Camden News - by PAUL KEILTHY Published: 31 July 2008
Superlab developers slammed
THE Medical Research Council (MRC) has been accused of acting “like property speculators” after blocking plans to turn a derelict hospital site into social housing. The MRC, which owns the National Temperance Hospital in Hampstead Road, Euston, has reacted angrily to suggestions from council planners that the site is suitable to be turned into new homes.
As a planning brief for land around Euston station was discussed by senior councillors at a meeting last Wednesday, the MRC said it wants to “keep its options open”.
Campaigners hoped the hospital would be given over to housing in compensation for the MRC’s decision to break previous council plans for homes on the 3.6-acre Brill Place site in Somers Town, where it plans to build a £500million “superlab” researching cancer and infectious diseases.
Describing the council’s newly unveiled plans for the Euston area as “unsound” and “dangerous”, the MRC’s property chief Keith Tucker said in a letter to the Town Hall that the process would produce planning guidance that was “undermined, its legality questioned and little or no weight would be given to it by developers”.
Mr Tucker added: “If our plans for the UKCMRI [UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation] at Brill Place are not successful then the National Temperance Hospital site will be used for that purpose; either as a refurbishment or redevelopment.”
In documents disclosed at last week’s meeting of the ruling cabinet to discuss the Euston planning brief, a quickfire response by the council’s planners was revealed, dismissing Mr Tucker’s criticisms and reminding him that the brief was open to consultation.
Housing campaigner Candy Udwin said: “There have to be questions over why the MRC appears to be one of the largest property speculators in the area. Medical research is obviously very important but the MRC now owns quite a lot of vacant land in the area. Some of it should be used for housing.”
Regent’s Park councillor Theo Blackwell said: “The MRC are being very naïve about how they’re approaching this – they seem to be acting like property developers rather than a public body.”
On Tuesday, an MRC spokeswoman said: “The MRC has not yet made a final decision on use of the National Temperance Hospital site, in the meantime the MRC wishes to keep its options open.”