The Mayors Response
Thought I should forward you all the next response from John Bigg, the mayor of Tower Hamlets.Disappointing, but time to regroup and increase pressure- especially with the increased press coverage on the museum. Any thoughts or ideas on next steps are most welcome! In the mean time keep sharing the petition - more signatures can never be a bad thing! Over 8500 names so far!
Further to my email below and following your meeting on the 9th of September, the Mayor agreed to discuss with the planning and legal teams the points raised by you in the meeting and set out in Christine Avlon’s letter of the 9th of September and John Bell’s email of the 8th of September. Specifically, whether consideration of the equalities wording of the Wilton’s Music Hall Conservation Area Planning Guidance could enable planning enforcement action against the Museum in its current form and whether the Museum should be considered a D1 use.
The Mayor has pursued these lines of enquiry with our planning and legal teams however they have advised him that they are unable to take enforcement action against the Museum on either point.
Firstly, the Council has sought external legal opinion regarding whether the use of the building constitutes a D1 (museum) use. External Counsel’s opinion is that the use of the building as a Jack the Ripper Museum does amount to use as a museum and is therefore authorised by the permission as granted. Although there is no specific definition of a museum for planning purposes, whether or not original historical artefacts are included in the displays can tip the balance in favour of the displays amounting to a ‘museum’ rather than a leisure attraction. This was supported by Planning Officers who made a site visit on Friday 11th September 2015, and, based on their findings, concluded that the use of the premises is as a ‘museum’ and falls within Use Class D1 and therefore accords with the planning permission. This was evidenced by the nature of the exhibits which the Planning Officers find to be ‘generally informative and histori cally based’. Further, the Planning Officers found no evidence to suggest a D2 use connected to assembly and leisure.
With regards to the equalities considerations, these can only be taken into consideration when the planning permission was granted, not subsequently. They are one of a number of considerations which assist the Council in deciding planning applications which in this matter was for a change of use of the building from mixed commercial/residential use to museum. Once it was established that the change of use to a museum was acceptable in planning terms and the planning permission was granted, subject to the expiry of a period of six weeks from the date of grant without challenge, the Council can only take enforcement action if the owner has breached any of the conditions attached to the planning permission. This would include any breach in respect of the change of use.
Time is a key factor. The Council’s lawyers have informed the Mayor that the Courts apply very strictly the six week time limit for challenges against planning permission, even in cases such as this where the misleading nature of the application was only apparent well after (by some ten months or more) the six week period referred to above.
Several petitioners also reported that the PR company representative had informed them that the Museum was leasing a car park from the Council. Council officers have looked into this and the council has no record of a lease to the museum of a car park. If any council-owned land is found to be unlawfully occupied, it is open to the Council to consider taking legal action in the form of possession proceedings. The Council will continue to investigate this matter.
With regards to the request for a public hearing on the application, there is no recourse for the Council to reconsider the original planning application whether in public or otherwise. The outstanding planning applications for retrospective consent in respect of operational (physical) development (rather than use), are due to be considered shortly by the planning department. The department will follow the normal process regarding the determination of planning applications which will only be referred to the Planning Committee if it is considered appropriate to do so.
Finally and most importantly, the Mayor does not feel that this ends the action that can be undertaken with regards to your concerns relating to the Museum. He has written to the Department for Culture Media and Sport to express his concerns, ask for their view and inquire as to whether there is any advice the Department can provide on better regulating this type of Museum. The Mayor is also meeting Mark Palmer-Edgecombe, where he will strongly express residents’ anger and concerns and will report back to you the outcome of the meeting. The Mayor would also be interested in hearing any further ideas you may have on the Museum.
Ellie Kuper Thomas
Becky Warnock started this campaign on the 38 Degrees Campaigns by You website. If there's an issue close to your heart that you'd like to campaign on, you can start your campaign here.
You received this email because you signed the petition 'Celebrate Suffragettes not serial killers'. If you don't want to receive emails from the 'Celebrate Suffragettes not serial killers' campaign in the future, please unsubscribe.