 500-year-old mulberry tree in its grounds. Pic: KEN MEARS

They described the tree as a unique “cultural icon” and “living memorial” to six people killed after a bomb hit the roof in March 1941.

A Crest Nicholson (CN) spokeswoman said: “The petition and issues expressed are unfortunately based on unfounded concerns and an incorrect understanding of the facts.”

The campaigners slammed the developer’s structural survey for failing to prove the roof was badly damaged, but the developer said it drew on historic information including bomb damage maps.

The “fragile” tree would be moved on site by experts with cuttings being planted on the site, the CN spokeswoman explained.

She added: “The redevelopment will bring 291 much needed homes, including 86 affordable homes, to an area with the most acute housing need.

“The plans respect the heritage of the site and will provide both market and affordable housing in an attractive setting.”

Historic England said the already amended plans would reduce the harm caused by the proposed scheme.

An Historic England spokeswoman added it was for the council to decide between the harm caused and the scheme’s potential public benefits.

The planning application is due to be heard on September 20.

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