Open letter to Frank Dobson MP
An edited version of the letter below. (full version attached)
Dear Frank Dobson
SPA (St Pancras and Somers Town Planning Action) note from your correspondence with two of our members that you are not opposed in principle to the siting of UKCMRI medical lab in Brill Place, Somers Town.
We are opposed to the siting of UKCMRI at Brill Place for many reasons. An overriding one is safety. UKCMRI would be the biggest biomedical centre in Europe, researching ‘killer diseases’ right beside Europe’s biggest train terminal at St Pancras. A leak of infectious material into adjacent railway tunnels or St Pancras Station or densely populated nearby estates cannot be ruled out, as is proved by the Pirbright disaster.
UKCMRI could also be a target for terrorists. Damage could also be inflicted by animal rights protesters.
UKCMRI claim they need the Brill Place site firstly for convenient accessibility. So they intend to vacate the Medical Research Centre at Mill Hill on a site of 47 acres and move to the St Pancras site of 3.6 acres. MRC Mill Hill is easily accessible by Tube from central London.
UKCMRI also claim that the quality of their translational science will be enhanced by housing 1500 scientists and staff in the single building. We dispute that this is necessary in an era of electronic communication and have asked UKCMRI to provide a peer reviewed statement to support their claim, but they have not responded.
Somers Town should be forced to undergo years of noisy, dusty excavation and construction, for scientific activities that could be done (as now) in other locations. Not only will this monstrosity dwarf St Pancras Station and the British Library. It will swallow precious land zoned for housing and block the sun from Ossulston Street Estates. Endless convoys of heavy goods vehicles will lumber like an invading force. And this is to enhance the health of Somers Town residents?
You state ‘it is a better use of the site than some commercial development which would be the alternative’ and ‘I have got the agreement of the laboratory incorporating a state of the art medical centre for local people.’ (Actually what is being offered is a small community space of uncertain use.) SPA deny that these are adequate reasons for the despoliation that UKCMRI construction will bring, and the dangers after it is completed.
£220 millions of government funding would be tied up in the construction of UKCMRI, which will take several years to complete before any scientific research can be conducted in it. The British Library took 15 years to complete, the cost and time overruns exacerbated by flooding from the water table into which UKCMRI will descend for the equivalent of five floors. What of its time and cost overruns?
We urge that you remain vitally concerned with this question, even if Camden Council, particularly in their straitened financial circumstances, should decide in favour of the project, because as our MP you surely have a duty of care for the safety of Somers Town, of London and of visitors to London.
Chair, St Pancras and Somers Town Planning Action