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Maggie's battle of Barts rages, then resolves

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Stephen Holl’s proposed Maggie’s Centre Barts in Smithfield stirred up a fuss in 2014

As the year draws to a close, with peace brokered over Steven Holl’s proposed Maggie’s Centre Barts in Smithfield, central London, it is hard to see what all the fuss was about.

But for the cancer care charity, famed for using some of the world’s best architects to create some truly memorable buildings, the lengthy, headline-grabbing and often bitter battle at St Barts was unprecedented.

In a nutshell, Maggie’s wanted to build something very modern, in keeping with its forward-looking design ethos but not, according to opponents, compatible with the neighbouring Grade I-listed Great Hall. 

Maggie’s tweaked its proposals in line with the City’s concerns, and resubmitted them in April. ‘Not good enough,’ said an increasingly vocal and well-backed campaign group headed by a former royal gynaecologist and supported by a host of famous names.

What’s more, the group approached Michael Hopkins to come up with alternative plans and, despite having no support from Maggie’s or the local NHS trust, it secured planning.

In July, Holl’s scheme went to committee, and was approved by the narrowest of margins. The entrenched opponents began judicial review proceedings.  

Then, seemingly out of the blue, a deal was struck. A hush-hush arbitration process had led to internal changes to the Holl building, allowing for shared facilities between the Great Hall and the new Maggie’s Centre.

Given the relatively minor adjustments to the consented Holl scheme, the question remains: couldn’t this have been done so much earlier?


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