Concerns grow as Royal Free unveils plans for new £42m building in heart of Hampstead
PUBLISHED: 13:00 03 July 2014
Plans by the Royal Free to erect a five-storey medical research centre in the heart of Hampstead have raised major concerns that the hospital is “surrounding the area” with its buildings.
Designs for the new £42million building by Hopkins Architects went on show to the public on Friday, revealing a centre that will accommodate 200 researchers and a two-storey patient hotel.
Hospital chiefs say the new building – which will house the UCL Institute of Immunity and Transplantation – will become Europe’s leading research hub in immunology, infection and transplantation, “transforming the lives of patients locally, nationally and globally”.
But the site is adjacent to Grade-I listed former church St Stephen’s, now a venue for events, concerts and weddings, and Hampstead Green and neighbouring community groups have reservations about the planned building’s visual impact and the loss of green space.
Anger during the construction of the hospital in the 1970s and the “visual scarring” said to have been left behind is still remembered by many residents.
One woman who threatened to stage a sit-in during the ’70s construction was Andrea Taylor, now headteacher of Hampstead Hill School, the proposed new building’s closest neighbour.
“At first I tried to be neutral about these proposals but then I remembered the years of trouble we faced because of the Royal Free,” she said.
“When the hospital was first built it caused significant damage to St Stephen’s Church and we had to pay for it out of our own pocket.
“So we’re very concerned about the structural impact. But there’s obviously also the noise and disruption that will come with construction.”
David Kitchen, of the South End Green Association, said the Royal Free had become “an ongoing saga” for his group. “It’s the visual impact that really worries us,” he added. “And that’s something the Royal Free has never seemed to care about.
“Just look at the view you get of the hospital when on the Heath. It’s a complete eyesore. And now there’ll be another building.
“We hope this time the hospital gets its act together and consults properly with the people of Hampstead, listening seriously to their concerns.”
While not opposed to the “very noble” idea of the new research centre, The Heath and Hampstead Society said it remains concerned about the loss of parking and the disappearance of the “valuable green space” on top of the car park, where the building is proposed.
The Royal Free hopes to receive planning permission from Camden Council later this year, with the building earmarked for completion in early 2017.
Prof Hans Stauss, head of the Institute of Immunology and Transplantation, insisted the plans would benefit Hampstead residents. “Medically speaking, this will put Hampstead on the map,” he told the Ham&High. “A new centre is needed if we want to create the world-class institute we’ve envisioned.
“And further down the line I think we’ll see patients from all over Europe travelling to Hampstead to receive treatments developed by the new centre.
“When I’ve talked to people in Hampstead they seem really excited by the research we’re doing – they may have the type of cancer we’re developing groundbreaking treatments for, or the immunodeficiency we’re resear- ching, so it really will benefit the local community.
“They’ll have access to treatments they won’t be able to get anywhere else. It’s a very exciting time.”