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Concerned supporters of Bevis Marks Synagogue, Europe's oldest continuously functioning synagogue, have accused the City of London of altering its stance on tall buildings near the historic

site. The accusation comes after the City of London planning committee's recent draft plan on skyscrapers in conservation areas. Bevis Marks, a Grade One listed building, faced the threat of being overshadowed by a proposed skyscraper tower block at 31 Bury Street. The planning committee initially refused planning permission for the building in 2021, providing relief to Bevis Marks supporters.

However, the synagogue's advocates claim that the City of London is now proposing a new Local Plan, only weeks after adopting a conservation area around Bevis Marks Synagogue. This new plan allegedly undermines the protections afforded by the conservation decision. According to the supporters, the City's proposed Local Plan no longer prohibits tall buildings in conservation areas, a policy crucial for preventing new developments from overshadowing the Grade 1 listed synagogue.

In a letter published in the Daily Telegraph, supporters, including former London Lord Mayor Sir Michael Bear, Professor Sir Simon Schama, writers Simon Sebag Montefiore and Howard Jacobson, historians, and peers, expressed concerns about the draft Local Plan. They argue that while the plan claims to protect Bevis Marks, it excludes 31 Bury Street from the setting, and the clause preventing tall buildings in conservation areas has been quietly removed.

The owners of 31 Bury Street have submitted plans for a new tall tower on the site, similar to the one previously refused planning permission. The proposed tower could overshadow the Bevis Marks courtyard, impacting sunlight and making it challenging for the congregation to hold services.

The City's planning and transportation committee is set to vote on whether to send the current local plan draft to consultation on January 31. Bevis Marks Synagogue is urging committee members to refuse the draft unless several amendments are adopted.

Rabbi Shalom Morris of Bevis Marks Synagogue expressed shock at the City of London's attempt to weaken the synagogue's protections, calling it an abuse of power and a breach of the community's trust. Sir Michael Bear emphasized the need to protect Bevis Marks, describing it as a national treasure, and Professor Abigail Green criticized the City's attempt to narrowly define the synagogue's setting, highlighting the lack of understanding of Jewish history, religion, and culture. Photo by John Salmon, Wikimedia commons.