The UCL proposals for the development of the site for the Dental Hospital and the former Royal Free Hospital have been approved at planning. The tragedy of the approval is that it seals the fate of the historic mid-Victorian courtyard of the former Royal Free Hospital which will be demolished and built over.
The BCAAC gave a deputation hoping to persuade councillors to press the applicants to resubmit a scheme without the demolition, an option identified by the applicant during scheme development and preferred by Historic England who also objected, alongside BCAAC, to the current proposals.
Rather predictably the BCAAC deputation didn’t get much of a look-in as minds were already made up and the public benefit was seen to outweigh any amount of harm even if that harm had been rather disingenuously underplayed.
What was so disappointing was that the destruction of the courtyard was not strictly necessary and UCLH could have developed option two (preserving the courtyard) instead. There were some questions about this from the councillors but of course the scheme is very complex and they were not really in any position to query the absolute need for the demolition (this dubious ‘necessity’ having already been swallowed by their officers). Councillor Flick Rae was quite correct in slamming the applicant for insufficient and unheeding consultation.
My own cynical view is that it was reckoned to be cheaper and easier to demolish the courtyard and, furthermore, that the applicants really didn’t want to keep it as the image it projected wasn’t sufficiently new, shiny and ‘state of the art’ which is what they aspire to. That being said the building they’ve got is stunningly pedestrian and looks like an office block in Croydon.
It is also a great pity that the Victorians failed to object. It is an example of how we might have been much more effective if we had all worked together rather than keeping to our own individual bubbles.
Click here to see the objection and deputation given to the planning committee.