Hampstead campaign launched to fight Royal Free's new £42m research building
PUBLISHED: 10:00 27 November 2014
Plans to build a £42million research centre for the Royal Free in the heart of Hampstead have been criticised by the area's most influential heritage group, with the hospital site described as "grossly overdeveloped".
The Heath and Hampstead Society submitted objections to the seven-storey UCL Institute of Immunity and Transplantation building this week after the planning application was lodged earlier in the month.
The influential body described the proposed immunology centre as “one of the most important buildings to be constructed in Hampstead in recent years”.
It wrote: “We, and many others, would have preferred to see such a large new building sited elsewhere.
“The Royal Free Hospital site has been developed over the 40 plus years of its existence without any coherent master plan, and the site is already grossly overdeveloped and congested.
“It cannot function as efficiently as such a major hospital should, for this reason. However, it exists, whether we like it or not, and this has to be accepted. It also has to be accepted that this Institute building has been planned over some years, and is inextricably bound to the Royal Free. We know that it could not be sited elsewhere at this point.”
Citing concerns over a “scandalous” loss of parking, it called for the building to be redesigned to include more spaces.
The group also slammed the submitted basement impact assessment report, saying it made “little or no reference to subsoil protection for adjoining buildings” – a key concern cited by neighbouring Grade I-listed former church St Stephen’s.
It wrote: “We are naturally concerned about subsoil movement effects on St Stephens Church, which, though 25 metres distant, is founded on Victorian-style brick foundations, and could be affected by vibration, subsoil water drainage, or other disturbances.
“The land slopes down appreciably from St Stephens towards the hospital. The church tower stands closest to the site.
“The area is known for subsoil irregularity, and underground water disturbance; why else is it called Pond Street?
“We call for more work to be done on this; we must be 100% secure on this potentially vital issue.”
The group’s submission comes in the same week as a campaign group to fight the building, The Hampstead Green Neighbourhood Group, was launched.
In response to the claims made by the Heath and Hampstead Society, the Royal Free Trust said: “We are absolutely committed to the integrity of St Stephen’s and to ensuring our works have no impact on this valuable historic building.
“Our design and the lines of the proposed structure all relate to St Stephen’s so it is in our interests to ensure it is completely safe.
“It is our intention to re-provide the same number of parking spaces currently available.
“We are in discussions with Transport for London, Camden Council, local patient groups and staff which must conclude before our plans are finalised.”