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Camden New Journal - by PAUL KEILTHY
Published: 6 March 2008
Whitehall’s lab plan under fire

Protesters call for assurances over social housing in library site planning bid

RESIDENTS last night lobbied the Town Hall amid rumours that the council’s top brass held secret meetings with the backers of a £500 million super-lab in Somers Town (Wednesday).
After a demonstration on the Town Hall’s steps, Somers Town residents who have campaigned for months for council housing to be built on vacant land behind the British Library challenged the council’s leadership over their record in defying the government’s plans for a medical research centre on the site.
“What is the point of having a planning brief if it is ignored?” demanded main speaker Candy Udwin. “We would like to ask whether it has been made clear to them that this is unacceptable? We do blame the government but we want to make sure that something happens before it is too late.”
Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced in December that a consortium led by the Medical Research Council (MRC) would buy the 3.6-acre site, known as Brill Place, and build a “world-leading research facility” for some of Britain’s leading scientists.
But the MRC told the New Journal last August that it had no intention to build any houses on the site, as demanded in the council’s planning guidance.
Last week, the New Journal revealed that the MRC plans to sell the National Temperance Hospital in Hampstead Road, which it bought in an aborted first attempt to establish its super-lab, quashing protesters’ hopes that some houses might be built there in compensation.
Ms Udwin said: “They also own the National Temperance Hospital, and they are proposing no housing and no community facilities there either.
“We’re not against medical research, but [the lab] will be like a fortress. How can there be any benefit to our community?”
Although environment chief Councillor Mike Greene repeated his assurances that any proposals that did not include housing would fail to receive planning permission, council leader Keith Moffitt turned the question of permission for the site on central government.
He said: “It may be that the council does not have the final say. There’s the possibility that the mayor or the secretary of state could intervene.
“Our aspiration to maximise affordable housing in Camden is something that we have common ground on.”
He confirmed that he and other senior councillors had met the consortium but would not be drawn on whether refusal of planning permission had been threatened.

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