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Finsbury Health Centre in £2M critical care plea

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Lubetkin and Tecton's 1938 Modernist landmark, Finsbury Health Centre, is under threat after it emerged that Camden and Islington NHS Trust which runs it, is struggling to find the £2 million needed for vital maintenance.

The curtain walling and tiling on the Grade I-listed building in Clerkenwell, London is in need of repair and a lift is required to improve access for patients of the two surgeries and other specialist health facilities in the building. Four years ago, the NHS financed a £400,000 refurbishment programme overseen by Avanti Architects, but changes to the funding of primary healthcare now mean that competing demands look set to curtail the repair programme.

Doctors at the medical practice and case workers at English Heritage are growing increasingly concerned that the 1938 building will have to be sold off to a private owner after more than 60 years continuous use as a public health centre.

'It was hoped that the programme of repairs would continue, but now it seems that demands on resources are much greater in other areas, ' said historical buildings architect at EH, Donald Wahlberg. Funding worth £50,000 was offered by EH last year to help repair the curtain walling but this does not come close to the £900,000 which is needed for the external repairs alone.

One lottery application for funds to repair the building failed because the health authority could not advance the money to match the application and now Camden and Islington NHS Trust is looking for funds from the central NHS budget. It has already considered a number of alternative options including disposal of the building, according to estates official, Helen Elkington. 'We weren't considered a priority across the greater London area, ' she said. 'The problem we have is a battle between the health need and the building's architectural status.'

The cash shortfall has raised fears that the health centre will follow the destiny of the Modernist De La Warr pavilion in Bexhill on Sea which is currently being sold off to pub operator J D Wetherspoon. Iain Borden, a patient at the health centre and tutor at the Bartlett School of Architecture, said: 'What worries me is whether it will be used for a health or community purpose.

The whole point was that it was designed to fit with a political ideology and it was influential in promoting architecture as having a leftist and radical agenda. All previous Modernist buildings were villas in places like Hampstead.'

Avanti Architects partner John Allan said that the building is perfectly suitable for use as a modern health centre.

'It seems scandalous that there is no funding available to secure its future. If £29 million can be found to shore up the Dome, £2 million should be easy, ' he said. 'The physical fabric of the building is in desperate need of repair and conservation.'

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