Tower Hamlets Council this week announced its purchase of the old Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel.
The historic, grade II listed building, which was the site of hundreds of years of medical history, will be transformed into a civic hub for the people of Tower Hamlets.
The old Royal London Hospital was sold to the council for £9 million. The council is currently drawing up plans for the civic hub ensuring the heritage of the site is retained.
With more people working in and around Whitechapel, it is hoped the hub will act as a huge economic boost for the area, and be a catalyst for regeneration.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, said: “This stunning building has been a part of our history and our heritage for hundreds of years. It’s fitting that we have purchased this building, to make sure that this building continues to be a part of the community long into the future.”
Founded in 1740 by businessmen and philanthropists, the hospital was intended for the sick and poor among the merchant seaman and manufacturing classes – the community in the East End at the time.
The hospital relied on public generosity for more than 200 years, from its opening with only 5p in the bank, until its running costs were taken over by the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948.
It is perhaps most famous for being the site of the death of Joseph Merrick, dubbed the Elephant Man. He died at the site in 1890.
Mayor Rahman adds: “It is also worth pointing out that this is a real investment for the future. In transforming the site into a brand new civic hub, we will be delivering a real saving on our current town hall accommodation.”
The new civic centre will be funded through efficiencies made by the council, and just one of a number of changes that will be taking place in Whitechapel over the coming years.
With the opening of the new Crossrail station in 2018, Tower Hamlets has identified Whitechapel as a huge growth opportunity waiting to happen.
The Whitechapel Vision plans, developed with BDP, were launched in March 2014. They have generated a lot of support and excitement from residents and businesses, along with strategic partners involved in the delivery of this project. They were also commended at the national Planning Awards in November 2014.
Once plans have been completed, Whitechapel will have:
- up to 3,500 new homes delivered by 2025, including a substantial number of family and affordable homes
- 5,000 new jobs
- a completely transformed Whitechapel Road
- seven new public squares and open spaces
- rejuvenating the town centre
Cllr Rabina Khan, cabinet member for housing and development, said: “Whitechapel Vision will bring about so much positive change in the area. This plan has real benefits for the community. People in Tower Hamlets are calling out for more affordable housing, jobs, and for their area to be improved to become a really great place to live – and Whitechapel Vision is a positive response to that call.”
Tower Hamlets is working hard to make this vision a reality. The council has created a new regeneration team, who are currently working with a number of organisations to transform the area by undertaking live planning discussions with key landowners; consulting with residents; and working closely with the Whitechapel Vision strategic partners who are:
- the Mayor of London and Greater London Authority (GLA)
- Transport for London (TfL)
- Barts Health NHS Trust
- Queen Mary University of London (QMUL)
- L&Q London Housing Association
Whitechapel Vision and the creation of a new civic hub all ties in with the Council’s strategy – A great place to live. This strategy aims to make the borough a place where people live in quality affordable housing, located in clean and safe neighbourhoods, served by well-connected and easy to access services and community facilities.