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Camden New Journal - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: 26 November 2009
Arrogant ‘nimbyism’ a threat to museum’s position

• I READ with dismay the article recording the Camden Civic Society’s attack on English Heritage over the proposed extension for the British Museum (November 12).
This view particularly represents that of the Bloomsbury Conservation Area Advisory Committee (BCAAC).
Their no doubt well-intentioned but misplaced view of conservation is not representative of everyone in the borough.
Much of Camden’s success as a vibrant community relies on the many world-class institutions that have chosen to locate here: University College Hospital, London University, the Wellcome Foundation and, of course, the British Museum. All have provided modern, fit for purpose and sustainable new buildings that have caught the world’s imagination in turn attracting future global players to the borough. Sadly, all of these buildings at planning stage have been attacked by the local amenity societies as unsuitable.
Perhaps it’s time that we examine the role and composition of these advisory committees.
Their universal departure point of “not in my back yard” is useful in highlighting the more extreme development approaches that inevitably occur in a borough of this size and diversity. But is it their job to foster their own prejudices at the expense of the commercial success of the borough and, in the case of the British Museum extension, its predominant position within the museum community in the world?
English Heritage’s job to provide the necessary controls for projects within conservation areas and listed buildings: it consults conservation architects, engineers and other experts and has an unimpeachable record of success.
Is it right then for BCAAC to both question the probity and competence of English Heritage and to demand a change of architect from one who does not suit their particular retro-vision? Is this not just demonstrating prejudice based on an arrogant belief that the inclusion of any contemporary architecture that is not a pastiche of former style is unacceptable?
I am registering my support for this forward thinking and essential new facility to that great institution of which we all in the borough should be justly proud, the British Museum. Let’s all be less arrogant and narrowly self-serving and respect the developing future of this world-class borough.
Jolyon Drury
Charlotte Street, W1


• DAN Carrier’s article (November 12) reported the strident views of the Camden Civic Society about the British Museum’s proposals for a new extension to face on to Montague Place.
Surely a wider perspective is essential here. More and better facilities are demanded of the British Museum by the public which wants to visit, in high numbers; and by the objects themselves which need conservation, preservation and to be more fully understood.
Historic architecture needs to be properly cared for. But the world is not standing still.
The civic society’s claim that there is under-used accommodation because “the British Library fitted 2,000 staff into space which only 1,000 British Museum staff occupy”, is quite simply daft.
The museum needs to use the Montague Place space for exhibitions, for conservation workshops, for laboratories, for storage. The civic society’s comparison is meaningless. Having at one time been responsible for allocating accommodation within the British Museum, I can assure your readers that there is no whit of justification in the charge.
Christopher Jones
Theydon Bois, Essex


• AS someone who was born near the British Museum and has lived near it for most of my life, I welcome its plans to improve working conditions for its staff and exhibition facilities for its visitors.
Fran Hazelton
The Brunswick Centre, WC1

Send your letters to: The Letters Editor, Camden New Journal, 40 Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to The deadline for letters is midday Tuesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld. Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

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