Great Ormond Street Hospital gets go-ahead for purpose-built cancer centre – but residents are not happy about ‘gross overdevelopment’

Artist’s impression of the scheme. Image: Secchi Smith

Patients with rare and hard-to-treat cancers will be seen at a new purpose-built cancer centre in a leading children’s hospital – despite concerns about its impact on neighbours.

Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) got the green light to replace its ageing entrance building with a cancer centre and ground-floor school.

It said it needed to rebuild because cancer wards and day care services are spread across different buildings and chemotherapy patients are treated in a building dating back to the 1930s.

GOSH chief executive Mat Shaw said the new centre will include cancer wards, cancer day care, new theatres and intensive care units so specialist teams can work together more closely.

He said the current building “is not fit for purpose”.

He told Camden’s planning committee last night: “We can’t fit beds inside lifts of a normal size so if you are a teenager you have to go into a child’s bed and curl up because you simply can’t fit in the lifts.

“In the summer its 35 degrees because we cannot get any cooling into that building and we have portable air conditioners with pipes coming out of the walls in order to try and cool the facility down, or the core temperature that exists in winter simply because the building, the structure is not fit for purpose.

“This simply isn’t the facility that we can have in this century to manage gene therapies, the next generation of treatments that we can offer. If it was your child in hospital for a year, three months, three years, what would you feel when it’s your home and you have to survive there for that period of time and all the stress that brings you and your family?”

The eight-storey building will also house new imaging equipment and a specialised chemotherapy pharmacy.

The hospital’s main four-storey building on Great Ormond Street will be knocked down and replaced with a new entrance and a new ground floor school for the patients.

It is currently home to the audiology department, clinical research, child and adolescent mental health and paediatric psychology departments.

The new building will have 64 single inpatient bedrooms, eight neonatal intensive care unit bedrooms; 24 infusion bays/rooms; three operating theatres and space for high tech medical scanning and imaging equipment.

There will be a performance space and four classrooms for children according to their age and key stage in the new school.  It will also have treatment rooms so children can receive treatment easily while at school instead of returning to their ward.

Children and their families will also be able to play on a roof terrace and in an Enchanted Forest area with immersive activities to encourage imagination, play and exploration, and a Secret Garden for rest and contemplation.

The building work is likely to take three years.

Because it is more than 30m high outside of the City of London is has to be referred to the Mayor of London.

The council had letters from 125 residents who were unhappy with the plans.

Alec Forshaw told the planning committee the scheme is “a gross overdevelopment which will cause the worst and most widespread loss of daylight in Camden”.

He said 50 nearby homes will need to put lights on “even on a sunny day” and the loss of light would make properties “unfit for habitation”.

The planning department said developments with similar impacts on light have been approved.

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings said it was concerned about the imaoct of the grade II  listed Georgian houses on the street.

It was “greatly alarmed that the scale of the proposed new building on the north side of Great Ormond Street threatens to overwhelm the setting of the houses on the south side of the street and constrain their use by depriving them of much of their natural daylight.”

Gillian Mosley said the plan was “a bridge too far” and would be “catastrophic for our community”.

She called for a rethink such as opening a satellite centre.

Camden Cycling Campaign raised concerns about the safety of construction traffic using narrow roads nearby during the three year construction work.

Ward councillors Julian Fulbrook and Awale Olad echoed residents’ concerns.

Cllr Fulbrook said the impact of the demolition and construction was “critical” with up to 42 trucks in the area a day. He said the historic buildings in Great Ormond Street “are extremely fragile” and criticised the overshadowing.

Cllr Olad said: “There is a lack of benefits to residents.”

Historic England was concerned about the height of the new building and its impact on protected views of St Paul’s Cathedral from Primrose Hill.

Developers altered the massing of the building following the conservation body’s concerns.

Mr Shaw said the upgrade is needed to ensure some of the sickest children get the best healthcare, with 1,200 cancer patients treated there annually.

He ruled out a satellite centre because patients need specialised care with the expertise of staff on one site.

He said: “We have tried to make Great Ormond Street a pleasant and liveable place while the work is done” and worked hard on construction plans.

The scheme also won the backing of 27 organisations including Children with Cancer UK which said: ” It is really important that GOSH is able to develop and modernise its facilities so it can continue to provide high quality cancer services, in the very best environment, allowing for innovation and research to take place easily.”

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