Row heats up over Royal Free’s £42m expansion plans in Hampstead
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
Plans to build a £42million research centre for the Royal Free in the heart of Hampstead have been received with anger by neighbouring residents with the hospital accused of “keeping the community in the dark”.
A planning application for a seven-storey building accommodating 200 researchers and a two-storey patient hotel was submitted to Camden Council for approval last week following public displays of the designs and a community meeting.
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 proposed site is adjacent to Grade-I listed former church St Stephen’s, now a venue for events, concerts and weddings, and a school.
On Tuesday, concerned residents gathered at St Stephen’s to hear about the plans from bosses at the Royal Free.
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Michael Taylor, responsible for St Stephen’s, accused the hospital of leaving him in the dark about parts of the plans, saying he was “extremely concerned” over the impact construction will have on St Stephen’s foundations.
He said: “I’m very concerned about the safety of my building and I think this is the wrong site for a building of this size.
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“I would remind the community this is a Grade I-listed building, it’s not something to be taken lightly.
“If this development happens this building will suffer and so will the school.”
Andrea Taylor, headteacher of Hampstead Hill School next door to St Stephen’s, was also said to be “extremely concerned” about the noise impact to her pupils.
Royal Free bosses insisted the building had to be sited in Hampstead “for clinical reasons”, and that the impact of construction would be mitigated fully.
A spokesman from the Royal Free said: “The Royal Free Charity and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust have engaged and are continuing to engage with local residents in relation to the construction of the Pears Building, which will be home to the Institute of Immunity and Transplantation.
“We welcome all feedback on the plans for the new building.
“The architects and the developers have made, and will continue to make, every effort to ensure there is no damage done to adjacent buildings during the construction of the Pears Building.
“The new building, which will be on the Royal Free Hospital site, places researchers, clinicians and patients together, which gives more of our patients access to the latest treatments and means new medical treatments can be developed more easily.”
But residents said car parking pressures, loss of green space and the bulk of the building meant Hampstead was “the wrong location”.
One resident at the meeting, who did not wish to be named, said: “This is planning creep. I’m very concerned about the ever-increasing capacity and use of the Royal Free site.
“If this was a commercial site there would be not a cat in hell’s chance of it getting approved.”
Another resident added: “We have no way of knowing what the Royal Free will look like in five to 10 years time.
“This development will not be the last for the hospital.”
The meeting ended with residents committed to starting a campaign against the construction of the building.