CGI image of the restored London Chest Hospital. Courtesy of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
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Residents launch petition opposing development of Sotherby Lodge and London Chest Hospital

Residents of Parkview Estate have signed a petition opposing the development of Sotherby Lodge and the former London Chest Hospital, the site of an endangered black mulberry tree.

Residents have launched a petition opposing the development of Sotherby Lodge and the former London Chest Hospital, arguing the buildings will dominate the skylight and block sunlight. 

The development of London Chest Hospital, the site of a 400-year-old veteran black mulberry tree, has always sparked controversy, but now Parkview Estate residents are also opposing plans for Sotherby Lodge.

The petition, written by the secretary of the Parkview Residents Association, said: ‘As local residents and people who use and enjoy Victoria Park and the surrounding area, we are deeply concerned about the effect this development in its proposed form would have.’

The petition has gathered 580 signatures as of Friday 24 May.

‘We would welcome new development, as long as it respects the Victoria Park Conservation area and is in scale with the current surroundings and the unique heritage of the location,’ the petition said.

The concerns arose after Clarion Housing’s development arm, Latimer, submitted proposals to build 274 homes in five new buildings at the former hospital on Bonner Street. The buildings will range between five to nine storeys high. 

The plans for Sotherby Lodge on 41 Sewardstone Road submitted by Gracewood Group involve external recladding of the building and a two-storey roof extension providing nine residential dwellings. 

Local residents are concerned that Clarion’s development of the former hospital will overshadow Pennethorne Square, Bonner Gate and Bonner Hall Bridge, a Grade II listed scheduled monument.

As most of the surrounding flats and houses are currently three to five storeys, residents are worried about reduced access to sunlight and daylight. 

The petition said: ‘This proposal would have a lasting effect on our community and homes. The addition of a 9-storey tower block and the addition of two extra storeys to Sotherby Court would dominate the skyline.’

Both developments are located in the Victoria Park Conservation area, recognised by the Tower Hamlets Council as having special architectural or historic qualities. ‘Protected for so long, these characteristics and the heritage of this part of London are now under threat of degradation,’ the petition said. ‘We must maintain the character of the area that has been cherished for generations, for our own future and those of our children and descendants.’

In 2021, the High Court revoked planning permission for the development of London Chest Hospital into flats. The court found that the plans submitted by Crest Nicholson would have led to the destruction of the Bethnal Green mulberry tree, which survived bombing during the Blitz.

The preservation of the ancient tree was at the centre of a four-year national campaign, backed by high-profile supporters like Dame Judi Dench.

Clarion has given assurance that its plans protect the mulberry tree by ‘implementing a variety of protection measures, including a wind mitigation screen and a perimeter railing system, to safeguard the tree and keep it in its current place’. 

In response to the recent petition, a Clarion spokesperson said: ‘Our proposed design for the London Chest Hospital development ensures that all neighbouring properties will retain good levels of both daylight and sunlight, particularly for an urban area, so no further design mitigation is required.’

The council will decide on the development of the former hospital in July. Meanwhile, if officers recommend that planning should be granted for the development Sotherby Lodge, the council’s development committee will decide on this at its next meeting on 20 June. 

A spokesperson from the council said: ‘As a local planning authority, the council has a statutory duty to consider the impact of proposed developments on the character and appearance of conservation areas. 

‘The effect on residents’ daylight will be subject to a technical assessment and review, as required by the council’s local plan policies.’

If you enjoyed this story, you might like to read Houseboaters in East London face being priced off the canals following Canal and River Trust’s dramatic fee hike 

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