Press release: SPA response to the Science and Technology Select Committee report on the UKCMRI (UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation)
SPA (St Pancras and Somers Town Planning Action) has warmly welcomed the report of the Science and Technology Select Committee report on the UKCMRI, released today.
Natalie Bennett, the chair of SPA, which represents residents in the ward in which the UKCMRI is planned, noted that there were two key points on which the MPs agreed with her organisation:
1. That no convincing case had been made for any need the proposed medical research laboratory to be located at the Brill Place site beside St Pancras
2. That there is a “strong case” – we would say it is essential – that “the housing intended for the St Pancras site [be replaced with] housing at the National Temperance Hospital site”.
Natalie pointed to the words of the committee: “We remain unconvinced that, in these financially stringent times, the high cost of building the UKCMRI in central London outweighs the benefits of these links.” (p. 55, 167)
She said: “We call on George Osborne to reconsider the government funding of £220m being given to the project, out of its total cost of £660m. As the committee said, the costs of this project are being hugely boosted by the central London location, and the committee was not at all convinced by the claim that this was the best, or even a suitable, site for the structure, noting in particular the lack of capacity to expand. Certainly money has been spent on planning and a little preliminary ground work, but it is quite possible that choosing a cheaper site – for example the existing National Institute for Medical Research site at Mill Hill – would more than make up for the money spent thus far.”
Natalie added that the MPs were sceptical, as were members of SPA after looking into the issue, of the claim that, to quote the committee “face to face collaborations are as important and or likely as they have been described to us” [by the consortium], which had been given as justification for the choice of site. Natalie said: “As I said to the committee, in the age of Skype, of videoconferencing, and other international ‘virtual’ interactions, this looks like a 20th-century project being built in the 21st century.”
Regarding the fate of the National Temperance Hospital site, Natalie said: “The MPs have clearly shown their sympathy for the loss of the community of St Pancras and Somers Town of the Brill Place land, and an understanding of the financial and social disadvantages suffered by many residents.” (The MPs said: It is “imperative that the UKCMRI contributes directly to relieving some
of the problems of its residential neighbours.”)
She added: “The UKCMRI have consistently said that they plan to sell the National Temperance Hospital site – bought some years ago for a failed similar plan – to the highest bidder. It is imperative that Camden council make it clear to them that the site should only be used for housing – and ideally for council housing, but certainly for social housing that will do something to tackle the extremely unhealthy overcrowding in this ward, and other poorer parts of Camden, which now has a waiting list for council housing of some 18,000 households.”
Concluding, Natalie said that the MPs had referred to the proposed “living centre” on the side of the UKCMRI as an important part of its community contribution. Natalie said: “We remain gravely concerned, at a time when local community centres and other community cutbacks face savage cutbacks in the funding for their programmes, about whether this centre will be able to add to services for local residents, or simply result in the movement of services around the community, putting the survival of existing facilities further at risk. The UKCMRI is promising core funding, but the question is where the money for actual services, classes etc will be found.”
A good result in the past week for the campaign against the UKCMRI “superlab”. There was an excellent turnout for the protest on Wednesday, despite less than ideal weather (we were definitely damper – this pic was taken in the drier stage).
And we had a letter published in a very prominent spot in the Guardian on Monday.
Rally Against the Lab!
As cuts bite deeper, the truth gets clearer:
SUPERLAB = super WASTE + high RISK
The United Kingdom Centre for Medical Research and I nnovation will cost £660 million- £220 million from government
and take 6 years before research begins.
THE MONEY SHOULD BE SPENT ON SCIENCE AND EDUCATION NOW!
Why move research from the world-famous Medical Research Centre on 46 acres at Mill Hill (with a level 4 virus capacity) to the 3.6 acres at St Pancras where it can do less work (Level 3 plus) with no room for expansion??? I t will risk terrorist attacks, disruption from demonstrations, and a possible spillage that could infect the local population and spread to Europe.
Meet at 6pm Wednesday May 18 in Purchese Street Open Space (corner of Midland Road and Brill Place NW1).
Help us spread awareness of this reckless, wasteful project
SPA (St Pancras and Somers Town Planning Action) 020 7387 4942
Join COALITION AGAINST THE LAB!
Ode to the Superlab
(after Beethoven’ s Ode to Joy)
Europe’ s biggest biolab beside St Pancras Rail Station
promises to cure us all and not to spread infec-ti-on
although pipes leaked badly at Pirbright and from reactors in Japan
and the pessimists all say that things will go wrong if they can.
If all goes according to plan the health of the world will be enhanced
but if virus hits the tunnels you can take the flu to France.
Cost: six hunded sixty million, gov’ ment pays a third of this
cut from health and education, child and age amenities
We’ re told this cathedral of science will perform miracles of health
on all who live in Somers Town, United Kingdom and the world.
Many years will pass ere there’ s any profit to show from this expense,
the chance of leaks or terrorists make it most unintelligent.
UKCMRI say this site is vital for their needs,
colleagues can walk eas’ ly there from Euston and from Bloomsbury
and it’ s such a handy address for overseas scientists to frequent
PhDs will vie to work there and pay inner London rents.
Fifteen hundred in the same lab give critical mass to speed research
e-mails and phone conf’ rences are methods of which they’ ve not heard.
Somers Town says keep research on fifty acres at Mill Hill
with its many sciences and links with clinics round the world
Don’ t despoil the three point six acres promised to our community
till we are entombed by your fantastical monstrosity.
Higher than the top of St Pancras, foundations in the River Fleet
only equalled in dimension by your arrogance and cheek.
Three representatives of SPA, Natalie Bennett, Rob Inglis and Frankie Biney on Wednesday, 9 February, testified to the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology inquiry on the planned UKCMRI medical research laboratory.
Natalie said: “It was pleasing and reassuring that the members of the committee had clearly seen for themselves based on the written evidence before them the many flaws of this plan.
“They were particularly interested in the limits of the site – the fact that it has no space for expansion, and were concerned that only a limited number of the institutions that might potentially be involved had been enlisted. MPs asked about other cancer charities and research institutions joining in the scheme – and where they might fit.
“The MPs were also clearly interested when we spoke about the many disadvantages that this area suffers, and how this is the last land available to mitigate problems including lack of housing, open space and community facilities.”
Natalie added: “They were also clearly surprised by the figures – generated by local resident John Mason – about the uses to which the total floorspace is being put: that operational plant and circulation takes up 57.5% of the total floor space (24,303 sq metres), laboratories 41.9% (35,168 sq metres) and other uses 5.6% (most the public parts). It is clear that this is an industrial building being plonked down in the centre of London.
“We pointed to the warning from a council officer at the development control committee hearing that there would be ‘smells’ – just ideal for greeting passengers off the Eurostar.
“And to the fact that dealing with dangerous viruses such as flu within – literally, spitting distance of one of the major transport hubs of Europe entirely ignored the precautionary principle.”
A video of the hearing can be seen here.
Submissions made to the inquiry, including on by Camden Green Party, can be read here.
The committee is still taking submissions, and there will be a second hearing with Sir Paul Nurse, Chief Executive and Director, UKCMRI Ltd, Sir David Cooksey, Chairman, UKCMRI Ltd and John Cooper, Chief Operating Officer, UKCMRI Ltd, on Wednesday 16th February in Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, from 9.15am.
SPA will be giving evidence next Wednesday, February 9, before the Select Committee, at 10.15am (with the consortium having given evidence at the same hearing from 9.15am) in the Thatcher Room in Portcullis House.
The Evening Standard has an important report on the proposed Brill Place UKCMRI superlab.
Residents living close to the centre are calling for an inquiry into the £600 million project after Cabinet Office emails, seen by the Standard, revealed that the previous government was keen to “make it happen” before the tendering process had closed.
They also claim Camden council failed to inform residents fully of the severity of the diseases to be tested at the 3.6 acre site and is stonewalling their questions. More…