Tuesday February 16, 2010
By DAN CARRIER
THEY are selling it as a centre of world excellence that will improve the health of millions, provide new jobs and regenerate a wasteland – but the vision of those who want to build a medical research centre in King's Cross faced fierce criticism at a meeting on Wednesday over the scheme.
Directors from the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI) spoke at the meeting, held at St Mary and St Pancras primary school, which is a stone's throw from the three and a half acre Brill Place site earmarked for the project that was used to house construction offices for workers on the Eurosatr project.
Representing the UKMRCI, made up of the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, University College London and Cancer Research, was Nobel prize winner biologist Sir Paul Nurse and the centre's chief executive John Cooper.
The UKMRCI revealed an application is due to go to the Town Hall in May. They say Brill Place is perfect as there are over 30 medical research groups within walking distance, and insist people living near by will benefit from new jobs and a boost to shops and services.
The centre will bring into King's Cross research currently done in Mill Hill and at other sites around London, and will be home to around 1,250 scientists
The centre's chief executive John Cooper said: “The UKCMRI will bring tangible benefits to the area. We have a responsibility to make sure that our investment, which comes from charity donors and taxpayers, is spent wisely.”
Michael Edwards, who is on the Kings Cross Railway Lands Group, said he felt the project was 'incredible' - but was in the wrong part of King's Cross. He said: “There is a powerful case for it to be in or near Bloomsbury and close to the Eurostar and national railway hub. However, it should be on the railway lands and part of the new development in King's Cross. If it was on Argent's site, it would be still be near the station but it would mean Brill Place could be used for social housing. That is even more desperately needed than ever before and it is a mistake to disregard that.”
Objectors say Brill Place, bought by the group for a multi-million pound sum from Whitehall, should be used for what it was originally earmarked for: social housing and open spaces.
Holborn and St Pancras MP Frank Dobson said the National Temperance Hospital, currently lying empty in Hampstead Road and owned by the UKMRIC, should be used as a lever to get new housing.
He said: “The Town Hall's planning committee should not countenance giving permission unless they hand over the Temperance Hospital for social housing.”
Somers Town Labour councillor Roger Robinson said Brill Place was not the best site. He said: “There are other places the centre could go, and we need it desperately for housing. If they came up with a scheme for new housing at the National Temperance Hospital, which they also own and is currently empty, then we would look at that – but as it stands, there is no space for new homes in Camden and we have a massive shortage of affordable housing which must be tackled.”