Camden council’s planning committee last Thursday night voted 8-4 with one abstention to approve the planning application for the UKCMRI ‘superlab’ in St Pancras and Somers Town, despite the strong opposition from local residents, as expressed by a delegation of representatives and the strong support they received from the public gallery.
The councillors who voted against were Cllr Sanders, Cllr Birch, Cllr Braithwaite and Cllr Leyland, and Cllr Rea abstained.
Other councillors expressed grave reservations about the plan, but seemed to have been swayed by the fear of the decision being taken instead by the mayor of London and consequent loss of the negotiated Section 106 agreements.
The highly respected science journal Nature has reported the decision, in tones of considerable surprise, and the tone of its report indicates less than glowing support within the scientific community for the plan.
This is not, however, the end – the plan now goes to Boris Johnson and the Department of Communities and Local Government, and the House Select Committtee on Science and Technology has opened an inquiry into it.
Camden council’s development committee will be meeting at the Town Hall (in Judd Street, just off Euston Road) to consider the application to build the UKCMRI lab on the land behind the British Library on Thursday, December 16, starting at 7pm.
SPA, representing local residents, will be holding a PROTEST starting at 6pm on the town hall steps to demonstrate the strong local (and general) opposition to the plan.
St Pancras and Somers Town Planning Action (SPA) opposes the plan because:
* the land is zoned for 50% housing and yet none is being provided
* the building is far too large and bulky for the site and will block the light of many residents
* there are grave safety concerns about dangerous viruses being handled right at a central transport hub
Show your opposition by coming to the protest, and if you can stay to listen to the hearing. From 6pm – bring a sign or placard if you can, or just yourself!
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
The Evening Standard yesterday reported on the security concerns around the UKCMRI.
Terms of reference:
The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has announced an inquiry into the proposed UKCMRI medical lab in Somers Town. Submissions close on January 12.
It explains its intentions as follows…
1. Review the progress on the UKCMRI since 2008 and assess the plans for the coming years.
2. What do the four partners hope to achieve from the project and what new technologies and innovations are being considered?
3. Is the financing of the UKCMRI robust and justified, with particular reference to the public support for the project and the knock-on effect on budgets for other research?
4. What are the risk assessment arrangements to ensure the safety of the site?
5. What are the arrangements for the closure of the existing National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill?
If you live in Camden you can show your opposition to the UKCMRI by putting up a window poster – councillors on the development control forum are sure to see them if we get plenty around.
Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call 07967-417859 and we can get a lovely bright one to you, or you can simply print out your own from the attached file.
Also below is the petition – if you could print out a copy and collect signatures from neighbours or workmates, please go ahead…
Or you can sign the petition online – and ask others to do likewise.
You can find our petition against the UKCMRI online here.