Plans for skyscraper threatening Bevis Marks synagogue rejected

After months of protest, City of London councilors rejected plans for a 48-story tower that threated the future of the historic Bevis Marks synagogue.

Despite planning officers recommending that this building and another new 21-story office block be built, the first development was rejected after more than 1.700 complaints were lodged with the City of London Corporation, including hundreds from people abroad.

People protested the hindrances the building would place on the ability to conduct religious services, and the city’s disregard for a house of worship of great history and renowned beauty in order to build another massive office tower.

The Bevis Marks synagogue, which is lit by limited electric light and 240 candles in massive chandeliers, was at risk of losing access to natural light and therefore the ability to conduct prayer and events if the 48-storey building went up.

UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, and President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyl, voiced their objections to the project. The Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America wrote to the British Ambassador in Washington, D.C. Dame Karen Pierce, calling the proposed building “a shocking disregard for the needs and historic rights of the Sephardic Jewish community.”

Bevis Marks Rabbi Shalom Morris, told the councillors, “The Jewish community believes the very future of Bevis Marks, our cathedral synagogue, is at risk if you approve this scheme. That’s not hyperbole, or theatrics. Our actual lived experience of the place informs our keen awareness that placing a 48-story tower to our southern exposure will cause us harm.

“It will diminish the spiritually uplifting and practically necessary light that filters into the synagogue,” he continued. “There’s so many ways Bevis Marks will be harmed by this scheme.”

The City of London’s assistant town clerk, after receiving the recommendation of the committee, will make a final decision concerning the project’s fate.


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