Editorial comment: See the bigger picture over Pears building

Work on the Pears building at the Royal Free Hospital. Picture: LINDA GROVE

Work on the Pears building at the Royal Free Hospital. Picture: LINDA GROVE - Credit: Linda Grove

Before I write this column let me declare an interest. I have in the past been a patient at the excellent Royal Free Hospital and I am increasingly likely, as I reach middle age, to be one again in the future.

I hope that I never need the services of the new immunology and transplant centre that is currently being built in the grounds of the hospital, in Pond Street, but another department perhaps.

My inbox this week has been inundated with emails from angry residents living in the vicinity of the Royal Free with numerous complaints as work gets underway on the new Pears Building which will house the transplant centre.

For those new to these pages, the £42million Pears project was given planning permission in April 2016 in the face of hundreds of local objections and the final 106 agreement over the construction management was finalised in January and work is now underway.

The new institute will specialise in researching treatments for leukaemia, diabetes and cancer.

Among the fiercest opponents is the trust that runs historic St Stephen’s Church adjacent to the site. It fears the building will damage the grade-I listed former church which is now used by the community.

Now the list of complaints as the project gets underway centre on traffic danger and road chaos caused by construction vehicles at a zebra crossing on Ponds Street outside the hospital which they describe as “a health and safety issue and accident waiting to happen.”

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My own journey to and from work takes me along Pond Street past the hospital either aboard the C11 bus or in my Mini if I am running too late.

I can honestly say from this angle I never noticed that building work was going on. There is no extra traffic or construction vehicles. It all looks like business as usual.

But perhaps this is the time I go past, around 8.30am in the morning or after 6pm in the evening. I am also aware that during the school holidays the streets around Hampstead and Belsize are refreshingly quiet.

But there is not doubt that on the other side of the hospital at Hampstead Green it is a different story.

Protesters say the hoarding is ugly and fails to protect them from the pollution dirt and noise they will face for years to come.

One campaigner, Linda Grove, has been writing to the developers and hospital asking for better soundproofing along this stretch and for the Willmott Dixon signs on the hoardings to be taken down.

Linda suggests the fences covered with artwork by local artist Oliver Chan.

Surely the hospital and developers will support this lovely idea, which is of no cost to them but will give pleasure to local people.

Then, as long as there is no threat to anyone’s safety from the construction site, perhaps it is time for us all to realise that the building is going ahead and to see the bigger picture. Although uncomfortable while being built, The Pears Building will benefit us all in the long run.