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Mayor backs PLP-HOK Camden super-lab

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PLP and HOK’s controversial £520 million UKCMRI project in Camden, north London, has been rubberstamped by London Mayor Boris Johnson

The medical research facility, which is expected to open in 2015, will be staffed by up to 1,500 people including 1,250 scientists and sit on a 1.5 hectare site behind the British Library.

In a letter to Camden Council today (14 January), the Mayor confirmed he was content to sign off approval on the proposal which was previously granted by the local authority on 17 December 2010.

Johnson said: ‘This visionary new centre will become a beacon of excellence in the fight against fatal diseases, making a real difference to the treatment of patients.

‘What is more, top class scientists from around the globe will be looking to London as a global centre for medical research, attracting the brightest and best scientific minds to the capital.’


Imperial College London and King’s College London are set to join the partners behind the world-leading medical research institute: the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI). Imperial and King’s have each signed a Memorandum of Understanding expressing their intent to join the existing partners which include four of the world’s leading medical research organisations: the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and UCL (University College London). Imperial and King’s would each contribute £40 million to the development of the new institute to match the contribution from the founding academic partner UCL.

Previous story (17.12.10)

PLP-HOK Camden super-lab lands planning

PLP and HOK’s controversial £520 million UKCMRI project in Camden, north London, has won planning permission

Camden Council’s planning committee last night (17 December) voted by eight to four to approve the project which will sit on a 1.5 hectare site behind the British Library and close to the William Henry Barlow-designed St Pancras train shed.

Expected to open in 2015, the medical research facility will be staffed by up to 1,500 people including 1,250 scientists.

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK chief executive, said: ‘The councillors have brought this institute significantly closer to reality. It will bring benefits to health and be a national resource for the training and development of scientists. It will engage the public in its work and will provide educational benefits to schools locally and nationally.’

David Cooksey, UKCMRI chairman, added: ‘UKCMRI will harness the talent and potential of doctors, nurses, biologists, mathematicians, physicists, chemists, computer scientists and engineers to understand the underlying causes of disease. 

‘This will accelerate our ability to treat disease – bringing benefits to patients through the NHS and to the economy by developing a sector in which the UK already excels.’

Local residents and members of the St Pancras and Somers Town Planning Action (SPA) opposed the project, demanding the site be used for housing and social purposes.

Prior to planning consent, Natalie Bennett, SPA chair, said: ‘[The] proposed structure is grossly overbulky, fails to meet planners’ demand for site permeability, and is effectively an industrial building plonked down in a central London residential area.’

In April this year PLP was brought in to work ‘in collaboration’ with HOK on the project. The practices ‘sexed up’ designs were unveiled in late June. The project landed CABE’s backing early last month.

A £10 million programme of ‘community benefits’ including improvements to local housing stock and a new district heating system was also approved.


Postscript, the architects’ comment


Fred Pilbrow, partner at PLP Architecture


We are delighted to have received Camden’s approval for the United Kingdom Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI) at last night’s planningcommittee.  The project, described by Sir Paul Nurse as  being ‘probably the most important project for biomedical research for a generation’ will deliversignificant health and economic  benefits to the local community, London and the UK.

We are particularly pleased that the architectural approach developed collaboratively with HOK and PLP Architecture has been recognised as providing anexemplary response to a complex brief and a challenging site.  Camden, the GLA and CABE have eachendorsed the designand recognised the significantcontribution UKCMRI will make to the quality of the public realm.


Andrew Barraclough, director at HOK


We are delighted that Camden Town Council has approved the plans for UKCMRI. It is without doubt one of the most ambitious and important biomedical research projects to be undertaken in recent history and HOK London is thrilled to be involved in the development from the outset. Not only will UKCMRI help showcase the depth of British science and research talent - thereby creating a dynamic environment for scientific collaboration and integration - it will also boost the redevelopment of the local area and, thanks to the design expertise of HOK and PLP, stand as an example of both cutting edge scientific design and industry leading sustainable design,  for years to come.




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