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Advertiser letters: London Chest Hospital campaign and tackling poverty

PUBLISHED: 08:00 15 September 2018

World War II bomb damage to the Royal London Chest Hospital. Picture: COURTESY OF BARTS HEALTH ARCHIVES AND MUSEUMS.

World War II bomb damage to the Royal London Chest Hospital. Picture: COURTESY OF BARTS HEALTH ARCHIVES AND MUSEUMS.

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Letters, contributions and comments sent in to the Advertiser this week.

Help protect hospital site

Tom Ridge, Welwyn Street, local campaigner, writes:

I am writing as the author of the long petition about the former London Chest Hospital, mentioned in last weeks paper.

Although the LCC Bomb Damage Map shows damage to the main 1855 building ranging from total destruction to general blast damage , contemporary photographs and other evidence indicates that it was the later north and south wings which suffered the most damage on the night of March 19, 1941 when a parachute mine landed on the roof of the detached hospital chapel, just to the north of the north wing; and incendiary bombs landed on the roof of the south wing. The north wing had to be demolished and a temporary roof was put on the south wing and the hospital was reopened for outpatients within nine days of the incident.

The roof of the main 1855 building resisted the high-level blast from the parachute mine mainly because it is supported by fully-surviving original brick walls in the roof space, which were also part of the system taking the stale air to the central ventilation tower. The roof is also supported by six or eight of the twelve original timber roof trusses and two steel roof trusses inserted in 1894 or circa 1941. The roof was reslated and releaded in about 1948 and the cladding is still in excellent condition, so experts looking at the ‘new’ roof cladding and the LCC bomb damage map think that the roof must have been badly damaged and replaced. This suits developers because they are high-volume house builders and do not want to be bothered with repairing and adapting the roof space for attic flats, and can get twice as many attic flats in a brand-new, double-width, fake-heritage roof.

I have now written directly to the chairman of Historic England pointing out that 10 of the fake chimneystacks on the new roof would detract from rather than enhance the façade, which Historic England regards as the listed building’s principal key asset. Also that the proposed eight-story block would harm what Historic England has called the “spacious parkland” setting of the main 1855 building and its 1865 south wing which Historic England listed in 2015.

Historic England’s subsequent advice to Crest Nicholson supports the demolition of the entire 1865 south wing and the demolition and replacement of the original roof on the main 1855 building; and says nothing about the eight-story block, which would destroy the most important part of the setting and require the relocation of the veteran black mulberry tree.

Just for the record, my petition does not refer to this as a five hundred year old tree but as a cultural icon associated with Bishop Bonner and a living memorial to the local residents in the adjoining blast-damaged houses who lost their lives on or soon after the incident on March 19, 1941.

The tree is in what was the garden of Bonner Hall, and is next to the site of the chapel. Although it was decapitated by the blast from the parachute mine, new branches grew from the tall stump, which is why it must stay in its historic location.

The former London Chest Hospital is the most important building in one of the borough’s most important conservation areas. I sincerely hope that Historic England will reconsider its advice and that the Strategic Development Committee on September 20 will ensure that there are more homes on this site without irreparable damage to the historic hospital and its setting, which served the people of the East End for 160 years.

To sign the petition please go to change.org/p/former-london-chest-hospital-stop-demolition-and-fake-heritage or for more information: residents-first.co.uk

Let’s tackle poverty

Bishop Peter Hill, Bishop of Barking, writes:

As the new school term starts, too many children will go back hungry because their families’ incomes don’t cover the essentials needed to live in London. The absence of free school meals over the six-week summer break is becoming increasingly acute for some of our young people.

Even for people in work, life can be tough because of the high cost of London living, with rent and travel cost taking up a huge proportion of monthly income. The latest figures from KPMG and Living Wage Foundation show that nearly 1 in 5 (19 per cent) of all Londoners are earning below the London Living Wage – these figures don’t account for self-employed people who are often earning below the government minimum.

The Living Wage was only made possible through the effort of determined, organised citizens: ordinary people who took a stand. That’s why today I’m encouraging east Londoners to renew that spirit and tackle poverty head on by working with us to ensure more big employers pay it.

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