Camden Council accused of ‘whitewash’ over £42m Royal Free research building

Jeff Gold,Michael Taylor and Chris Fagg who have argued the Royal Free/UCL Pears Buildi

Campaigners Jeff Gold,Michael Taylor and Chris Fagg who have argued the Royal Free/UCL Pears Building should be sited elsewhere. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

A series of council blunders could see plans to build a world class medical centre in the heart of Hampstead dragged through the High Court.

What the new Royal Free building would look like

What the new Royal Free building would look like - Credit: Archant

The seven-storey Pears Building, to be built at the site of a car park on the edge of Hampstead Green, was granted planning permission by Camden Council in February.

Several heritage groups and some 300 residents had objected to the £42million building due to its impact on a neighbouring conservation area, Hampstead Hill School and Grade I-listed former church St Stephen’s.

But objectors were left furious last week after not being told the project would be hauled back before the council’s planning committee again today.

The move was prompted by a letter sent to the council by objectors the Hampstead Green Neighbourhood Group (HGNG). Its solicitors said the council had not properly considered the project’s impact on the area’s heritage – and the council’s own lawyers agreed.

Jeff Gold, of the HGNG, said: “We are very angry we were not informed, especially as it was our letter prompting the decision.

“The council now won’t even let us speak at Thursday’s meeting to relay our concerns.

“This whole affair has been a whitewash. We’ve suffered a real David versus Goliath battle with the council, who seem to want to slip this application through without proper consideration on its impact.

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“It’s part of a systematic problem here.”

Michael Taylor, chairman of St Stephen’s Trust, added: “I am absolutely furious we weren’t informed.

“You expect these kinds of things from developers but not from a local authority. It’s undemocratic.”

The HGNG, who claim even the revised report is “flawed”, said that should planning permission be granted again, it will look to challenge the council’s decision in the High Court.

The council apologised for its lapse in communication to the group, blaming an “administrative error”.

A spokesman from the Royal Free said: “The new building will bring huge benefits to patients, including providing on site accommodation for out-patients who live far from the hospital. Research being carried out at the IIT will bring benefits to patients across the world as new treatments for cancers and immune-related conditions are developed.”