The United Kingdom Centre for Medical Research and Innovation

The failed bidders notified that the bidding process was a sham

February 24, 2011
Note: The email below has been sent to all the bidders for the land (a list is at the bottom of the email) apart from   Nottinghill Housing Association,   Minerva Property, London and Regional  Holdings Ltd ,  Princeton Investments Ltd, Tiger Developments Ltd, City Lofts Group  (went into administration), First Regeneration Homes, Splendid Hotel Group, Pantherlee Ltd, Leander. I obtained emails for all but the last four of those not contacted but these failed.
The email contact varies between strong (CEOs) and weak (email sent through the company website).  Robert Henderson
24 February 2010

Dear Sirs,

 Your organisation  took part in the bidding process for the DCMS land behind the British Library in Kings Cross.  In fact, you were not taking part in a bidding process at all but a charade  engineered by Gordon Brown in his position as Prime Minister.  How do I know this? I used the FOIA to ferret out the truth of the matter.

Brown fixed the result of the bid for UKCRMI by his personal influence.  He had done so even before the period for expressions of interest was over.  Your organisation devoted time and money to a bid which had no hope of success.  You have cast iron grounds to sue for damages and the recovery of your costs. 

To make the matter as simple as possible, I shall not at this stage send you all the documents relating to Brown’s interference, merely those which form a paper trail from the period before the closing date for expressions of interest  to the announcement of the sale of the land by Gordon Brown.   I have highlighted  (by bolding) the passages in the documents which refer directly or indirectly to Brown’s interest.  Where a figure such [40] appears, that means redaction has occurred under one of the the exemptions in the FOIA, the number referring to a paragraph or clause in the Act.  These documents will also give you a good sketch of the background to the bidding process.

Further relevant documents can be found at

You will also find a good deal of other material relating to other objections to the siting of UKCRMI on Brill Place in the UKCRMI wordpress blog. The security issues I raise are,  with Brown’s interference, the two most important objections to the siting of the laboratory on Brill Place.  In particular, the question of what biohazard 3+  represents  was not meaningfully addressed by the committee.

I shall be happy to allow you full sight of the documents I have obtained under  the FOIA and their use in any civil actions you may wish to pursue against any of the parties involved in the deception.  In addition, I am willing to give evidence on your behalf in any case which reaches the floor of the court. 

 Yours sincerely,


Robert Henderson


See for the documents supplied with the above email


Gordon Brown’s involvement in the sale of the land to UKCRMI

February 21, 2011

To make  the matter as simple as possible to follow,  I have selected from the  documents in my possession which show Gordon Brown’s illegitimate involvement in the sale of  the land to UKCRMI six which form a paper trail from the period before the closing date for expressions of interest  to the announcement of the sale of the land by Gordon Brown.  Some of the  documents are lengthy. To prevent readers having to plough through them   I have highlighted  (by bolding) the passages in the documents which refer directly or indirectly to Brown’s interest.  Where a figure such as  [40] appears, that means redaction has occurred under the exemptions in the FOIA –  the number relates to the clause number of the exemption.  These documents  also give a good sketch of the background to the bidding process.

Further relevant documents can be found at


 NB This document shows that  Brown was interfering even before the closing date for expressions of interest was closed.  The relevant date is not that on Rosemary Banner’s letter, but the enclosure which came with the letter, i.e., 1 August 2007. 


I Horse Guards Road London SWIA 2HQ

   Rosemary Banner

Head of Information Rights Unit

Tel: 020 7270 5723


  Mr R Henderson

24 June 2009

 Dear Mr Henderson  

Freedom of Information Act 2000: medical research centre   We wrote to you on 27 August 2008 conveying the conclusions of the internal review carried out in relation to your complaint to the Treasury about the handling of your April 2008 request for information under the Freedom of Information Act.  

In light of your complaint to the Information Commissioner we have reconsidered the single item of information that falls within the scope of your request that has not already been disclosed. As a result of this re-examination we have identified additional information that we are now able to provide to you. Please see attachment at the end of this letter. For the avoidance of doubt we should make it clear that the Treasury continues to regard its original decision not to release this information as correct at the request and review stage. However, given the passage of time, we believe that the public interest in withholding has diminished and can now be released.

We have, however, decided to continue to withhold two sentences from this information under section 35(1 )(a) of the Act. These sentences continue to relate to ongoing policy. We have explained our position to the ICO regarding this, and are able to clarify that the redacted sentences contain information on a bid for funding from the MRC that the Department for Business Innovation and Skills are assessing in the normal way. Funding decisions have not concluded. As always the Government will publish actual funding provisions once a decision has been reached. Due to the way funding bids are negotiated and assessed this was been a live issue at the time of the request; internal review; and remains so at this present time. To be helpful we refer to evidence published by the select committee in December 2007. You will see that at that time the bid was £118 million.

http://www. 85/1 85we02.htm

The Treasury is not able to comment as to what the final figure will be until a decision has been made, I reiterate that once decided it will be announced publicly.

  Rosemary Banner

Head of Information Rights Unit

For HM Treasury  

EXTRACT of relevant information extracted from a report prepared

 1 August 2007

  NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MEDICAL RESEARCH (NIMR)   MRC concluded some years ago that the NIMR’s future location should be close to a London Teaching Hospital. With this in mind, MRC purchased at their risk for £28M in March 2006, but with Treasury’s knowledge, a one-acre site at the National Temperance Hospital location (NTH) in London.

MRC has recently learnt that its earlier preferred site for NIMR, a three-acre site adjacent to the British Library, has now become available. This larger site would have the major advantage of accommodating more translational research. Encouragingly MRC has most recently proposed that the site would be developed in partnership with Cancer Research UK (CRUK), Wellcome Trust and UCL as a potentially strong consortium. The Wellcome Trust have mentioned that they would be prepared to make a sizeable investment to help establish a new world class medical research facility in North London if they can secure DCMS-owned land and planning permission from Camden Council. At present the consortia has registered its interest in buying the site.

  This project has had a very long gestation period, during which the arguments for the strong scientific case for relocating within London (which has a cluster of medical research and teaching hospitals) and the need to retain MRC’s highly skilled staff.

  The recent preparation of a suitable business case has been further complicated of late by both the re-emergence of the British Library site as a possible location.  

The PM is also most recently stated that he is very keen to make sure that Government departments are properly coordinated on this project and that if there is a consensus that this is indeed an exciting project then we do what we can to make it happen. This is extremely helpful from a DIUS and MRC perspective, but, formally a NIMR relocation project in London has yet to receive Lyons approval from Treasury (for either the first planned NTH site or the possible BL site).

  MRC have employed Deloitte to prepare a full business case for the relocation project.

  The scientific and operational case for a London location is strong in our view.

  Key Dates for the Preparation and Appraisal of the NIMR Proposal  

– July 2007 — Letter to Treasury to inform CST of MRC’s proposed bid for the BL site.

 -July/August 2007 — Expression of interest in the BL site registered by  the MRC Consortium.

 -September 2007 — further substantive discussions with MRC/Deloitte  on Lyons and emerging business case material.

 -September 2007 — MRC NIMR project included by RCUK in the 2007 Roadmap consultation.

 -October 2007 — first full draft business case prepared by MRC/Deloitte.

 -October 2007 — MRC consortium formally bid to DCMS for the BL site.

 -November 2007 — Full revised business case received and Lyons case consideration undertaken by Treasury.

 -December — Progress submission to Ministers.

 -December 2007 — MRC Consortium formed and, if successful in bidding, payment to DCMS for the BL site.

 -December 2007 — MRC’s NIMR project prioritised by Research Council Directors for receipt of DIUS funding through the Large Facility Capital Fund.

 -February/March 2008 — Submission to Ministers for approval of LFCF allocation to support the MRC’s NIMR project, subject to our final assessment of (a) the outcome of the Lyons case (b) the full business case and (C) prioritisation by RCUK of the use of the available LFCF,

 April/May 2008 — DIUS Ministerial announcement of NIMR relocation project approval (subject to all the above).

  Further Background to the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) The NIMR is one of the MRC’s largest and oldest research institutes. The NIMR is recognised as once of the UK’s foremost basic research institutes with a strong scientific track record and reputation. NIMR currently  houses the World Influenza Centre (WIC), which was established by  World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1948. The Centre, works with a  network of collaborating laboratories to detect and characterise the emergence of new influenza virus anywhere in the world including avian virus H5N1. NIMR is also at the forefront of international research to discover how molecular changes in the virus affect its ability to infect people and cause disease.   

The NIMR has been at its present site since 1950. If it were to remain there the buildings would need substantial refurbishment. It is currently a ‘stand-alone’ Institute not physically linked to any University, Medical School or Hospital. In 2003 the MRC set up an expert Task Force to examine the strategic positioning of the NIMR research within the MRC portfolio. The Task Force concluded that their vision for NIMR would be best delivered through an intramural — i.e. with the staff employed by MRC — research institute on a single site in central London in partnership with a leading university and hospital (they received proposals from King’s College and University College) and this would enhance: – The multidisciplinary nature of NIMR’s work, providing access to other biologists, physical scientists, engineers, and mathematicians – Opportunities to collaborate more closely with clinicians and strengthen the focus of translational research.

Remaining at Mill Hill was considered by the Task Force where the majority view was that this would not be a viable option as it would not deliver Council’s vision for a world class research institute carrying out basic, clinical and translational research in partnership with a leading university and hospital. The position was endorsed by the MRC Council. This disappointed some staff at NIMR and there has been much lobbying of Ministers and MPs and as a result the issue has received some media interest.  

MRC Council selected UCL as its preferred partner for the renewal and relocation of NIMR in Central London, in close proximity to a major teaching hospital (University College Hospital) and relevant university departments, including chemistry and physics.

The MRC Council approved an outline Business Plan for the renewal and relocation of NIMR in July 2005. The Business Plan confirmed the feasibility of developing the renewed Institute on the National Temperance Hospital (NTH) site in Hampstead Road, which MRC bought (at its own risk but with Treasury’s knowledge), for £28M in 2006, suggesting that the new site could provide accommodation for up to 1,058 staff, including 248 from UCL and potentially 40 additional research staff.

MRC have recognised that their development of the business case needed to ensure a successful project and to satisfy the requirements of DIUS and Treasury requires additional skills to those residing within the MRC and most recently further advice has been procured by MRC from Deloitte for assistance with preparation of the business case.

It was also not our intention at review stage to withhold names of senior civil servants of the email provided at initial request. While we explained that the sender was Jeremy Heywood from the Cabinet Office we overlooked to state the other officials who were recipients of that email. They were: The Permanent Secretaries of DIUS and DCMS Ian Watmore and Jonathan Stephens; the Managing Director of Public Spending in HMT, John Kingman; and the Chief Operating Officer, DCMS Nicholas Holgate.


 NB This document shows Brown’s  interest just before the short list of bidders was decided. 


To James Purnell Margaret Hodge, Jonathan Stephens,Ros Brayfield

From Nicholas Holgate

Date 18 September 2007 ____________


Issue: mainly for information but also to ask how you would wish to be involved in this transaction.

The Department owns 3.6 acres to the north of the British Library. With the completion of the new train terminal, we are able to sell it and have been conducting a competitive process so that Ministers can choose what represents best value, comprising not just the proceeds from sale but also the use to which the bidder intends to put the land.

2. We are bound to be concerned about proceeds:

a. There is an obvious obligation, on Jonathan as the department’s Accounting Officer, to secure the best return we can for the taxpayer;

b. the Government is close to breaching its fiscal rules and has set itself a demanding target for asset disposals. Your predecessor strongly rebutted the Treasury’s proposal that we should sell assets worth £150m by 2010-11 and it has not formally been debated since your arrival; but we are likely to have to raise some funds from disposals. In any case:

c. proceeds from this sale are earmarked to contribute towards the budget of the Olympic Delivery Authority for 2007-08.

3. Subject to Treasury agreement, we can nevertheless also take public value” into account. We are aware of two such bids one led by the Medical Research Council, with support from the Wellcome Foundation and others for a research facility; and one that wishes to remain confidential but which is essentially related to faith and education.

4. The facts are:

a. We have now received 28 bids in response to a prospectus. Amongst other things, the prospectus drew attention to the local planning policy guidance, which steers bidders towards a scheme that is roughly 50:50 commercial and residential development with 50% affordable housing. It is Camden Borough Council and the Mayor who will have the last word on what is in fact built on the site;

b. Our professional advisers have scored the bids on various criteria and are interviewing the top seven plus two others (the medical research bid is one of the two others) next week;

c. There is a significant financial gap between the top bids and the medical research bid.

5. Jonathan and I are meeting Jeremy Heywood (who is aware of both public value bids), Ian Watmore (Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills) and John Kingman (Treasury) tomorrow. We need to agree an orderly and appropriate process for selling the land, given the public value bidders, other Departments’ interest and the likelihood that the Prime Minister might wish to take an interest too.

6. We will report back to you then. Subject to your views and others’, one potential way forward is a. DIUS economists be invited to assess the public value of the medical research bid. We will need some such calculation if we sell at a discount. DCMS should not do this as we should display some neutrality between bidders . We decide whether we expect the medical research bid to match the best bid, improve their offer but not necessarily to match, or take a lower value on the chin. Given their backers, they can afford to match. But they may refuse to play; and/or we may not wish to be seen to be reducing their funding for good causes just to maximise proceeds;

c. We see whether there is a Government champion for the other bidder;


d. We then fairly characterise the two public value bidders and the best commercial bid (or bids, if they differ significantly in what they propose) to Ministers and No 10 for a decision.

Nicholas Holgate

Chief Operating Officer


NB This shows Brown’s interest a few weeks before the sale to UKCRMI was agreed.



Disclosable extracts:

We are close to being ready to announce Government support for the creation of a world-leading medical research facility in London.

The key component being finalised is the sale of land, which will allow the BLISS partner organisations (the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and University College London) to develop their detailed proposals for the creation of the centre.

We anticipate that the deal will be finalised over the next few days and we should be able to announce the outcome of the process In the next few weeks. On current plans, we would expect the sale to complete during December and preparations for development to begin straight away. The expectation is that the Institute would be up and running by 2012.

This is an important opportunity to demonstrate what the UK’s commitment to medical research really means in practice. And it fits very well with the focus of your intended health speech.

What would you be announcing?

• We would be committing Government support to the creation of a new centre for UK biomedical research, with 1,500+ scientists, at a level commensurate with the very best institutions in the world.

• The BLISS consortium brings together four of the leading medical research institutions in the UK – the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and University College London.

 • The Centre responds to the vision, outlined in Sir David Cooksey’s review of UK health research presented to Treasury in 2006, of better integration and translation of research into patient and public benefit. The Centre will benefit from economies of scale, enhanced infrastructure, the critical mass to optimise collaboration, and the capacity to take scientific discoveries from the lab bench to the hospital bed.

 • These four key partners, together with the expectation that other organisations would come forward to invest In the centre or to lease research space, bring a powerful combination of skills and capabilities — basic research, applied research, the capabilities to convert research and innovation for public and commercial use, and the skills and opportunities presented by access to a leading university and teaching hospital. The potential, In terms of understanding disease, and developing new drugs, treatments and cures, is huge.

How to announce?

The suggestion is that you announce this a few days before your health speech, planned for 6th December. We would suggest a visit to a high-tech medical site in the morning to get pictures, followed by a meeting at No lO with all relevant stakeholders (primarily the four partner organisations) at which you make the formal announcement and ‘launch’ the project. Let us know your thoughts on whether this is the right way to proceed with the BLISS announcement?


The vision for the BLISS Centre has six themes:

Research innovation and excellence • Bring together outstanding scientists from two world-class research institutes (MRC NIMR and the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute), collaborating with UCL, to address fundamental questions of human health and disease. • Through Wellcome Trust funding, development of tools for integrative biology, with an emphasis on the development of advanced microscopy imaging and on the mathematicaland computational needs in this field.

• Increase scientific innovation through new links with the physical sciences, life sciences, mathematics, engineering and the social Sciences at UCLI

 • Develop close links between the Centre and the outstanding hospitals nearby (Including the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases at Queens Square, Great Ormond Street, Moorfields and University College Hospital) and other major hospitals in London (including Hammersmith Hospital and the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre at Hammersmith, and the Maudsley Hospital and the Institute of Psychiatry)1 State-of-the-art research facilities

 • Develop a multidisciplinary research complex operating in state-of-the-art facilities, with the size and diversity to be internationally competitive with the world’s top research institutes.

 • Establish a new centre for development of advanced imaging technologies and analysis. A national focus for biomedical science

 • Interact with other local centres of excellence to foster and facilitate collaboration between basic, translational and Clinical scientists1  Host national and international research meetings and conferences, facilitated by its proximity to national and International transport links and the conference facilities of the British Library. An effective interface with technology transfer and development

• Facilitate the effective development of therapeutic and diagnostic devices and drugs, by allowing the technology transfer arms of MRC and Cancer Research UK to work closely together.

• Drive innovation in developing tests and technologies through interaction between researchers and development laboratories.

Finding and developing the scientists of the future • Provide an attractive environment to secure and retain world-class scientists by providing an outstanding setting for research and collaboration. • Boost the recruitment and training of scientists and doctors of the future by providing an excellent environment for postgraduate and postdoctoral training, and for training outstanding clinical scientists committed to medical research.

Engaging with the public

• Educate the public on important issues in health and disease.

• Bring together and enhance partners’ public information and education programmes, with a particular focus on engaging younger people.


NB This document shows Brown’s involvement just prior to the sale of the land.




You are meeting Paul Nurse who is likely to lead the BLISS institute, along, with Mark Walport, Director of The Wellcome Trust, and Harpal Kumar, Head of Cancer Research, two partners in BLISS

We are close to being ready to announce Government support for plans to create a world-leading medical research facility in London, led by the BLISS consortium made up of the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and University College London.

We have now effectively finalised negotiations on the sale of the 35 acre site, adjacent to the British Library: a price has been agreed with DCMS, and the deal is complete subject to agreement on how much of the proceeds DCMS will retain. We are therefore ready for an announcement next week on the sale of the land – but will not be announcing full details of the project overall, as there remain various Issues to resolve, including reaching agreement on business plans and gaining planning permission. We would therefore announce the Government’s support for the vision of the new centre – rather than definitive support for the centre itself. The Project BLISS consortium brings together four leading medical research institutions in the UK and will create a new centre for UK biomedical  research, with 1,500+ scientists, at a level commensurate with the very best Institutions in the world.

The Centre responds to the vision, outlined in Sir David Cooksey’s review of UK health research presented to Treasury in 2006, of better integration and translation of research into patient and public benefit.

The Centre will benefit from economies of scale, enhanced infrastructure, the critical mass to optimise collaboration, and the capacity to take scientific discoveries from the lab bench to the hospital bed. The Centre will create a place for:

• collaboration, between leading scientists and clinicians, working on some of the most pressing medical problems of our time;

 • excellence, maintaining the quality of the UK’s life sciences research base;

• application, making links between research, medical practice and the pharmaceutical industry;

• innovation, translating research innovation into new treatments;

 • learning, bringing forward a new generation of scientific leaders;

  •discovery, showcasing the challenges and potential of life sciences to a new audience.

• Using the close proximity to the British Library, the Centre will develop a public engagement and education programme.

Sir Paul Nurse

Sir Paul Nurse is President of Rockerfeller University, formerly Joint Director General of Cancer Research UK and winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for Medicine. His appointment has not yet been publicly announced,but he is set to lead the project as chair the Scientific Planning Committee.

Briefing note from Bliss


NB This document from just before the sale of the land shows  the extent of Brown’s involvement with the suggestion that he would arbitrate.  

Sent: 27 November 2007 13:09


Cc: _[40]_____________

Subject: RESTRICTED – Land to the North

  Hi Nicholas,  

Jonathan spoke to Jeremy Heywood this morning. Jeremy said he needed the bid to be agreed by next Wednesday – 5 Dec (or Thursday  latest) as PM wanted to get MRC in then (or possible public announcement.

Jonathan explained that there are two issues from our point of view: .No revised formal offer has been received by DCMS .HMT are not being helpful of recycling returns – without an improved offer from HMT JS said it would he v hard to justify.

 JR said he thought the offer was sent to us yesterday – have checked but  nothing in JSs post or email – JH will chase. JH also said he would go   back to HMT to see what more they can do, but that ultimately PM may have to arbitrate.




  Private Secretary  to Jonathan Stephens

Department for (Culture, Media and Sport 2-4 Cockpur Street, London

SWlY 5Dl1 email: [40] tel: 0207211 fax: 020 72116259


NB This document shows Brown’s state of mind immediately after the sale of the land was agreed.

Treasury document

From – name censored

Sent: 04 December 2007 19:49

To: name(s) censored.

CC: name(s) censored)

Thanks for everyone’s help and support in making the announcement tomorrow happen. The PM is truly delighted that departments have been able to work together to secure this huge opportunity for Britain


Science and Technology Committee – Evidence from ministers about UKCRMI

February 18, 2011
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Committee to hear evidence on UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI)

Microscope 17 February 2011

The Science and Technology Committee will hold the following oral evidence session in its inquiry into the ‘UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation’.

Wednesday 2 March 2011
Thatcher Room, Portcullis House

At 10.45 am

  • Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister of State for Universities and Science
  • Earl Howe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Quality, Department of Health—ev-session/

Report and commentary on the STC hearing of 16 February 2011

February 18, 2011
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HoC Science and Technology Committee (STC)

 Thatcher Room

Committee members present:  Andrew Miller (Chair)  Labour , Gavin Barwell  Conservative, Stephen Metcalfe  Conservative , David Morris  Conservative, Stephen Mosley  Conservative, Pamela Nash  Labour , Graham Stringer  Labour, Roger Williams, Liberal Democrats 

Evidence given  on Wednesday 16 February between  at 9.18am and 10.40 am

Evidence taken from the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCRMI)

UKCRMI Witnesses

Sir Paul Nurse, Chief Executive and Director

Sir David Cooksey GBE, Chairman

John Cooper, Chief Operating Officer, UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation

Replay the evidence at

Declaration of interest

A committee member, Gavin Barwell,  made a declaration of interest , namely,  he is paired with Sir Paul Nurse’s daughter Emily in the MP pairing scheme of the Royal Society. Details of the scheme can be found at pairing scheme

Dearie  me, what a coincidence that one of the committee should be paired with the daughter of the head of UKCRMI.

The general conduct of the evidence

There was a good deal of duplication of the material which was covered in the evidence given on 9 February.  I have concentrated only on new material both where a subject was not raised previously or where a subject was raised but something new was added .

Paul Nurse did most of the talking for UKCRMI, probably as much as 75%.

 The evidence given  fell primarily under the heading of waffle.  The air was filled with the type of meaningless beloved of the Great and the Good:  “most exciting biomedical initiative for a generation”   in Britain; the rest of the world look on the project with Envy”; “rhe project is the envy of the world”; “attracting the best from around the world””, “creating an area of brilliance” and “Brilliant people” . You get the idea.

The vast majority of the waffle – perhaps 85% –   was delivered by Paul Nurse in what I will admit was an engaging manner, but it was still waffle.

The MRC Business Case

At the previous meeting, the head of MRC John Savill, had revealed that the business case had been accepted by BUS but that as yet he had no details of any conditions the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) might have imposed  along with the acceptance. Very convenient because it meant that he could not be questioned about the detail of the acceptance.  As of yesterday, the committee has not received a copy of the business plan.

Under questioning, Cooper conceded that there were conditions imposed by BIS when they accepted  the MRC’s business case.  However, he  refused to say what  they were because he was unsure of the position with regard to business confidentiality.  He assured the committee “That none of those conditions have given me cause for concern”.   Incredibly, the  STC failed to press him on this matter, they did not  insist on the forwarding of BIS  approval letter  to the STC .  The first rule of investigation is simple: if someone does not want you to see a something, that is something you need to see.  

This episode was the most significant  thing to come out of the hearing.  There is something there which is either more significant than Cooper admits and/or strikes at the general raison d’etre for the siting of the laboratory in central London.

The position of Paul Nurse

There was concern expressed by the STC that  Nurse might not be able to give his all to  the job of UKCRMI CEO  because of his other commitments.  Nurse said his position was as follows:

–          He works “quite hard” (RH comment  I kid you not, he actually said this).

–          He has resigned from his post at Rockefeller University,  although he is continuing  to act for them until his successor takes over in March 2011. 

–          His position at the Royal Society is part-time.

–          He  remains a functioning research scientist and is presently arranging for his (personal) Rockefeller laboratory to be transferred to England.

–          Until the  laboratory was built, his role with UKCRMI would not involve operational decisions, merely planning ones.

–          He had great confidence in the rest of his management team to support him.

In the light of these considerations, Nurse said he was certain he could fulfil the role of CEO.  Unfortunately, the STC left it at that.  I think anyone might have doubts about Nurse’s  ability to give  enough time and concentration to managing a highly complex scheme whilst doing his own research and heading the Royal Society, a post which involves a fair bit of media work, speaking and general representation of the society, some of it abroad.  I suspect that John Cooper will be the  man really running the show.

Nurse has a contract for 5 years (the delivery of the facility) renewable at the discretion of the UKCRMI board for another 5 years (operational time).

Once the new laboratory  is up and running,  Nurse said he would be charge of allocating resources. 

At various points in the evidence  Nurse accepted “ultimate responsibility”  for the success of the project, both in its building and operational  outcomes when built, and for security.

The origins of the UKCRMI scheme

Nurse claimed he was its progenitor, having hatched the idea in 1999 when he was working for CR-UK. Nothing came of the idea at that time and it was not until 2004 that he became involved again, this time with the Medical Research Council.

One point of interest did come out of this passage of the evidence. Nurse said that in 1999 he was thinking in terms of siting the joint-venture in the Millennium Dome.  This undermines further the claim that the  site has to be in central London to get the benefit of the “cluster effect”.

Cost of the building

The STC again expressed concern over the cost of the building. UKCRMI countered this pointing out the buildings’ likely longevity (Nurse said 60-80 years, Cooper 50-60 years). Nurse also claimed that its initial  cost (£650 million for the building and £65 million for the equipment) represented only 3 or 4 years operational costs.  This did not quite square with the £100 million  base running costs pa plus perhaps £15 million for other sources which Nurse anticipated.

Cooper attempted to make the figures square by saying the £650 million covered the purchase of the land (£85 million), work in kind undertaken by Cancer-UK  and professional fees.  He put the cost of building at £400m+  not £650 million. This was something of damp squib because however the money was spent, it was still spent.

Cooper put the lifespan of the laboratory at 50-60 years; Paul Nurse thought it would be 60-80 years.

Delivery on time and within cost

Cooper said that a contingency for inflation was built into the costing. This happened “a year to 18 months ago.” He was not vulgar enough to say what this figure was,  but assured the committee it was in line with the way inflation had played out since the contingency was set.  No one on the committee pressed him further.

After a good deal of unseemly preening by both Cooper and Nurse about how they had previously run such projects successfully,  Nurse admitted there was no plan B if the project ran into severe cost or time overruns.

Cooper had a nasty moment when he admitted that a project he had run had experience problems, but when questioned about this he said it had not been a project he had been involved with from the outset.

The laboratories at Mill Hill (NIMR) and Lincoln’s Inn (CR-UK)

Nurse claimed that Mill Hill  (built in the 1930s) was on the verge of   obsolescence and Lincoln’s Inn (built in the 1950s) would be within the next ten years.  He attributed this to their age.  The committee failed to ask for details of why they were obsolescent or why they could not be renovated.

The problem for UKCRMI  with this stance  is that even if what Nurse says is true, a new laboratory could be built on the Mill Hill site to house both existing laboratories (plus the Clare Laboratory – see below).  It is no argument for moving the laboratories to Brill Place.

The size of the proposed laboratory

Cooper said it would measure 90,000 square metres externally and 83,000 metres internally.  

Why must the laboratory be in central London?

An already  weak case was weakened  further by Nurse’s comment that he had thought of putting such a research laboratory in the Millennium Dome and the fact (not mentioned in last week’s evidence) that Cancer-UK laboratory at Clare Hall near  Potters Bar (Hertfordshire) was part of UKCRMI and would remain in operation to house some of the animals used by UKCRMI.  (Potters Bar is around 9 miles from Kings Cross; Mill Hill around 6 and a half miles. )

Nurse completely  let the cat out of the bag  when he said that young scientists would not come to the UKCRMI laboratory unless it was in central London because quote “They like central London. That’s the way it is. They don’t want to live in Mill Hill”.

This raises a very interesting point. Nurse said that when the Laboratory was up and running there would be 250 postgraduate scientists and 500 post-doctoral  scientists working there which would constitute the large  majority of the scientific staff.  Their ages would be between 21-34.  Scientists  are not generally well paid and young scientists are almost invariably on mediocre salaries. How on earth would these people be able to afford to live in central London? Shock horror! They will probably have to live in places such as Mill Hill.

Nurse also improbably claimed that being at Mill Hill added an hour or more to journeys  to other parts of the UK compared with a site in central London. The train journey between Mill Hill and St Pancras takes 17 minutes. 

Nurse’s final throw of the dice on this subject was to claim that using a site such as Mill Hill made it impossible to get the interaction between people from different disciplines. This will come as a shock to those working at Mill Hill because the NIMR website lists this research:

Research groups by theme




Chromosome biology

Cell biology

Evolutionary biology

Developmental biology


Genetics and genomics


Mathematical biology

Physiology and metabolism

Systems biology

Stem cell biology

Structural biology

Infectious disease

Several members of the committee asked why the site had to be in London  at all and suggested that it could have been placed in places such as Birmingham or Manchester.  Nurse  said it was impracticable because it would be seen as provincial and consequently would not be a magnet for all the “best and the brightest” he was so keen to attract.

 Near the end of the session, Graham Stringer (Labour) suggested that the plan to put the laboratory in central London seemed to be a case of “the great and the good” deciding that this is where it should be and then post hoc framing the  arguments for its siting there rather than elsewhere.  Nurse vehemently denied this.  

Biohazard Levels

Nurse stated categorically that no Level 4 work would be done  on the site because any  level 4 work  would be undertaken elsewhere. This did not clarify the position on the mysterious 3+ biosecurity level which appears to have no formal sanction. If all the work is to be at Level 3, why the need for the 3+ security level?  Unfortunately, the STC made no attempt to ferret out what level 3+ means.


Nurse said that UKCRMI intended to recruit the “brightest and best” from around the world. This has security implications because anyone born abroad or has lived abroad for a long time cannot in the nature of things be meaningfully security vetted.  The fact that these will be scientists does not mean they cannot be terrorists, vide the NHS  doctors who attempted to bomb Glasgow airport.  

No one on the committee raised this point


Nurse said it would 99% mice,  plus a few rats, fish and flies.   The Clare Hall Laboratory will continue to house many of the mice.

Staff careers

Nurse anticipates young researchers being recruited, spending 12 years at UKCRMI before carrying   UKCRMI projects and working methods to other research bodies.    Nurse also floated the idea that when they did leave UKCRMI, researchers would be allowed to take  for free the equipment they were  using for their experiments at UKCRMI plus funding for a year to carry on their research. The idea of this is that it would “seed”  the new work and ideas at different institutions.

Intellectual property rights

Cooper said that although  the rights would be held by the UKCRMI board,  it was unlikely they would produce much money.  This  judgement he based on the experience of other institutions engaged in scientific research.  Nurse backed him up.

Nurse said the arrangements for intellectual property rights for scientists remained to be negotiated.

Liaison with local residents

Cooper claimed that 11 significant changes had been made to the design of the building as a result of discussions with the local residents. He did not elaborate. 

Cooper said that three liaison groups were to be set up for: 

–          The period of construction

–          For proposed living centre

–          General matters

It is noteworthy that at no time has UKCRMI made any offer of compensation for disturbance to the local residents who will be directly affected by years of building work and the associated problems generated by transporting people and materials to and from the site.  That is a pretty strong pointer that they do not give a damn about the residents.

General comment

The committee was generally much less sharp in their questioning than the week before , although Stephen Metcalf again asked difficult questions and had some idea of how to build a line of questioning. Nonetheless, there were a number of disturbing incidences of not pushing very obvious matters such as the details of the BIS approval letter’s conditions.  I cannot really believe that this happened simply because of the inadequacy of the committee members. Rather, it suggests they have either been warned off causing trouble or are simply doing so off their own bat.

 (For those unfamiliar with Commons Committees a little bit of information. The members of a committee do not just ask what they want. They are each allocated a topic to question upon. The allocation is made by the committee clerk. This can make the questioning seem rather stilted as questions which naturally flow from points raised are dropped by the member because they do not come within his allotted area.)

If this committee does not recommend the project I shall very surprised .

Report and commentary on the STC hearing of 9 February 2011

February 13, 2011
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HoC Science and Technology Committee (STC)

 Thatcher Room

Committee members present:  Andrew Miller (Chair)  Labour , Gavin Barwell  Conservative, Stephen Metcalfe  Conservative , David Morris  Conservative, Stephen Mosley  Conservative,  Pamela Nash  Labour , Graham Stringer  Labour, Roger Williams, Liberal Democrats 

Evidence given  on Wednesday 9 February between  at 9.26am and 10.34 am

Evidence taken from the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCRMI)

Watch the session: at

UKCRMI witnesses

 Professor Malcolm Grant, President and Provost, University College London

 Harpal Kumar, Chief Executive, Cancer Research UK

 Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive, Medical Research Council

Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive, Wellcome Trust

Report and commentary by Robert Henderson

What UKCRMI expect to get from the Brill Place Laboratory

This question produced an avalanche of waffle such as “Flagship institute” and  “State of the art research for the 21st century” . The dread phrase “world-class” as in “a world class facility” featured a good deal throughout the hearing.  I defy anyone to find a hard fact amongst the UKCMRI replies when this question was answered. 

Further official/legal obstacles to the  laboratory

Savill said that  there were effectively none,  because news had come that very day of the acceptance of the MRC business plan by the Government (Dept of Business, Innovation and Skills – DBIS) .  This was, as far as he was concerned, the last obstacle overcome. However, Savill had no details  of the government’s sanction of the project yet and thought it probable  that with a project of this size and cost,  the department responsible  (Business,  Innovation and Skills) would require further clarification on some issues.  Savill  promised to inform the committee of any such clarifications and the response they elicited from UKCMRI.

Savill was also keen to stress how supportive both the current and the previous one had been of the UKCRMI project. (The most plausible sub-text to this is  that  it was a done deal, and had been right the way through. )

Walport  made the point that £300 million of charitable funds were involved,  which he claimed was a strong incentive for government to support the project. (Not when  similar amounts of public funds are also committed).

What the Brill Place site will contain :-

–  The NIMR  research from Mill Hill Laboratory

–   The CR-UK  research from laboratory at Lincoln’s Inn

This is very interesting because it means that not only will the work of the Mill laboratories have to be crammed into the site,   but also that of the CR-UK site.

Unfortunately none of the SIC members went into the size of the laboratories at either Mill Hill or Lincoln’s Inn.

Outsourcing from site

UKCRMI admitted that work would  have to be delegated to sites other than Brill Place because of a lack of space.  Edinburgh University (EU) already has  an informal  relationship with UKCRMI (Savill was head of the EU  medical school before joining the MRC)  and the consortium is in talks with Imperial College and Kings College  with a view to those bodies having some relationship with UKCRMI, perhaps as new partners . Walport said that UKCRMI would also be working with the pharmaceutical industry.

Savill claimed that having a small site would impose a  welcome discipline because it would focus minds on selecting the best  projects. (I must confess I had to stop myself laughing loudly at this point because the logical extension of this argument would be that  the rejected Temperance Hospital site (at less than 1 acre) would be even more valuable as it would sharpen such focus even more.  )

According to the evidence of Dr  Stephen Ley of the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) to the Committee (22 11 2004)  the research undertaken at Mill Hill uses approximately 25% of the 47 acre site, that is, around 12 acres.  The new building will be very large and it may compensate for its much smaller site (less than 4 acres and  probably only 50% covered by the building)  by having many more floors than the buildings at Mill Hill. Nonetheless,   it seems improbable that what fits into 12 acres at Mill Hill would fit into a building covering around 2 acres, let alone the Mill Hill research  plus the CR-UK  research fitting into such a building.

The “cluster” justification

The only justification put forward for  using a central London site was the idea that having a heavy concentration of  scientific and medical talent in a limited area – laboratories, hospitals, universities – would expedite research considerably.   Savill cited the UK analysis of research expenditure for 2006 which estimated 33% of clinical research funds were spent in Greater London.

This argument was seriously  undermined by the fact UKCRMI  accepted that work would  be  outsourced.  Accepting Edinburgh University as part of a central London cluster requires great imagination. Accepting Mill Hill as part of the cluster is rather less demanding of a suspension of  the critical faculties , it being  a twenty minute train ride from the London homes of the Wellcome Trust, Cancer UK,  UCL et al.    This makes the Mill Hill site at least as accessible as  hospitals, laboratories within London, for example one of the hospitals cited by UKCRMI as being part of the cluster,  the Royal Free in Hampstead,  is a similar travelling time from Brill Place as the Mill Hill site.

When challenged to provide evidence that the cluster theory held water, Wallport said that there was a “peer-reviewed” paper which supported the claim,  although  he did not have the details of it to hand (he promised to forward them to the committee).  The fact that he only offered a single paper to support the contention suggests  that such evidence is decidedly thin on the ground.  As for the single paper being “peer-reviewed” , this does not necessarily mean it is a solid piece of research .Sadly, peer-review is often used to control what appears in journals not on the grounds of merit,  but because a piece of research supports the received wisdom of the moment.

Much was made about the attractions of London to top-class scientists. However, later in the evidence Savill went on to say that the  new laboratory would not be a place where  he expected scientists to spend a career. Rather, he saw it as a place where they could learn their   trade and then go out to spread the knowledge throughout the UK.  This rather clashed with the idea of attracting to scientists with an established reputation.

The initial cost of the project

After a substantial amount of questioning,  the following costs were elicited:

Harpal  Kumar  gave the figure of £650 million for the delivery of the building including all fixed equipment.  This figure includes  the related professional fees and a contingency element  to deal with time and/or cost overruns.

Savill said that a separate tranche of money  would be available to provide the unfixed equipment (I suspect this would be the vast majority of the equipment). He said this funding would reach £65 million for the initial equipment of the laboratory and what he coyly called “transitional costs”.   It was not said from  where the extra £65 million would come.

Considerable concern was expressed (especially by Stephen Metcalf)  about such expenditure especially in the present financial circumstances.  The wisdom of  building in central London  with its high costs rather than spending money on  the Mill Hill site  was strongly questioned, as was the costs of running the laboratory and the difficulty of recruiting low-paid  staff such as cleaners and rank-and-file security staff.  

The UKCRMI response  was to push  cluster  argument  hard , while  Savill used  the old international comparison ploy , saying that his experience was that the  expenditure was “commensurate with investment” in places such as China and the USA.  Savill produced no evidence that this was the case and the  STC members did  not ask for any.

Building time scale

Tenders for the main contractor’s role are underway. The first agreement should be signed in March 2011.

The projected time scale given by Harpal Kumar was:

– A start to be made on the site in May 2011

– Two years for excavating the  site and erecting the building.

– Two years for  fitting out the building

– Handing over of the building in the second quarter of 2015

– Transfer of  1,200-1,500 staff from Mill Hill and Lincoln’s Inn sites to be completed by 2017

The contingency element

When the question of  the contingency element of the £650 million was probed,  the person (Walport) who answered the question of how much this ran to was unable to give a figure. He was then asked  to say how much the contingency element would be as a percentage of the entire building cost .   This he gave as 15%. Walport promised to supply the committee with the actual figure. (It was rather odd that Walport  could give a percentage if he could not give a definite figure.  This suggests that the 15% percentage may   have been made up on the spur of the moment.) 

Assuming the contingency to be 15%, it seems to be  much too small  because the history of large projects involving public money is one of time overruns extending to years.  Moreover, the complex nature of the geology below the site, the depth to which the foundations must be sunk (five floors are  below ground), the Northern Line tube  below the site and the very cramped nature of the site which makes the removal and delivery of material to and from the site difficult, suggest that this is the type of large project which could easily  experience severe cost and time overruns.

The running costs

Walport put the “baseline cost” at £100 million pa (to be shared amongst the partners) , although he emphasised  that substantial amounts of additional money would come in through research grants.  

Delivery  within budget and on time? 

Walport did most of the talking on this issue. He cited the completion of the extension to the Sanger Institute, the Wellcome  building in the Euston Road and  the Diamond Synchrotron at Harwell as having been “On budget and on time” as proof that the project would be completed without time or cost overruns  (these were all less complex undertakings, for example,  the proposed UKCRMI building will have five stories underground which will run into problems with the water table and vibration from the Northern Line which runs directly below. )

Management of the site

UKCRMI was described as a “ Charitable Company with  shares “ which are held in different proportions by the various partners (I suspect they simply meant  a limited company) . Notwithstanding this,  Savill said that there would be a single font of authority  because the consortium had decided that the project would not be simply a co-location of laboratories.   There would  a single board to govern the project  and no bidding for floor space  or resources by the various UKCRMI partners .  Instead, the director designate Sir Paul Nurse  would decide what research was undertaken and how funds and laboratory space was allocated.


Walport   came out with the type of  verbal placebo beloved  of the Great and the Good.  He said there had been “extensive discussions with their security advisors and the Metropolitan Police” and that this had “satisfied us”.  And that was effectively that  as far as both the UKCRMI representatives and the STC members were concerned.

I know from my long correspondence with UKCRMI about security that they really do not have a clue about how it will be arranged. This fact was demonstrated  admission by Walport that they had no plans for the  evacuation of around 1,500 staff in the case of an emergency.  

The person responsible for security will be the chief executive.

The pathogens to be held in the Laboratory

According to Savill the site will hold  malaria, HIV, TB and Influenza pathogens.  All these fall within biohazard Level 3.

Savill said that the malaria and HIV pathogens could only be contracted by inoculation, while  TB and Influenza could be contracted. 

Both Savill and Walport claimed that the risk of  contracting TB or influenza  was greater in everyday life than it would be in the laboratory.  They produced no evidence to support this claim.

According to Savill, there are 781 Laboratories doing Level 3 biohazard work in the UK of which perhaps more than  100 are in Greater London and hence, nothing to worry about by then additional of another. ( There are three points to be made  about this. (1) the proposed laboratory is according to Savill, intended to be “the largest in Europe, perhaps the largest in the world”.  This means it is a larger and more complex undertaking than any now in existence in London.  (2) The publicity around the proposed building, including the enthusiastic endorsement by Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Boris Johnson means that everyone knows where it is. (3) It is in the closest proximity to two iconic sites, Eurostar and the British Library. This, together with the highest level of  political endorsement, makes it a prime terrorist target . ) 

Savill  gave an unqualified “no” when the UKRMI witnesses were asked whether Level 4 biohazard work would be undertaken  at the new site.  However, when the question of the Level 4 licence held by the Mill Hill facility was raised,  there was a decided hesitation before this  stumbling, distinctly  nervous and evasive answer : “My understanding is that the facilities will allow the transfer of the work we plan.”  (Savill was generally very calm, straightforward  and fluent in his answers. His hesitation and equivocation  suggest that  there is something more than Level 3 work planned).

Nothing which was said during the hearing suggested there would be legal  bar to pathogens above Level  3.

Animal experiments

Wallport said that rodents would be used. (This compares with mice ,  rats, frogs and fish cited by the NIMR scientist  Dr Steven Ley in his evidence to the committee in 2004).

Intellectual  Property

Walport said that intellectual property arising from research at Brill Place  would be owned  by UKCRMI and “managed for the benefit of human beings”.

Sale of the  Mill Hill Site

Asked whether there were decontamination problems with the site before its sale,  Savill said “Decontamination is a strong word. Decommissioning certainly.”   (I suspect that “decommissioning” bears the same relationship to “decontamination” as Level 3+ biohazard does to Level 4 biohazard.)

The situation after the hearing

If the committee recommends that the site is unsuitable for UKCRMI and that consequently the work should be done elsewhere, for example, through the development of the Mill Hill site,  the government is not bound by their recommendations.  However, even if rejected by the government, such a recommendation would  at least fuel further high-level  public examination of the issue.   

My own feeling is that the committee will recommend that the project go ahead on the Brill Place site.  It was not that the committee’s questioning was generally feeble or that any real support for the project was evinced during the hearing. The problem is that both major parties have publicly supported the project in fulsome terms . That makes it very difficult for the committee members, all but one of whom are Tory or Labour, to go against their leadership’s wishes. It is also true that anything with the  words “medical research” attach to it plays well with the general public.

Bearing all that in mind, I think the only realistic chance there is of still stopping the project is to get the story of Gordon Brown’s interference to fly. To that end I shall l be trying to get the failed bidders to kick up a fuss in the next week or so.  

Robert Henderson  12 February 2011

Choosing the short list of bidders

February 12, 2011
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Note:  The document below (obtained under the FOIA)  opens a window on the way the latter stages of the bidding process were conducted.

Cluttons is a limited liability partnership of chartered surveyors.  Ralph Pearson is a partner. Atisreal International provides real estate property consultancy services in Europe. They  interviewed  bidders on behalf of the DCMS to compile the final  shortlist of five. The names of the shortlisted bidders were withheld by the DCMS.   Where a number such as [43] appears it refers to FOIA exemptions from the general need for disclosure.

It is very interesting to see that this document ends (see the very bottom of the document) by singling out UKCRMI (refered to as ‘The Partnership’) for special mention, viz:


The Partnership (This is UKCRMI)

The financial bid of The Partnership is at too low a level for the Consortium to be recommended for shortlisting on a commercial basis.

They have confirmed this is their best financial offer.”

The fact that no other bidder is mentioned suggests that  Cluttons and/or Artireal had been pressed to find a way of justifying the selection of UKCRMI.


From: on behalf of

Sent: 03 October 2007 11:28

To: [43]

Subject: Somerstown report on interviews with prospective purchasers

Attachments: Scoring spreadsheet for Somerstown – interview –

28.9.07.x1s; Summary of interviewees.doc



The interview process was completed on Friday afternoon and here is our report on the outcome.

It is structured as follows:

• Interviewed organisations

• Interview process

• Approach Co planning! public consultation

• Evaluation of proposals

• Results

• Recommendation


At the meeting held with DCMS on 12 September ii was agreed that following the evaluation of 28 proposals 9 of the organisations who had scored the highest following the submission of expressions of interest would be interviewed.

From this in the order of 5 organisations would be recommended for shortlisting and invited to make a formal financial proposal.

The 9 organisations involved have now been interviewed and comprise:

[43] Note by RH – all names redacted.

At interview [43] who were previously partnered by [43] arrived with a new partner [43] in the form of who had previously submitted a proposal but not scored sufficiently well to be included in the interview process.


Interviews were held at the offices of Atisreal and Cluttons and for the most part lasted between I and 1.5 hours. They were structured in two parts. Firstly, various points were raised by ourselves to check and verify earlier assumptions. The areas covered were as follows:

• Background details to the company or consortium in question.

• Specific details on how the purchase would be funded,

• Conditionality.

• Development proposals.

• Clarification on overage/clawback.

• Extent of early consultation with Camden! local interest groups. •


The second part of the interview involved a presentation to the interviewee of the background to discussions with the British Library regarding the land swap and proposed new access road, the position with Union Railways. Easements, Cross River Train and issues relating to title, including the submission of a draft title report.

By way of a genera] comment the interviewing team (four or five were in attendance) were extremely pleased with the level of commitment and degree of detailed thought shown by each of the interviewees. In all cases senior people involved with the project attended, mostly with their architects and in sonic cases with a somewhat larger team of consultants.

 It is impossible to achieve total certainty on the willingness and ability of each organisation to complete a purchase, although the majority if not all of these organisations have the required resources.

It was also encouraging that no significant issues emerged in relation to background matters tabled on land swap, Union Railways, etc.


A consistent theme running throughout the interviews was the approach of individual organisations to assumptions on the scale of development.

With one exception [43] each party proposed significantly larger massing than indicated within Camden’s Planning Brief, in some cases over double.

Either as a result of early consultation with the GLA or on the advice of planning consultants the interviewees proposed comparatively tall buildings (some 20 stories plus) along the eastern side of the site opposite the station but with much lower structures to Ossulston Street respecting the rights of light of the residents.

[43] and [43] who had both spoken with representatives of the GLA claim feedback to the effect this site is regarded by the Mayors Office as highly strategic and that comparatively high density development would be not only encouraged but required.

In terms of Camden Planners. the focus of future consultation would in most cases be restricted to the orientation of the scheme, mix of uses and issues such as public open space.

As agreed interviewed parties were encouraged to engage in early consultation with Camden and local interest groups.

Several organisations indicated they would wish to seek an early planning consultation but none considered it would be appropriate to engage with local interest groups until a sale had been completed.


A simplified scoring format was adopted compared to the one used for the initial assessment of expressions of interest.

Proposal were considered in relation to the following three primary factors:

Level of financial bid

50% of scoring was attributed to the level of the financial proposal which ranged from £65m to £105m.

This is significantly higher than the initial scoring level although as discussed with John we believe that determining value for the taxpayer should to a large extent relate to financial benefit in this particular case.

Also as discussed with John no marks have been attributed with reference to finding or financial rating as only organisations already able to demonstrate sufficient resource have been considered.


10% was awarded to the interviewee’s position on overage and clawback.

Most organisations made it clear they intended to build out the scheme rather than sell and were happy to accept clawback provisions involving 50% of any uplift (after holding and other costs) would be paid if the site is sold prior to obtaining a specific planning consent.

With overage, proposals varied considerably with each organisation willing to a greater or lesser extent to consider overage proposals based on the amount of accommodation for which planning consent is obtained above a benchmark, some on uniform basis and others with exclusions.

Reductions relating to the element of affordable.’ social housing.

Several organisations made specific proposals based on an amount per sq ft While others simply indicated their willingness to entertain any reasonable proposals you wish to impose.

Marks were awarded with reference to the following:

• The extent to which a specific proposal had been made and the level of that proposal. • General attitude to the principal [sic] of overage/clawback.

• The scale of development proposals. On this last point organisations proposing particularly large developments were marked low given the limited prospect for overage becoming payable while those with materially smaller schemes were attributed generally higher marks.


40% of the marks were attributed to deliverability. This was judged with reference to an amalgam of following aspects:

• Our assessment of the level of commitment of each organisation to completing a purchase.

• How they are funded (higher risk attributed to those dependent on ‘debt’ rather than ‘equity’) and the track record of completing on purchases of a similar scale without the benefit of a specific planning consent.

• The risk of development proposals not being supported upon further investigation leading to a reduction in bid level, prior to completion of a sale.

• The quality of scheme proposals.

• In ease of joint ventures, previous current experience of working together.

In the latter respect appropriate time was allotted to the consideration of individual scheme proposals.

All bidders could demonstrate significant consideration had been given to development proposals, including indicative plans, drawings and in one case [43] a model.

With the exception of The Partnership all proposals revolve around mixed use schemes ranging from 50:50 commercial/residential to others that had very limited commercial but a more significant proportion of student, hotel or other non commercial uses.

Other than in relation to massing all proposals could be argued to be broadly in line with the planning brief.


Using the scoring system described before the results are shown as per the original order in the first attachment and summarised as follows: On the left is the weighted score out of a maximum. of 100 points and alongside in brackets is the level of financial bid.

Score (Financial bid)

[43]75% (£102m)

[43]86% (£105m)

[43]56% (£81m)

[43]64% (£91m)

[43]19% (£65m)

[43]34% (£65m)

[43]68% (£90m)

[43]67% (£103m)

[43]22% (£75m)

Note by RH: all shortlisted bidder names chosen from those expressing an interest  redacted.

Shortly after the interview with [43] a revised financial bid of £lO3m was received as a result of input from their new commercial partner. On the basis the interviews held are integral to the selection process our recommendation is to allow this and the revised figure has been scored compared to the original financial bid of £71m Given the weighting in favour of price ti is not surprising the results are closely aligned. A summary of the main points arising out each interview is being prepared for your further background information and will be supplied shortly.


The Partnership (This is UKCRMI)

The financial bid of The Partnership is at too low a level for the Consortium to be recommended for shortlisting on a commercial basis.

They have confirmed this is their best financial offer.

The full list of bidders

February 11, 2011

The information below was extracted from data released under the FOIA by the DCMS. There were 27 bidders (other documents suggest 28 bidders but none list the bidders).  With regard to the Camden planning brief the breakdown was:

 12 definitely complied with planning brief

 1  appeared to comply with planning brief

 7  did not  comply with planning brief (This includes UKCRMI)

 4  It was impossible to tell from the information provided

 2 No opinion was stated

 1 was an indeterminate comment (Thornsett Group)

Those meeting the planning brief included obvious serious players such as Redrow, Barratt Homes and Wimpey. Therefore, the DCMS cannot claim that there was no realistic chance of selling to a bidder who met the planning brief.

The bidders

1. Development Securities Plc  and Granger Plc (JV)

2. Oracle Group  

3. Minerva 

4 Tudorvale properties

5. City Lofts Group   

6.. Thornsett Group plc/CIT Group plc 

7. Terrace Hill Group plc  

8. The Partnership/ Cancer Research UK/Medical Research Council/The Wellcome Trust – this is UKCRMI

9. Henderson Global Investors (With First Base/ Notting Hill Housing Association).

10. First Regeneration Homes/  Princeton Investments Ltd/Tiger Developments Ltd

11. Splendid Hotel Group

12. Pantherlee Ltd  

13. Barratt Homes 

14. The Merchant Property Group/Capital and Counties

15. Redrow Regeneration ( Commercial partner – Commercial Estates Group)

16. Bee Bee Developments Ltd

17. Leander   

18. City & Docklands/ Scarborough Development Group (JV)

19. Taylor Wimpey Development London Region. Partnered by Bride Hall Developments

20. Criterion Capital Ltd

21. Places for People (RSL)  

22. Landmark Developers with The Ability Group

23. Marcol Group/Nicholas James Group Ltd

24. Community Housing Association  

25. Coexist Foundation  

26. St James Group (Berkley Group)

27. London and Regional  Holdings Ltd   

I attempted unsuccessfully to obtain from the DCMS the names of those who made it to the short list of nine (the names were withheld on the grounds of commercial confidentiality).

Science and Technology Committee – Next UKCRMI evidence

February 11, 2011
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Committee to hear evidence on UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI)


09 February 2011

The Science and Technology Committee will hold the following oral evidence session in its inquiry into the ‘UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation’.

Wednesday 16 February 2011
Thatcher Room, Portcullis House

At 9.15 am

  • Sir Paul Nurse, Chief Executive and Director, UKCMRI Ltd
  • Sir David Cooksey, Chairman, UKCMRI Ltd
  • John Cooper, Chief Operating Officer, UKCMRI Ltd

A further evidence session taking evidence from Ministers will be announced in due course.

Further information

Posted in Parliament

Science and Technology Committee 9 February 2011

February 10, 2011
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The House of Commons  Science and Technology Committee took evidence from UKCRMI and the Somers Town Planning Action (SPA).  The official  recording of the evidence can be found at

I shall  be writing a report on this, but  it was clear from the hearing that UKCRMI floundered at various points and were reduced to saying they would have to supply the Committee with information later.  There were also a number of points which were either not addressed or insufficiently examined.

I have written to the clerk to the committee asking him to inform me if and when the information is provided and to each MP on the committee raising the matters left unexamined and inviting them to visit the site. 

The emails to the clerk and the MPs are below.


10 February 2011

Glenn McKee
Committee Clerk
Science and Technology Committee
Telephone: 020 7219 8367
 Dear Mr  McKee,
I attended the UKCMRI hearing yesterday. There were a number of instances when UKCMRI were unable or unwilling  to answer either at all or completely. Would it be possible for you email me when and if you receive the additional information they have promised. Would I be right in thinking that this information will be made public?
Am I correct in thinking that  all the members of the committee were present yesterday except for Gregg McClymont and Alok Sharma for both the UKCRMI and SPA evidence and Roger Williams for the SPA evidence?
Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson


10 February 2011

To all members of the committee

My name is Robert Henderson. I asked to give evidence to the committee at the UKCMRI hearing of 9 February.  This request was refused. Hence, this email.

 Although most of the important points were covered,  there were one or two that were either not touched upon  or failed to be debated in sufficient depth.  The first is the extreme proximity of the site to the  Eurostar Terminal, The British Library and residential housing.   To give you an idea of how close,  the site is 50 feet from my front window.  It is also a surprising small site, a fact which was tacitly acknowledged when the representatives of UKCMRI admitted they would  have to be putting work out to other sites, including that obvious component of the London “cluster”,  Edinburgh University.  I really do think the committee should visit the site. Actually seeing how close it will be to prime terrorist targets, residents and passengers is a real eye-opener.  I should be delighted to act as your  guide.

On the subject of terrorist attacks, while it is true that other laboratories exist in central London with Level 3 licences , there are two prime differences between them and this site: (1) the scale of the project and (2) the vast amount of publicity given to it, not least by  Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Boris Johnson.  That, together with its proximity to Eurostar and the British Library,  makes it a much more attractive and likely target for terrorists.   

It was noticeable that when challenged over terrorist security issues, the UKCMRI representatives descended into waffle. This did not surprise me because I have spent the past few years attempting unsuccessfully to get them to answer such simple questions as are the security staff and  cleaners  to be employed directly by the consortium or employed through sub-contractors.  That is an important question because any lowly paid staff are a prime security risk, especially cleaners who work outside normal hours with little supervision.

The other issue I  would draw you attention to is the biohazard  level.  The UKCMRI representatives were decidedly shifty when the question of the Level 4 licence held by the Mill Hill site.  Despite the most diligent use of search engines,  I cannot  find any official listing for their claimed biohazard 3+ level of security. The suspicion must be that it is Level 4 in disguise.   Just to remind you , Level 4 covers this type of toxin:

“Biohazard Level 4: Viruses and bacteria that cause severe to fatal disease in humans, and for which vaccines or other treatments are not available, such as Bolivian and Argentine hemorrhagic fevers, H5N1(bird flu), Dengue hemorrhagic fever, Marburg virus, Ebola virus, hantaviruses, Lassa fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, and other hemorrhagic diseases. When dealing with biological hazards at this level the use of a Hazmat suit and a self-contained oxygen supply is mandatory. The entrance and exit of a Level Four biolab will contain multiple showers, a vacuum room, an ultraviolet light room, autonomous detection system, and other safety precautions designed to destroy all traces of the biohazard. Multiple airlocks are employed and are electronically secured to prevent both doors opening at the same time. All air and water service going to and coming from a Biosafety Level 4 (P4) lab will undergo similar decontamination procedures to eliminate the possibility of an accidental release.”

Yours sincerely,


Robert Henderson