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UCL’s dementia centre vision for historic hospital

Planners set to rule on major facelift for site in Gray's Inn Road

19 September, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

PLANS for a dementia and neurology research centre in King’s Cross are facing objections over fears it could damage historic buildings.

University College London hope councillors will tonight (Thursday) pass a multimillion-pound project to redevelop the Eastman Dental Hospital in Gray’s Inn Road.

And while the new base for medical science has been welcomed by neighbours and community groups, many are asking why a Victorian landmark cannot be more sensitively redesigned.

The Bloomsbury conservation area advisory committee (BCAAC) will tell councillors on the Town Hall’s planning committee that the designs are too large and unnecessarily affect a historic facade and courtyard.

Chairman Hugh Cullum, who practises as an architect, said: “The BCAAC object strongly to the proposal because of the serious harm it would cause. “It is too big, views from the conservation area are harmed and the loss of the courtyard and the historic inner facades of the former hospital is unnecessary and completely unacceptable.”

Other sticking points for the BCAAC include how much UCL is looking to place on the site.

They added: “Design options are based on the erroneous assumption that the site can accommodate the excessive square footage that the applicant deems necessary for the ‘critical mass’ of the scheme. In fact, all these option studies do is to vividly demonstrate that the site is too limited. As a result, most of the options are not real options at all, just rather fatuous cartoons showing totally unacceptable proposals.” The BCAAC say the new building’s style, with early Victorian stone replaced by glass, is insensitive and a “rather ordinary take on the style of current office developments”.

The trustees of the community garden and open space the Calthorpe Project, based next door, have also expressed concerns over disruption. They have identified a number of issues, including the relocation of a sports pitch that provides vital income to the charity.

The trustees added: “Although Calthorpe Community Garden [CCG] supports the new centre in principle, we object to it in its current form. “There will be around three to four years of absolute disruption in terms of noise, dust, vibration, movement of vehicles, inconvenience to users, and damage to the peaceful environment of the garden.”

They said they had held a number of meetings with UCL to minimise any disruption, and a proposed £700,000 Section 106 grant from UCL was welcomed, adding they hoped the garden in the long term could provide therapeutic services such as gardening and yoga to the dementia research centre.

A UCL spokesman said: “Our planning submission for the Eastman Dental Hospital aims to redevelop its buildings into a state-of-the-art facility and world leading centre for neuroscience and dementia, bringing together clinicians and research teams from different disciplines. This will maximise chances of breakthroughs that lead to treatments and cures, which are currently very limited. The new centre of excellence will reduce the cost of dementia and neurological diseases, estimated at £112billion to the UK economy each year.”

He added: “It will bring clinical care for local people with neurological diseases, 944 full-time jobs, a new public space and events programme, £10m added value to the local economy and contributions to local transport, affordable housing and Community Partnership Plans with local charities and organisations. Over the past year, in preparing this application, we have run a wide-ranging public consultation with local communities and stakeholders. “hrough this process a number of key issues have been raised and significant changes to the scheme have resulted, including reducing the height and changing designs to maximise light to neighbours.”

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