Scheme faces objection from campaign group as it heads to GLA for final sign-off
Camden council has given the thumbs-up to a £1bn pharma centre in King’s Cross despite complaints from a campaign group that it does not contain enough laboratories.
Developer Precis Group’s 10-storey building, which has been designed by architect AHMM, will be built on a site opposite St Pancras station if given the final sign off by the Greater London Authority.
The scheme, called the London Discovery Research Centre, will be the UK headquarters of global healthcare giant MSD.
But campaign group Save Bloomsbury has objected to the proposals, which have been billed as creating a “a world-leading, state-of-the-art laboratory to discover new medicines to treat diseases”, for only containing three floors of laboratory space.
According to the planning officer’s report, the building’s fourth floor will contain a “collaborative space,” while floors 5-9 will house offices.
Despite the laboratory floors containing a much larger floor space than the upper levels, Save Bloomsbury campigner Owen Ward claimed the scheme is simply a “10-storey office block”.
He added: “It seems that the entire pandemic has skilfully been used as a ploy to both lock out community involvement and market a useless bulk as something necessary to both London and the world.”
But Precis Group has hit back at the objections, claiming that the laboratories make up around 40% of the building’s total floorspace.
A spokesperson for the developer said: “We can confirm that these will be operational and in use by the tenant MSD from day one with the main laboratory space facing on to the King’s Cross Square, giving passers-by sight of the activities inside and insight into the building’s low-carbon design.”
The spokesperson added: “We are also proposing associated office, research and ‘write-up’ space at levels four to nine.
“It is standard practice for buildings of this type to include a mix of laboratory and office space to allow for businesses focusing on life sciences to undertake their important work effectively.
“These proposals meet the needs of MSD for their London Discovery Centre and UK headquarters to accommodate approximately 850 employees, of which around 150 would be laboratory-based research scientists.”
It is understood that MSD, which is known as Merck outside Europe, is the only tenant of the building.
The site, which is currently occupied by a low-rise art deco building on Euston Road called Belgrove House, is within London’s ‘Knowledge Quarter’ and close to the Francis Crick biomedical research institute built by Laing O’Rourke and designed by PLP and HOK.
The local authority has also approved another Precis Group proposal, to replace the National Union of Journalists’ former headquarters Acorn House, a nearby 1960s office block on Gray’s Inn Road, with a nine-storey mixed-use block also designed by AHMM. It will contain 33 affordable homes and 500sq m of office space.