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Lubetkin sale agreed: Finsbury Health Centre's future in doubt

Islington Primary Care Trust (PCT) has agreed to sell off Berthold Lubetkin’s Grade I-listed Finsbury Health Centre in North London – ending 70 years of healthcare at the centre.

The decision to put the building on the market and move all services to other parts of the borough was made earlier today (29 January) by the PCT board, despite last-minute pleas from leading architects John Allan of Avanti Architects and John Cooper of Architects for Health.

The news follows longstanding concerns over the deterioration of the 1938 modernist gem (AJ 16.11.06) and leaves the future of the building hanging in the balance.

The PCT claimed the building would cost £9.8 million to refurbish, need £400,000 a year to maintain and was unsuitable for wheelchair use. It also said that the outcome of a three-month-long consultation agreed with the relocation proposals.

The plans provoked widespread anger. Allan, whose practice carried out a partial revamp of the building in 1994, said moving medical services out of the revolutionary building, which opened 10 years before the NHS was founded in 1948, was a mistake.

He said: ‘[This] building remains entirely capable of restoration and upgrade... Its layout, form and historical ethos all embody the ideals of public service and this, coupled with undiminished local need, all point to the retention of this building in the use for which it was designed.’

Allan added: ‘If the necessary funds are not currently available then more determined efforts are needed.’

Before the meeting, the Save Finsbury Health Centre campaign group had raised doubts about the consultation and is now planning to launch judicial review proceedings against the PCT.

Meanwhile other sources close to the project questioned the PCT’s refurbishment figures.

An insider told the AJ: ‘The government’s PFI model for new group medical practices is driving the agenda and the NHS has limited elbow room if it wants to update its facilities.

‘I am not entirely convinced that repairs had been kept up to date over a period of time by the PCT, [nor] that real effort had been made by the PCT and its PFI partners to find a solution which retains a community health use at the centre.’

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