Fight to save ‘Mother Levy’s’ suffers setback

By Jessica Elgot, October 27, 2011

East End campaigners have failed in their bid to stop Tower Hamlets planning officers approving the first stage towards the demolition of “Mother Levy’s” Jewish Maternity Hospital.

Chicken Soup with Barley playwright Sir Arnold Wesker, who was born in the hospital, is one of 250 signatories to a petition to save part of the former hospital from the bulldozers.

A five-storey block of flats is planned for the Underwood Road site by the Peabody Trust, which claims the proposal to preserve two small cottages is “not feasible”.

Local campaigner and historian Tom Ridge believes demolition would be “a gross act of cultural vandalism”. However, planning officers last week gave “prior approval of demolition”.

A Tower Hamlets spokeswoman explained that “the council can only prevent the demolition of buildings in certain circumstances”. But it had secured a promise “that a programme of recording and historical analysis is completed prior to any demolition”.

A second public consultation meeting will be held on November 7, before a formal planning application is submitted.

Mr Ridge intends “to go on fighting to save the two small cottages. Each is practically ready-made as a large family house and would [continue to]represent the only Jewish maternity hospital in England.”

Replying to a letter from Jewish Heritage UK director Dr Sharman Kadish, Peabody chief executive Stephen Howlett wrote that it would not be feasible to incorporate the cottages into the new design.

But he did suggest ways of remembering the hospital, such as “naming the new building appropriately” and installing a blue plaque.

Last updated: 10:59am, October 27 2011