Tooting MP Sadiq Khan has given his backing to the local campaign to fight plans to demolish parts of a historic landmark, the Defoe Chapel on Tooting High Street.
The Defoe Chapel first opened in 1766 and is considered to be one of the oldest buildings in Tooting. It has become legend that the building gained its name because the Robinson Crusoe author, Daniel Defoe, was instrumental in the founding of the church. It has since been used as a place of worship for more than 140 years.
The Chapel is now used as commercial premises, however the current planning application proposes to demolish significant parts of the Chapel and to dramatically change its appearance.
Local residents, church leaders and members and the Tooting History Group have objected to the plans, fighting to protect what they believe to be an important part of Tooting’s history.
Sadiq Khan MP has also objected to the planning application and has urged Wandsworth Council to provide more protection to the Chapel, by adding it to their ‘Local List’.
This is part of the MP’s wider campaign to ‘Save Our High Street’, which has included campaigns to save The Wheatsheaf pub in Tooting Bec from developers, objecting to the number of betting shops on our high street, and calling on Wandsworth Council to protect Tooting’s heritage.
Sadiq Khan MP said:
“The Defoe Chapel is without doubt part of Tooting’s history, and it is clear that our local community want to see it protected. Now it is up to Wandsworth Council to show that it is listening and are committed to protecting our history for future generations.
“Over recent months I have been campaigning with local residents to Save Our High Street; from over-development, from the over-saturation of betting shops and to protect our heritage. This application is the latest stage of the campaign. Here in Tooting we are incredibly lucky to be surrounded by so many beautiful buildings and monuments and it is extremely important that the Council is on the side of the community, and works with us to protect them.”
Revd Helen Matthews, Tooting United Reformed Church, said:
"The Defoe Chapel is an important part of our history as a church, and of the story of Tooting itself. If it is destroyed, we will all lose something that cannot be brought back.
“Our church would love to see the old chapel restored so that Tooting could celebrate its fascinating link with a vitally significant piece of history. We would be devastated to see it disappear."
Libby Lawson, Tooting History Group, said:
“We are extremely disappointed by plans which propose demolition of much of the building and insensitive additions compromising the integrity of the original and the whole scheme. There are few buildings as old in Tooting but the significance of 19 Tooting High Street goes beyond age and architectural features and contributes to a sense of our history and place.
“We believe the council should decline the applications and urge a design more in keeping, where recognition of the value of and respect for the chapel building is understood and demonstrated.”