Charles III actor Tim Pigott-Smith wades into Royal Free Hospital planning row

Actor Tim Pigott-Smith is objecting to the Royal Free Hospital's plans to build a new research insti

Actor Tim Pigott-Smith is objecting to the Royal Free Hospital's plans to build a new research institute in Hampstead - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Actor Tim Pigott-Smith has added his voice to the growing protest against controversial plans by the Royal Free Hospital to build a £42million seven-storey research centre on its “congested” Hampstead site.

Speakers at the meeting (from left), David Kitchen, chair of SEGA, Michael Taylor, chair of St Steph

Speakers at the meeting (from left), David Kitchen, chair of SEGA, Michael Taylor, chair of St Stephen's Trust, Jeffrey Gold, Hampstead Green Neighbourhood Group (HGNG) committee member, Jessica Learmond Criqui, who chaired the meeting, Peter Davey of HGNG, and David Kemp planning consultant for HGNG. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

A statement from Mr Pigott-Smith was read out at a meeting at St Stephen’s in Hampstead’s Rosslyn Hill on January 28, attended by around 50 conservationists, neighbourhood group representatives and local residents.

In it, the actor, who lives near the hospital, said: “The unseemly speed with which the Royal Free extension is being rushed through is disturbing.

‘‘This is a massive development that would radically affect the area, depriving us of a designated green space, creating an enormous building almost as unattractive as the present hospital.”

The hospital applied to Camden Council for planning permission to build the imposing centre, to be named the Pears Building, over an existing car park and memorial garden last November.

It will house a world-leading immunology and transplant centre and patient hotel.

Mr Pigott-Smith, unable to attend as he was performing in Charles III at Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End, had asked for his statement to be read out.

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He said the development would “bring into a congested corner of Hampstead, already at bursting point, huge extra numbers of cars, further exacerbated by the planned expansion of the A&E department”.

He also attacked Camden Council, saying it “appears to be ignoring voices raised in protest in order to force through issues which trouble many of us”.

Others criticised the Royal Free for failing to show its face at the meeting.

Speaking afterwards, Peter Davey, from the Hampstead Green Neighbourhood Group, said: “We feel they are not interested in listening to anything we have to say.

“They had two weeks to find someone to come along to the meeting to hear our concerns and share information.

“It is hard to believe with all the consultants working on this project, they were unable to find anyone.

“In general terms we feel there has been a lack of consultation the whole way along.

‘‘They are pushing on regardless and have made it clear to us it is too late and they are not going to alter their plans.”

He added the group was “very supportive” of the immunology centre but “feel it is the wrong location”.

Concerns were also voiced about potential structural damage the scheme could cause to the Grade I-listed St Stephen’s next door, which recently underwent a £6million restoration.

Others said it would overshadow the neighbouring Hampstead Hill School, destroy the views, deprive light from homes nearby and squander patient parking spaces.

A Royal Free spokeswoman said: “We are committed to working with our neighbours and local community to keep them informed of and engaged in our plans.

“We have met more than 300 people at 60 meetings to understand the views of our different stakeholders and have made changes to our plans as a result.

“We received six working days’ notice for this meeting and were unable to attend.”