According to planning officials, a 48-story office building next to the Grade I-listed Bevis Marks synagogue would have a “major adverse impact” on the venerable place of worship. A second application, to construct a 21-story structure that synagogue authorities claim will obscure natural light, is still being examined.
The City of London Corporation has received more than 2,800 objections to the towers. Heritage organizations, scholars, and multi-faith organizations have expressed worry over the buildings’ impact on the city’s only non-Christian place of worship.
“The breathtakingly beautiful synagogue has been light-filled for centuries; lit by memory, worship, and the flow of our nation’s history,” noted historian Sir Simon Schama. Its preservation should be as important as if a Hawksmoor or Wren church, for example, were similarly threatened and shadowed by commercial high-rise development.
It has to be rescued.”
Built in 1701, the synagogue is presently the only one in Europe, if not the world, to have held uninterrupted worship throughout its history.
The rabbi, Shalom Morris, expressed his joy that the corporation’s planning committee “acknowledged the very real concerns of not just the Jewish community but thousands of supporters of British heritage.”
“Continue to allow developers to build right up against our synagogue will completely block out any light.” Due to low lighting, it is already difficult for us to recite prayers and conduct a normal service.
However, the threat is not yet ended, as we continue to battle a nearby planned skyscraper development.”
Thanks to Harriet Sherwood at The Guardian whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.