The United Kingdom Centre for Medical Research and Innovation

Many recent safety breaches at UK labs handling lethal viruses

December 6, 2014
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Robert Henderson
The Guardian  have obtained worrying data on the escape of dangerous viruses from supposedly high security laboratories in the UK:
The Guardian
Revealed: 100 safety breaches at UK labs handling potentially deadly diseases
Blunders led to live anthrax being posted from one lab and holes being found in isolation suits at a facility handling Ebola-infected animals
The ‘containment floor’ of the National Institute for Medical Research
Nine UK sites house CL4 labs, including the National Institute for Medical Research, which studies pandemic and avian flu. P
Ian Sample, science editor
Thursday 4 December 2014 12.31 GMT
High-security laboratories that handle the most dangerous viruses and bacteria have reported more than 100 accidents or near-misses to safety regulators in the past five years, official reports reveal.One blunder led to live anthrax being sent from a government facility to unsuspecting labs across the UK, a mistake that exposed other scientists to the disease. Another caused the failure of an air handling system that helped contain foot and mouth disease at a large animal lab.

Wear and tear also caused problems and potentially put researchers in danger. At a top security Ministry of Defence lab, tears were found in isolation suits at a facility handling animals infected with the Ebola virus.

Reports obtained by the Guardian from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveal that more than 70 incidents at government, university and hospital labs were serious enough to investigate. Many led to enforcement letters, or crown prohibition notices (CPN), ordering labs to shut until improvements were made. Some were so serious they ended in legal action.

Anthrax cells.
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Anthrax cells. Photograph: Alamy
Prof Richard Ebright, a US biosafety expert at Rutgers University in New Jersey, who reviewed the reports for the Guardian, said that, taken together, they revealed failures in procedures, infrastructure, training and safety culture at some British labs.

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Alarmed at a run of incidents at facilities that work on animal diseases, Ebright asked: “Does British agriculture have a death wish?”

The figures amount to one investigation every three weeks at secure laboratories that are designed to carry out research on pathogens that can cause serious illness and spread into the community. Some of the organisms are lethal and have no vaccines or treatments.

Many of the incidents were one-off, almost inevitable human mistakes, such as spillages of infectious bugs. Others were down to old equipment and safety clothing. The most serious accidents arose from chains of mistakes that happened one after the other, and were often only discovered later.

The reports compiled by the HSE describe at least 116 incidents and 75 completed investigations since April 2010 at laboratories where the most dangerous organisms are handled. Other investigations are under way, but the HSE cannot disclose details of those in case they lead to legal action. All of the investigations were prompted by reports from lab managers who are obliged by law to tell the HSE when an accident or near-miss happens at their facility.

Backstory
The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Weybridge, Surrey.
The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Weybridge, Surrey. Photograph: Rex Features/Rex Features
Some of the most worrisome incidents happened at the Surrey-based Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), renamed the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) in October. In one case, scientists were handling anthrax when something went badly wrong. They meant to send harmless samples, killed by heat, to nearby AHVLA labs and others in York and Belfast. But somehow the tubes got mixed up. Instead of sending out dead material, the anthrax they sent was live and dangerous.

The staff who made the mistake were safe enough. They worked in a high-security lab built to contain lethal agents. But some of those who received the bugs did not. In Belfast, the anthrax was handled in a higher containment lab, meaning those staff were safe. In York, the samples were never opened. But at another AHVLA site, scientists opened the tubes in a less secure lab and got to work on the open bench. The incident at the AHVLA is one of the more serious biological accidents that has happened in the UK in recent years. But it was far from being the only one.
 
Read more at
This article confirms what I said in my objections to the Francis Crick Institute Laboratory presently being built in King Cross, viz:
 
“Security
Security issues alone should prevent the research centre being built.  The centre would be a prime terrorist target  because (1) there are three iconic sites in the closest proximity – the Eurostar terminal, the British Library and the Medical Research Centre itself; (2) the nature of the work to be undertaken at the Centre – the public information released to date suggests that it will be handling dangerous material and (3), all three of the major British political parties have given it enthusiastic public support which both raises its public profile and attaches it to national politics -hit the centre = hit the politicians – (see document 23).
Whether as a result of a terrorist attack or a failure of bio-security the consequences of an escape of  dangerous biological agents would be severe, both in terms of any contamination of people and by the economic effects on London (and by extension the country) which the fear generated by the escape of toxins would bring.
I have been attempting without success to get answers about the security arrangements for the proposed research centre since 2007. (For my dealings with the consortium and its individual members on security and other matters see documents 10-22).
My requests have been turned down on the grounds that this would breach security. This is a bogus ground for refusal because I deliberately did not ask for detailed operational accounts of their security, which would compromise security,  but general issues such as whether the security staff will be employed directly by the centre; whether the staff will have been raised in Britain (vetting foreigners is in practice impossible); how cleaners (normally a weak point in security because they work at night when security is minimal); how toxic materials will be transported in and out of the centre and whether the security staff would be armed, something absolutely necessary if there is a threat of terrorist attacks especially if they involved suicide bombers.
The real reason why the consortium will not comment is they do not have a clue about how their security will work. The UKCMRI CEO John Cooper gave the game away at a meeting convened by St Pancras and Somers Town Planning Action and  held on 4 10 2010 in the Somers Town Community Centre when he said that their security arrangements would not be decided for three years. It is absurd to allow people who have not considered in detail  the security issues involved before submitting a planning application to be granted that application, not least because the design and situation of the building should be taking these issues into account as one of the primary drivers of the design.
The security, both bio and anti-terrorist,  is particularly compromised by the intention of the consortium to allow scientists who are not employed by the consortium to carry out research. These people could be either from non-profit organisations or private firms:
“There will be dedicated space for technology transfer and additional lab space to enable the findings of the research teams within the centre to be developed and translated into clinical applications by scientists from pharmaceutical companies and partners.” The Bliss Project Concept and Vision (see document 7)
This raises two security problems: the vetting of such people and the lack of a single authority responsible for the security of the centre.   This is precisely what happened at Pirbright which was split between government and private business with no one in overall control (see document 9). Come the foot and mouth outbreak of 2007 no one would take responsibility with both sides blaming the other.
Thorough vetting of those who come from abroad would be impracticable and vetting of anyone born and raised in Britain but who has spent substantial periods of time abroad problematic. These considerations would be relevant to both scientists and other staff, many of whom would be foreign or have spent long periods out of the country.
I would also draw the planning committee’s attention to the fact that Islamic extremism is seen by the government as a growing problem in British universities (see document 5) and that one of the consortium’s members – UCL – has been recently had a student-  Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – who went on to try to commit a terrorist act (see document 6).
The limited access proposed for the public would also be a weak link in the security.
Things are no more promising on the bio-security side. At the meeting of 4 10m 2010,  John Cooper promised that nothing more dangerous than influenza viruses would be in the centre. However, this  was meaningless because, as he very grudgingly admitted, there would be legal bar to this policy  being changed at some point in the future. Moreover, ‘flu viruses can be extremely toxic, vide the 1918 epidemic which swept Europe and caused more deaths than had occurred in military action during the Great War.
There is good reason to believe that toxins officially classified as more dangerous than influenza will be used. The MRC site in Mill Hill – the site Brill Place is meant to replace –  has 11 laboratories licenced for level 3 biohazards and one licensed for level 4 biohazards (see document 3).  The license for level 3 work allows the following to be used for research:
Biohazard Level 3: Bacteria and viruses that can cause severe to fatal disease in humans, but for which vaccines or other treatments exist, such as anthrax, West Nile virus, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, SARS virus, variola virus (smallpox), tuberculosis, typhus, Rift Valley fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, yellow fever, and malaria. Among parasites Plasmodium falciparum, which causes Malaria, and Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes trypanosomiasis, also come under this level.
The consortium is applying for level 3 licenses for the proposed medical centre. Once they have these they can work on any of the viruses and bacteria listed above regardless of what is promised now.
Presumably whatever work the MRC has been conducting under the level 4 licence will continue. If it comes to the new centre work on these toxins would be covered:
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.
If the level 4 work is not to come to the proposed research centre the consortium’s claim that their work has to be done at the Brill Place siteis discredited. If it does come to the site then risk is raised considerably. As to whether it  will come to the site, answers given by John Davidson at a meeting held 11 10 2010 in the Ossulton TRA Hall  provide a strong pointer. Questioned by myself, he stated that the Mill Hill facility would definitely be closed if and when the centre was built and he could not rule out all the Mill Hill work being moved to the Brill Place site including the level 4 risk work.
The DCMS were certainly led to believe that the centre would deal with viruses other than influenza, viz.:
“4. MRC anticipates that some £205 m of additional investment will be secured from consortium partners for the development of the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation. This is investment which would otherwise be Lost to the public purse. This additional investment in the work of the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) will support the delivery of high quality research on:
“ The origins of the AIDS epidemic, detecting tuberculosis (TB) infection, variations in the structure of the bird flu virus H5N1 all of which could Lead to more effective breakthroughs in drug development. Scientists at NIMR have also:- (With the University of Hong Kong) isolated the gene responsible for sensory development in the inner ear, which may lead to significant advances in the development of treatments for the deaf and those with severely impaired hearing; and determined the structure of the enzyme that regulates cellular energy levels which could lead to new drugs for type II diabetes, an illness that affects more than two million people in the UK. Taken together, these important results emerging from the UKCMRI could substantially improve the quality of life and allow those who benefit from the findings to continue to make their important contribution to the economy.” (See DCMS Q and A – document  4)
Every large organisation which has security issues always says their security is very tight and time and again the security fails. Pirbright said  exactly this before they had to admit that they were at fault. The members of the consortium say this. The MRC recently were involved in lax procedures which resulted in the death of a patient, viz.:
“Daily telegraph
Man dies in government cancer drug trial A man about to get married has died in a government-funded medical trial after receiving seven overdoses of drugs.
By Jon Swaine
Last Updated: 7:50PM BST 21 Sep 2008
Gary Foster, 27, was repeatedly given twice the amount of chemotherapy drugs he should have been prescribed. He was due to be married this month. Reports have said his death was caused by an error in the setting up of the trial on the computer system at University College London Hospital (UCLH). A second patient was affected by the same mistake, but survived. When the MRC suspected patients had been given overdoses, instead of calling the hospital immediately it wrote a letter – which a nurse at UCLH failed to open until two days after Mr Foster had died…” (see document 8).”
It is wildly improbable that there will not be a breach of security, either through negligence or terrorist action, from the Francis Crick Institute (FCI), which will be dealing with some of the most dangerous viruses.
Situated where the FCI is, any escape of pathogens would be unambiguously disastrous. It is next door to Eurostar Terminal  and St Pancras Station,  a few hundred yards from Kings Cross and Euston stations, a few yards from the British Museum and only the width of a street from residential housing on its Western boundary. Huge numbers of commuters and visitors to London pass through the area every day. It would be difficult to think of another part of London which would cause as much disruption in the event of the escape of dangerous viruses. Permitting the  building of the FCI on such a site is an act of criminal negligence by the planning authorities.

 

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Notification of planning irregularities to Boris Johnson

January 14, 2011
4 Comments

Boris Johnson esq

Mayor of London

City Hall

14 January 2010

Dear Mr Johnson,

                        The United Kingdom Centre for Medical Research and Innovation  (UKCMRI)

You have sanctioned the building of a very large research facility on land behind the British Library (the Brill Place site). You have made this decision in ignorance of the irregularities which have taken place in the handling of both the sale of the site by the DCMS  and the handling of  the  application for planning permission by Camden Council.

The sale of the land

It is clear from documents I have received from the  Cabinet Office, the Treasury, the DCMS and Camden Council through FOIA requests that Gordon Brown when Prime Minister in interfered illicitly with the public bidding process. The decision on the sale of the land was meant to be entirely in the hands of the DCMS and decided on the criterion of “value for money”.   The documents I have received under the FOIA make clear that Brown not only made it clear that he wanted the site sold to UKCMRI,  but took steps to insure it happened. He was doing this before the official bidding process was closed.  That rendered the bidding process a sham. On the face of things, a fraud would appear to have been perpetrated against the failed bidders  and the British public.  

Camden’s handling of the application for planning permission.

I submitted a most comprehensive objection to the application. This,  contained amongst other things,  the details of Brown’s interference with the sale of the land and the level of biohazard  likely to be used on the proposed site.  The report prepared by the Camden planning officers for the planning committee  excluded any mention whatsoever of Brown’s interference with the sale of the site and omitted mention of the probable level of biohazard which would be introduced to the research centre if it is built.

UKCMRI claim that there will be no biohazard level 4 toxins on new site. However, the leading member of the  consortium, the Medical Research Council,  currently has a level 4 licence on its Mill Hill site. UKCMRI have confirmed that the site is to be sold once the new centre is built and the MRC work moved to the Brill Place site. It is not unreasonable to suppose that level  4 work will be undertaken at  the new research centre.  The Council report failed to mention this information despite it being included in my objection to the planning application.  Moreover, UKCMRI have introduced the concept of biohazard level 3+ which they say will cover some of their work. This appears to have no official standing and the suspicion must be that it is level 4 in disguise.

The failure to include these centrally important matters in the planning officer’s advice to the planning committee members is a serious irregularity and  should nullify the planning permission.

Supporting documentation

To allow you to verify what I am saying I enclose my notification of the irregularities in Camden’s handling of the planning application. These include the documents which demonstrate  Gordon Brown’s interference with the sale of the site.  

In view of these various serious  irregularities,  I ask you to remove your sanctioning of the Camden planning permission.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson

 ————————————————————————-

17 December 2010

Mr Nasim Ali

Leader

Camden Council

CC all other Camden Councillors

    Neil MacDonald (Planning Officer)

    Aiden Brooks (Lawyer)

Dear Mr Ali,

Development Control Committee 16 12 2010 Town Hall 7.00 pm

Subject: The granting of planning permission to ULCMRI for a research centre on land behind the British Library. (The discussion of the planning application a ran approximately between 7.15-9.45 pm) (Application Ref: 2010/4721/P, Associated Ref: 2009/2565/NEW)

In my objection to the planning application I included the fact that Gordon Brown when Prime Minister had illicitly interfered with the bidding process for the land on which the research centre is to be built. This was not some fancy on my part,  but irrefutable fact based on civil service documents which I obtained using the Freedom of Information Act. These were included with my objection to the planning application.  A copy of the relevant section of my objection together with the necessary supporting documents is at the bottom of this email.

Despite this irrefutable proof of the contamination of the bidding process – Brown was interfering even before the formal bidding process was over – no mention is made of Brown’s interference in the Camden Officer’s report – see section 4.41 “Objections”. Nor was any mention of Brown’s interference made by the case planning officer Neil MacDonald in his summary of the case last night or by any other speaker,  whether council officer, councillor or deputation member.

The failure to bring this very important objection to the planning application invalidates the granting of the permission. Apart from nullifying the sale of the land to UKCMRI, the other bidders,  who made their bids in good faith,  would have the opportunity to seek compensation from the government and also from Camden if the building goes ahead. Camden could be liable because they have both been advised of the difficulty and have excluded that advice from the formal submission on which the Development Control Committee.

This brings me to why my objection on the grounds of Gordon Brown’s interference was omitted from the officer’s report. There are only two rational explanations. First, that the objections of private individuals were never read and the Camden officers responsible simply guessed at what the objections would be. Second, that the omission was a deliberate political act of censorship. Please write to me and tell me (1) which of these two explanations is the true one, (2) what action you will be taking against the culprits and (3) what you intend to do about the illegitimately granted planning permission.

There is a second area of concern. Section 4.46 cites UKCMRI as never going beyond level 3+ viruses.  This very dubious. Let me cite a section from my objection to the planning application:

“There is good reason to believe that toxins officially classified as more dangerous than influenza will be used. The MRC site in Mill Hill – the site Brill Place is meant to replace –  has 11 laboratories licenced for level 3 biohazards and one licensed for level 4 biohazards (see document 3).  The license for level 3 work allows the following to be used for research:

Biohazard Level 3: Bacteria and viruses that can cause severe to fatal disease in humans, but for which vaccines or other treatments exist, such as anthrax, West Nile virus, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, SARS virus, variola virus (smallpox), tuberculosis, typhus, Rift Valley fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, yellow fever, and malaria. Among parasites Plasmodium falciparum, which causes Malaria, and Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes trypanosomiasis, also come under this level.

The consortium is applying for level 3 licenses for the proposed medical centre. Once they have these they can work on any of the viruses and bacteria listed above regardless of what is promised now.  

Presumably whatever work the MRC has been conducting under the level 4 licence will continue. If it comes to the new centre work on these toxins would be covered:

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.

If the level 4 work is not to come to the proposed research centre the consortium’s claim that their work has to be done at the Brill Place site is discredited. If it does come to the site then risk is raised considerably. As to whether it  will come to the site, answers given by John Davidson at a meeting held 11 10 2010 in the Ossulton TRA Hall  provide a strong pointer. Questioned by myself, he stated that the Mill Hill facility would definitely be closed if and when the centre was built and he could not rule out all the Mill Hill work being moved to the Brill Place site including the level 4 risk work.

The DCMS were certainly led to believe that the centre would deal with viruses other than influenza, viz.:

“4. MRC anticipates that some £205 m of additional investment will be secured from consortium partners for the development of the UK Centre

for Medical Research and Innovation. This is investment which would otherwise be Lost to the public purse. This additional investment in the work of the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) will support the delivery of high quality research on:

“ The origins of the AIDS epidemic, detecting tuberculosis (TB) infection, variations in the structure of the bird flu virus H5N1 all of which could Lead to more effective breakthroughs in drug development. Scientists at NIMR have also:- (With the University of Hong Kong) isolated the gene responsible for sensory development in the inner ear, which may lead to significant advances in the development of treatments for the deaf and those with severely impaired hearing; and determined the structure of the enzyme that regulates cellular energy levels which could lead to new drugs for type II diabetes, an illness that affects more than two million people in the UK. Taken together, these important results emerging from the UKCMRI could substantially improve the quality of life and allow those who benefit from the findings to continue to make their important contribution to the economy.”

It would appear that there is a very real possibility of level 4 viruses being researched at the new site. Yet both the Camden officer’s submission and verbal replies from UKCRMI representatives during the hearing of the application were dogmatic that level 4 was never going to be a possibility. Clearly it is if all the MRC work is transferred to the new  site.  Please write to me and explain why my advice of the true situation has been ignored by Camden officers.

I would appreciate a rapid answer to all my questions as this very obviously is a matter which needs to be cleared up as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson  

————————————————————————————

Relevant extract from my objection to the planning application

Gordon Brown’s interference with the bidding process

Document 25

RESTRICTED – POLICY & COMMERCIAL

To James Purnell Margaret Hodge, Jonathan Stephens,Ros Brayfield

From Nicholas Holgate

Date 18 September 2007 ____________

SALE OF LAND TO THE NORTH OF THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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;

and

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

————————————————————————-

Document 26

Sent: 27 November 2007 13:09

To: HOLGATE NICHOLAS

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.

Cheers

Private Secretary  to Jonathan Stephens

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

SWlY 5Dl1 email: [40]@culture.gsi.gov.uk tel: 0207211 fax: 020 72116259

————————————————————————-

Document 27

From: [40]

Sent: 29 November 2007 11:49

To: HOLGATE NICHOLAS

Cc: STEPHENS JONATHAN: FERRERO MARK;[40] MARTIN

LINDA

Subject: RE: British Library land

Nicholas

Thanks for this. The SoS has seen your note and is content. Grateful if you could keep us updated on whether the PM will be announcing this next week as part of his science speech.

Many thanks,

R

Private Secretary to the Rt Hon James Purnell MP

Department of Culture, Media and Sport

2-4Cockspur Street, London SW1Y 5DH

Tel@ 0207 7211 [40]

———————————————————————-

Document 28

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

RESTRICTED – COMMERCIAL

———————————————————————

Document 29

To James Purnell

From Nicholas Holgate

Date

4 December 2007

cc Margaret Hodge

Gerry Sutcliffe

Jonathan Stephens

Mark Ferrero

[40]

BRITISH LIBRARY LAND

Issues: the sale of this 3.6 acre site; and the recycling of the proceeds to benefit DCMS causes.

Timing: urgent, albeit for information.

As you know, we have been marketing this site. The highest commercial bid was £105 mn. But a consortium of the Medical Research Council (MRC), Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and University College London have also entered a bid to re-site the Mill Hill research laboratory on this land and thus establish a world class interdisciplinary facility in central London.

2. Their final offer was £85 m. We have accepted the assessment of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills that the public value’ in addition to the sum offered, in terms of increasing the pace of medical research and its practical application, is well worth a discount on a fully commercial sale price of £20 m.

3. The Prime Minister has taken an interest in this proposal; and is expected to announce the deal tomorrow at a breakfast seminar (8-8.45 am).

4. I attach the final press release and some questions and answers.

5. We will be able to re-cycle some of the proceeds: notably, we can meet the tax bill for the proposed acquisition of a major collection; and he deemed to have met almost all of our disposals target for the next three financial years, thus underpinning your proposed capital allocations to the NDPBs.

Nicholas Holgate

Chief Operating Officer

—————————————

Document 30

BRIEFING NOTE FROM POLICY ADVISERS DATED 12 NOVEMBER 2007 TO THE PRIME MINISTER COPIED TO No 10 OFFICIALS.

THE NOTE WAS ENTITLED: PROJECT BLISS – CREATING A WORLD-LEADING MEDICAL RESEARCH FACILITY IN LONDON

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?

Background

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.

————————————————————————-

Document 31

BRIEFING NOTE FROM NO 10 POLICY ADVISER TO THE PRIME MINISTER DATED 27 NOVEMBER 2007

COPIED TO NO 10 OFFICIALS

ENTITLED “MEETING WITH PAUL NURSE ON BLISS PROJECT”

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


Boris Johnson gives the go-ahead to UKCMRI laboratory

January 14, 2011
1 Comment

The heading from the mayoral website – “World class medical research centre given go-ahead in London ” – says it all, namely, Johnson was behind the project from the word go. In fact, we know this from earlier reports such as this:

“London must lead the way in  research and development to advance medical science, and it is fantastic news that the capital will now be the home of the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI),” says Johnson. “It’s quite clear that linking research to delivery in the NHS will significantly advance our fight against major diseases and improve health care.”  April 18, 2008 http://blogs.nature.com/london/2008/04/18/city-hall-and-science-boris-johnson

The planning application was referred to him because although Camden Council had granted permission, the building is of a height  which requires the mayor to also give his approval. I would be most interested to know  how Johnson could make an impartial decision on the particular application . Robert Henderson

Extract from press release on the mayoral website

World class medical research centre given go-ahead in London

14 JANUARY 2011

Plans to build Europe’s largest biomedical research centre in Camden have today been approved by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

The pioneering laboratory and research institution, located in Brill Place, will become a world class facility for cancer research, securing 1,500 jobs, strengthening the capital’s reputation as centre for excellence for medical science and helping maintain its competitiveness in health education.

Plans for the 90,000 square foot environmentally sustainable centre were submitted by the UKCMRI Consortium, consisting of Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council (MRC) and University College London (UCL). Once completed, its staff will develop life-changing new treatments for illnesses including cancers, heart disease, strokes and flu.

Read more at:

 http://www.london.gov.uk/media/press_releases_mayoral/world-class-medical-research-centre-given-go-ahead-london


Camden’s response to my notification of planning permission irregularities

January 7, 2011
3 Comments
 on   Friday, 7 January, 2011, 14:29 (Councillor) <Nasim.Ali@camden.gov.uk> wrote 
 
Dear Mr. Henderson
Thank you for your emails dated the 17th and 19th December regarding your concerns with the procedures surrounding the UKCMRI planning application which was heard at the Development Control Committee on 16th December 2010. I have looked into this matter and now am in a position to respond to the issues you raise.

Inclusion of Objections in the Committee Report

The committee report summarises all the issues raised by yourself and 36 other neighbouring occupiers at the site at paragraph 4.41, you can access the report at: http://democracy.camden.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=1282 .

You should find that all your comments are covered by the points listed albeit condensed into bullet form and generically with other peoples’ comments. The individual identity of those objecting or supporting the application was not given in the report; only groups and organisations were named.

Recording of individual votes of Councillors

It is not a requirement at committee meetings to record the individual votes of Councillors unless immediately after the vote is taken,  any two voting members request the vote to be officially recorded in the committee minutes. I can confirm that a recorded vote was not requested at the meeting of the Development Control Committee on 16th December and therefore information on who voted for, against or abstained was not officially noted in the Committee minutes. The relevant extract of the Council’s Constitution relating to this can be found in Part 4, section D.15 (page of 161) and I have attached a copy for your reference.

I understand that you have also written to the members of the planning committee asking them to confirm how they voted. As set out above they are not compelled to reveal how they voted although I believe some have responded. 

Challenging the Planning Decision

If you wish to challenge any planning decision on the grounds of Irregularity, you should follow the correct Judicial Review procedure. For this, a claim form must be filed promptly with the courts and in any event not later than 3 months after the grounds to make the claim first arose. This 3 month time limit for lodging a judicial review application will therefore run from the date of the grant of planning permission. This does not rule out the bringing of a challenge at an earlier stage if the court in its discretion considers that a useful purpose would be served by such a challenge. As the application has been referred to the Mayor of London for a final decision the 3 month time limit will run from the Mayor’s decision and not the committee resolution. However, as stated above, this may not preclude you from filing an application at an earlier stage as the court may still entertain it.

If you would like further advice on these legal matters, please do not hesitate to contact Camden ’s Principal Planning Lawyer, Aidan Brookes, by post at:

Legal Services

Camden Town Hall

Judd Street

London

WC1H 9JE

Thank you again for raising your concerns and hopefully I have provided further clarification to you on this matter.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Nasim Ali OBE

Leader of Camden Council

  Cc: to all Camden Councillors

 ——————————————-

 Cllr Nasim Ali OBE

Leader of Camden Council

CC To all Camden Councillors

7 January 2011

Dear Mr Ali,

Challenge to the UKCMRI planning permission

Thank for your email which I received today. I have looked at the report at http://democracy.camden.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=1282 . It contains  the same information as given in the Public Document Pack for the Development Control  Committee Meeting of 16 December – this  was the document upon which  I based my challenge to the planning permission..  

As I told you in my previous emails, there is NO  mention at all in the  report of  my complaint that Gordon Brown  illicitly interfered with the bidding process for the site  or of the facts that (1)  the MRC have a level 4 licence for their Mill Hill site; (2) that  the Mill Hill site will be sold  when the Bill Place laboratory is built and (3) UKCMRI have confirmed that the Mill Hill work will be transferred to the Brill Place Laboratory. If you read paras   4.1 to 4.49 of the report you referred me to  you will find that this is the case.  Nor was any mention made orally to the two issues  during the Development Control Committee meeting.

I can only presume that neither you nor your staff has  bothered to  read either the relevant parts of my objection to the planning application or Camden’s own information.  You rather give the game away when you  write “You should find that all your comments are covered by the points listed albeit condensed into bullet form and generically with other peoples’ comments.”  You do not write “should” when you know something can be found for certain.

If you still want to maintain that my complaints about Gordon Brown and biohazard levels are covered by the report, send me the paragraph references in the report which you say mention those complaints.  If you are unable to do this,  please write to me and (1)  admit that the information was withheld from the Development Control Committee; (2) explain why it was withheld and  (3)  explain  what action you have taken or will take against those who  censored the information.  

If you cannot demonstrate that the information is in the report, the granting of  the planning permission is clearly irregular.  It is even conceivable that a criminal offence has been committed by excluding objections  which would be very  politically embarrassing. There would be  a crying  need for the planning application to be heard again. To suggest that a judicial review is the way forward is disingenuous,  because  you must be aware that a council tenant is not going to have the funds to mount such an action which could easily swallow up £40,000 per day in court in costs to both sides. What is required is action at the council level to re-hear the planning application.

I find the failure to routinely record individual councillors votes profoundly anti-democratic. Please explain to me how electors can hold councillors to account if such votes are not recorded,.

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Robert Henderson 

  

From: McGuinness, Andy
Subject: RE: UKCMRI – challenge to the granting of planning permission continued
To: anywhere156@yahoo.co.uk
Date: Monday, 10 January, 2011, 17:19

Dear Mr Henderson,

 
Cllr Ali has asked me to thank you again for your email to him and to say that he will be responding to the three points that you raise in your email in due course.
 
Kind regards
 
 
Andy McGuinness
PA to Leader & Deputy Leader of the Council

Telephone: 020 7974 5707

 ——————————————-

11.January 2011  

Andy McGuinness
PA to Leader & Deputy Leader of the Council

Telephone: 020 7974 5707

  
CC all Camden councillors
 
Dear Mr McGuinness,
  
Thank you for your email. Please ensure that I do not get another nonsense reply. 
  
The question of whether the issues of Gordon Brown’s illicit interference in the bidding process and the information relating to the biohazard levels contained in my objection to the planning application are or are not in the report prepared for the Development Control Committee is not a matter of opinion but a matter of fact.  Neither is in the report.   All you need to confirm this is read paras 4.1-4.49.  I suggest you do this and then report their absence to Cllr Ali.
  
Cllr Ali should be able to send a reply very rapidly because little  effort is required to discover the truth. It is shameful that my previous  emails did not cause anyone within the Council to actually read the report to see that what I was saying was the simple truth.
  
Yours sincerely.
  
  
Robert Henderson
  
 ——————————————-

  

Dear Mr Henderson,

Thank you for your email of the 7th January which was in response to my emailed reply to your earlier enquiries (17th and 19th December) regarding your concerns about the Council’s consideration of the UKCMRI planning application.

As I understand it the points that you raise fall into 2 principle parts and that you are concerned that there was no mention in the committee report or at the Development Control Committee meeting of these which are as follows:

1)       that Gordon Brown had illicitly interfered in the government’s bidding process for the Brill Place site to the UKCMRI’s advantage

2)       that the MRC will carry on their current level 4 licensed activities at Brill Place once they have sold their site and the UKCMRI laboratory is built.

In my previous email response to you, I had explained that your comments had been summarised generically in the planning report with the comments received from other objectors being condensed into bullet form. On enquiring with the planning case officer for the application, I understand that you had gone to the trouble of setting your comments out at some length and he assures me that your comments were indeed fully read. However, I am assured that the points you made were still substantially the same as those made by several others who had written in and could thus be satisfactorily summarised in a generic fashion. Indeed to have given special attention to your comments in the manner of the named groups and organisations listed in the report, would have been unfair to the 140 or so other individual objectors like yourself.

Accordingly your points have been covered under paragraph 4.41 of the report. Your concerns under part (1) above would fall under the subheading ‘use of public funds’ namely –“unfair bidding procedure/sale of site –giving preference to the UKCMRI”; and your concerns under part (2) under the ‘use related’ subheading being to do with the risk of outbreaks/leakage of viruses or other pathogens to the area that might arise from the types of research being carried out. These are clearly stated under paragraph 4.41.

 Whilst the summary of the objections does not expressly include your point about the existing level 4 license at the MRC’s Mill Hill site, paragraph 4.46 of the report responds in detail to concerns from objectors generally about biohazard containment issues. This conveys the applicant’s stated intention that the work to be dealt with at the Brill Place site would be categorised within Groups 1-3 out of the 4 standard biological hazard levels. There is no suggestion in the application that all the work currently undertaken at Mill Hill will go on to be undertaken by the UKCMRI and in any case as explained under paragraph 4.46 the containment categories are strictly controlled by the Government which would never be likely to allow any higher (level 4) category research at Brill Place.

With regard to the bidding process for the site and any involvement by Gordon Brown personally, there is no further mention in the report as this is in no way relevant to the planning issues to be considered by the Development Control Committee. However the mention in para 4.41 makes the Committee sufficiently aware of the concerns aired in this respect so that it could have enquired further about these if they wished.

Finally, I note your dissatisfaction with the absence of a recorded vote in this matter, however as already explained in my previous email to you the procedure taken at the Committee was fully in accordance with the Council’s Constitution. This is the document which sets out in full how the Council and its constituent Members are accountable to its electorate.

 I trust that the above now provides sufficient clarity as to how the consideration of the application has taken account of your concerns. I thank you again for raising these issues with me.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Nasim Ali OBE

Leader of Camden Council

 ——————————————-

24 1 2011

Cllr Nasim Ali OBE

Leader of Camden Council

Cc All Camden Councillors

Dear Mr Ali,

I note that unlike your previous email to me you have not copied it to councillors. That suggests to me you are somewhat embarrassed  by your response this time around. 

Do you honestly wish to claim that  a meaningful judgement on the fairness or otherwise of the bidding process could be made by the Development Control Committee  on the basis of this: “ Unfair bidding procedure/sale of site –giving preference to UKCMRI”?   The only way that councillors could make a meaningful judgement is to have the facts of Brown’s involvement put before them.

As for your claim that Gordon Brown’s involvement  was not a concern of the committee,  this is contradicted by the inclusion of “Unfair bidding procedure/sale of site –giving preference to UKCMRI” in the report. .  If it was not relevant why did was the objection included in the list of objections?  If it is relevant then how can Gordon Brown’s prejudicial involvement not be relevant?  If you wish to maintain his involvement was not prejudicial please explain to me how it could not be.  

If there is a question mark over the legality of the sale,  and there is prima facie evidence there is because of Brown’s involvement,  ownership of the site is not decided and consequently planning permission cannot not be legally granted because no valid planning application has been submitted for consideration.  If building was to go ahead and a challenge to the legality of the sale was successfully made, Camden could find itself being sued for very substantial damages for granting planning permission for which there is no legal basis.

You claim that all the objections  I made were submitted by others. I would doubt this very much,  because I am the person who obtained the FOIA material on Gordon Brown’s involvement  and it is improbable that  anyone else has obtained this material. I also doubt whether anyone has attacked the security matter to  the depth  I attacked it, including extracting a string of embarrassingly evasive replies from UKCMRI (these were in the appendix to my objection).  I want you to prove that my complaints against Brown  and security were made by other people.

As for the specific question of level 4 viruses, you admit this was not dealt with. Para 4.46  deals with something described as  “containment level 3+”.  I have been unable to track down any official reference to this term.  The suspicion must be that this is Level 4 material in disguise. Moreover, as the MRC site at Mill Hill has a level 4 licence and all their work is to be transferred to Brill Place if the centre is built,  it is a stretch too far to assume they will not transfer level 4 work there unless there is a legal bar to them doing so. There is no  such bar.

It is clear you have not read my objection yourself. I suggest you do so. That will show you how much has been missed.  

I await your reply with interest.

Yours sincerely,

 

Robert Henderson


Letter submitted to the Camden New Journal 2 January 2011

January 2, 2011
Leave a Comment

Update: The CNJ failed to publish the letter in whole or part in their 6 January issue. RH

Note to CNJ editor –  I enclose below the letter several of the civil service documents which clearly demonstrate Gordon Brown’s interference in the bidding process for the land. There is consequently no risk of you being sued. Robert  Henderson

 Letter for publication

2 January  2011

 Sir,

Councillor Peter Brayshaw (letters CNJ 30 December) claims that there is little opposition to the proposed UKCMRI laboratory directly behind the British Library . He bases this claim on the fact that only 33 formal objections were made by local residents despite 700 odd notifications of the application being sent to local residents.  

Such a response is far from being negligible. Many  people do not have the confidence to make such written objections. It is also likely that many of the 700 (and many more of those not so immediately affected) do not speak English at all or have it  as a first language.  Some of these  people will have been excluded because the council did not provide information in their language.  It is also true that many Camden residents come from countries where the state is feared, a fear which they carry with them to Britain.

To these considerations can be added the fact that it was difficult going on impossible view all material put out by Camden and UKCMRI without going on the Internet, something many Camden residents will have not been able to do through lack of familiarity with computers.

As for the objections which were sent in by Camden residents, I can say  from my own experience that the Camden Officers’ report  to the Development Control Committee excluded certain important matters.  I submitted a most detailed objection,  which included incontrovertible evidence in the form of civil service documents obtained using the Freedom of Information Act that Gordon Brown when Prime Minister had illegitimately interfered with the bidding process to ensure that UKCMRI  were sold the land.  This meant that the sale was  illicit because the other bidders were in effect bidding when unbeknown to them  the decision had already (illegitimately)  been made.  My objection appeared nowhere in the Camden Officers’ report.

The second major failure of the Camden Officers’ report  was the misrepresentation of the biohazard level of the material with which the  laboratory could be working .  One of the consortium members, the Medical Research Council (MRC),  currently has licences for level 3 and level 4 biohazard material  for its Mill Hill site,. UKCMRI have said that this site will be sold and the work transferred to the proposed London laboratory. Yet UKCMRI are claiming that no level 4 material will be used on this site.

 Level 4 is the most dangerous biohazard  level covering such toxins as  the Ebola virus, the Lassa virus, and any agent with unknown risks of pathogenicity and transmission.  UKCMRI’s assurances that only ‘flu viruses and toxins of similar hazard will be worked upon is scarcely reassuring because (1) these assurances have no legal force and (2) it is worth remembering that the worst pandemic of the twentieth century was the influenza strain of 1918/19.  I made all of this clear in my objection yet it was completely absent from the Camden Officers’ report.

What UKCMRI have done is  introduce the concept of Biohazard level 3 plus, a regulatory beast which does not appear to exist outside of their imagination. The suspicion must be that this is level 4 in disguise

The granting of planning applications may be challenged at the level of the Council if it can be shown there has been irregularity in making the decision. That there has been an irregularity here can be clearly seen with the failure to place  the objections outlined above before the Committee. Consequently, I have already lodged a formal objection on those grounds with the Council.

Let me end with what I think most people will consider an extraordinary  thing. The council kept no record of the individual votes cast at the Development Control Committee which heard the planning application. I have been informed by the Council that this is standard practice.  How electors are to hold councillors readily to account for their votes is a mystery. However, with a good deal of diligent research I have managed to identify the way votes were cast. Readers may find it telling that of the eight who voted for,  only one (Andrew Marshall) was willing to identify  himself to me as having voted for.  For the record the vote was:

Those voting  for : Milena Nuti, Labour (Bloomsbury),Sue Vincent, Labour (Holborn and Covent Garden),Sarah Hayward, Labour (King’s Cross),Roger Freeman, Conservative (Swiss Cottage),Heather Johnson, Labour (Regent’s Park),Andrew Marshall, Conservative (Swiss Cottage),Gillian Risso-Gill, Liberal Democrat (West Hampstead),Jenny Headlam-Wells, Labour (Kentish Town).

Those voting against: Claire-Louise Leyland, Conservative (Belsize),Paul Braithwaite, Liberal Democrat (Cantelowes),Sean Birch, Labour (Gospel Oak), Matt Sanders, Liberal Democrat (Haverstock).

Those abstaining: Flick Rea, Liberal Democrat (Fortune Green)

Those present but failing to register any vote (including failing to abstain): Thomas Neuwark,  Labour (Camden Town with Primrose Hill)

Absent: Georgia Gould, Labour (Kentish Town)

Yours sincerely

 

Robert Henderson 

   
Gordon Brown’s interference with the bidding process
Document 25
RESTRICTED – POLICY & COMMERCIAL
To James Purnell Margaret Hodge, Jonathan Stephens,Ros Brayfield
From Nicholas Holgate
Date 18 September 2007 ____________
SALE OF LAND TO THE NORTH OF THE BRITISH LIBRARY
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;
and
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
————————————————————————-
Document 26
Sent: 27 November 2007 13:09
To: HOLGATE NICHOLAS
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.
Cheers
Private Secretary  to Jonathan Stephens
Department for (Culture, Media and Sport 2-4 Cockpur Street, London
SWlY 5Dl1 email: [40]@culture.gsi.gov.uk tel: 0207211 fax: 020 72116259
————————————————————————-
Document 27
From: [40]
Sent: 29 November 2007 11:49
To: HOLGATE NICHOLAS
Cc: STEPHENS JONATHAN: FERRERO MARK;[40] MARTIN
LINDA
Subject: RE: British Library land
Nicholas
Thanks for this. The SoS has seen your note and is content. Grateful if you could keep us updated on whether the PM will be announcing this next week as part of his science speech.
Many thanks,
R
Private Secretary to the Rt Hon James Purnell MP
Department of Culture, Media and Sport
2-4Cockspur Street, London SW1Y 5DH
Tel@ 0207 7211 [40]
———————————————————————-
Document 28
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
RESTRICTED – COMMERCIAL
———————————————————————
Document 29
To James Purnell
From Nicholas Holgate
Date
4 December 2007
cc Margaret Hodge
Gerry Sutcliffe
Jonathan Stephens
Mark Ferrero
[40]
BRITISH LIBRARY LAND
Issues: the sale of this 3.6 acre site; and the recycling of the proceeds to benefit DCMS causes.
Timing: urgent, albeit for information.
As you know, we have been marketing this site. The highest commercial bid was £105 mn. But a consortium of the Medical Research Council (MRC), Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and University College London have also entered a bid to re-site the Mill Hill research laboratory on this land and thus establish a world class interdisciplinary facility in central London.
2. Their final offer was £85 m. We have accepted the assessment of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills that the public value’ in addition to the sum offered, in terms of increasing the pace of medical research and its practical application, is well worth a discount on a fully commercial sale price of £20 m.
3. The Prime Minister has taken an interest in this proposal; and is expected to announce the deal tomorrow at a breakfast seminar (8-8.45 am).
4. I attach the final press release and some questions and answers.
5. We will be able to re-cycle some of the proceeds: notably, we can meet the tax bill for the proposed acquisition of a major collection; and he deemed to have met almost all of our disposals target for the next three financial years, thus underpinning your proposed capital allocations to the NDPBs.
Nicholas Holgate
Chief Operating Officer
—————————————
Document 30
BRIEFING NOTE FROM POLICY ADVISERS DATED 12 NOVEMBER 2007 TO THE PRIME MINISTER COPIED TO No 10 OFFICIALS.
THE NOTE WAS ENTITLED: PROJECT BLISS – CREATING A WORLD-LEADING MEDICAL RESEARCH FACILITY IN LONDON
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?
Background
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.
————————————————————————-
Document 31
BRIEFING NOTE FROM NO 10 POLICY ADVISER TO THE PRIME MINISTER DATED 27 NOVEMBER 2007
COPIED TO NO 10 OFFICIALS
ENTITLED “MEETING WITH PAUL NURSE ON BLISS PROJECT”
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


Response to my objections to the granting of planning permission to UKCMRI

December 20, 2010
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UKCMRI – Emails to Cllr Ali

Monday, 20 December, 2010 11:54
From: “McGuinness, Andy”
  
Dear Mr Henderson,
  
Thank you very much for your emails to Cllr Ali of the 17th & 19th December.
  
Please note that Cllr Ali has asked for officers to look into your enquiry and will respond to you in due course.
  
Kind regards
  
 
 
Andy McGuinness
PA to Leader & Deputy Leader of the Council
Democratic Services
Legal Services
London Borough of Camden

Telephone:   020 7974 5707
Fax:               020 7974 5915
Web:             camden.gov.uk

Room 125
Camden Town Hall (General)
Judd Street
London WC1H 9JE

 Email from Robert Henderson  20 12 2010  

Dear Mr McGuinness,
 
Thank you for the acknowledgement. I am sure you appreciate this is an urgent matter because if a formal process of objection is to begin it needs to start ASAP before any contracts are signed.,
 
One piece of information please, the email address for your in-house lawyer Aiden Brooks. I have tried the standard Camden employee address without success.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Robert Henderson

 


Which councillors voted which way?

December 19, 2010
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19 December 2010

Mr Nasim Ali

Leader

Camden Council

CC all other Camden Councillors

     Neil MacDonald (Planning Officer)

Dear Mr Ali,

Development Control Committee 16 12 2010 Town Hall 7.00 pm

Subject: The granting of planning permission to ULCMRI for a research centre on land behind the British Library. (The discussion of the planning application a ran approximately between 7.15-9.45 pm) (Application Ref: 2010/4721/P, Associated Ref: 2009/2565/NEW)

You will see from the copies of emails below that Ms Scott-Sawyer  says the following:

1. That the individual votes of councillors are not recorded.

MPs and members of the Lords have their votes  identified , so why do Camden councillors not abide by the same democratically necessary procedure?  I say democratically necessary, because unless members of the public  can readily check which way councillors have voted, they  cannot be held to account.

As for expecting members of the public to pick up votes from the recording made of  council  meetings,  this presupposes that (1) members of the public will be able to identify every councillor by sight  and (2) all those voting  will always  be clearly shown on the recording, something I would doubt.  It is also a fact, as witnessed during the DCC meeting dealing with UKCMRI’s application,  that those chairing  meetings  frequently fail to clearly identify speakers in debates or to announce who has voted.

I ask that you determine who voted and which way  and to let me have the details ASAP

2.  That a challenge can be mounted to a planning decision if an irregularity in making the decision can be demonstrated.

 I have already done that in my email to you of the 17th December, namely, that my demonstration of illicit interference with the bidding process Gordon Brown was omitted from the Council Officers’ report which guided the committee members and the false claim in that document (repeatedly verbally at the hearing) that there was no chance of Level 4 biohazards being  used in the proposed research centre.

Please inform me of any official procedure for making a challenge to the granting of planning permission on the grounds of irregularity. If my email to you of 17 December is sufficient, please treat that as a formal challenge.

Yours sincerely,

Robert  Henderson

—————————————————————————————————

To: simone.scott-sawyer@camden.gov.uk156 Levita House, Chalton Street, London NW1 1HR Tel: 0207 387 5018     

17 12 2010

Simone Scott-Sawyer

Committee Services

Camden Council

Town Hall

NW1  

Dear Ms Scott-Sawyer,  

Development Control Committee Meeting 16 12 2010 7.00 pm

Please supply me ASAP with the names of the councillors who voted to grant planning permission for the UKCMRI  research centre  and details how of each councillor voted.  

I also seek your advice on what the procedure is to appeal against this decision. Had planning permission been refused, the appeal (if any) by the consortium would have been to the Mayor of London then to the relevant minister. Does this procedure apply also to those who wish to oppose the granting of the permission?

 If you have any details of specific appeal procedures in these present circumstances please send me copies by email or direct me to a site where I can download them.

 As you will see from my address, I am one of the people most directly affected by this decision, the site being approximately 40 feet from my front window.

 Yours sincerely,

 Robert Henderson

—————————————————————————————————

 To: “robert henderson” Dear Mr Henderson,

All the members of the Development Control committee were present and voting except for Cllrs Leach and Neumark. I can also tell you that 8 voted in favour, 4 voted against and 1 abstained. I’m afraid we do not record the details of how each Cllr voted. To obtain this information, you may wish to view the webcast of the meeting which can be accessed via our website on http://www.camden.gov.uk/democracy. This is usually available 48 hours after the meeting took place.

Where residents are unhappy with a planning decision, unless you can show that there was some irregularity in the planning decision process, there is limited recourse available, as you cannot launch an appeal based on the merits of the case. However, you can seek a judicial review from the High Court and my advice would be to instruct a lawyer who would be able to advise you further.

Regards,

Simone Scott-Sawyer

Principal Committee Officer

Telephone: 020 7974 5980

——————————————————————————–


Challenge to the granting of planning permision

December 19, 2010
1 Comment

17 December 2010

Mr Nasim Ali

Leader

Camden Council

CC all other Camden Councillors

    Neil MacDonald (Planning Officer)

    Aiden Brooks (Lawyer)

Dear Mr Ali,

Development Control Committee 16 12 2010 Town Hall 7.00 pm

Subject: The granting of planning permission to ULCMRI for a research centre on land behind the British Library. (The discussion of the planning application a ran approximately between 7.15-9.45 pm) (Application Ref: 2010/4721/P, Associated Ref: 2009/2565/NEW)

In my objection to the planning application I included the fact that Gordon Brown when Prime Minister had illicitly interfered with the bidding process for the land on which the research centre is to be built. This was not some fancy on my part,  but irrefutable fact based on civil service documents which I obtained using the Freedom of Information Act. These were included with my objection to the planning application.  A copy of the relevant section of my objection together with the necessary supporting documents is at the bottom of this email.

Despite this irrefutable proof of the contamination of the bidding process – Brown was interfering even before the formal bidding process was over – no mention is made of Brown’s interference in the Camden Officer’s report – see section 4.41 “Objections”. Nor was any mention of Brown’s interference made by the case planning officer Neil MacDonald in his summary of the case last night or by any other speaker,  whether council officer, councillor or deputation member.

The failure to bring this very important objection to the planning application invalidates the granting of the permission. Apart from nullifying the sale of the land to UKCMRI, the other bidders,  who made their bids in good faith,  would have the opportunity to seek compensation from the government and also from Camden if the building goes ahead. Camden could be liable because they have both been advised of the difficulty and have excluded that advice from the formal submission on which the Development Control Committee.

This brings me to why my objection on the grounds of Gordon Brown’s interference was omitted from the officer’s report. There are only two rational explanations. First, that the objections of private individuals were never read and the Camden officers responsible simply guessed at what the objections would be. Second, that the omission was a deliberate political act of censorship. Please write to me and tell me (1) which of these two explanations is the true one, (2) what action you will be taking against the culprits and (3) what you intend to do about the illegitimately granted planning permission.

There is a second area of concern. Section 4.46 cites UKCMRI as never going beyond level 3+ viruses.  This very dubious. Let me cite a section from my objection to the planning application:

“There is good reason to believe that toxins officially classified as more dangerous than influenza will be used. The MRC site in Mill Hill – the site Brill Place is meant to replace –  has 11 laboratories licenced for level 3 biohazards and one licensed for level 4 biohazards (see document 3).  The license for level 3 work allows the following to be used for research:

Biohazard Level 3: Bacteria and viruses that can cause severe to fatal disease in humans, but for which vaccines or other treatments exist, such as anthrax, West Nile virus, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, SARS virus, variola virus (smallpox), tuberculosis, typhus, Rift Valley fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, yellow fever, and malaria. Among parasites Plasmodium falciparum, which causes Malaria, and Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes trypanosomiasis, also come under this level.

The consortium is applying for level 3 licenses for the proposed medical centre. Once they have these they can work on any of the viruses and bacteria listed above regardless of what is promised now.  

Presumably whatever work the MRC has been conducting under the level 4 licence will continue. If it comes to the new centre work on these toxins would be covered:

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.

If the level 4 work is not to come to the proposed research centre the consortium’s claim that their work has to be done at the Brill Place site is discredited. If it does come to the site then risk is raised considerably. As to whether it  will come to the site, answers given by John Davidson at a meeting held 11 10 2010 in the Ossulton TRA Hall  provide a strong pointer. Questioned by myself, he stated that the Mill Hill facility would definitely be closed if and when the centre was built and he could not rule out all the Mill Hill work being moved to the Brill Place site including the level 4 risk work.

The DCMS were certainly led to believe that the centre would deal with viruses other than influenza, viz.:

“4. MRC anticipates that some £205 m of additional investment will be secured from consortium partners for the development of the UK Centre

for Medical Research and Innovation. This is investment which would otherwise be Lost to the public purse. This additional investment in the work of the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) will support the delivery of high quality research on:

“ The origins of the AIDS epidemic, detecting tuberculosis (TB) infection, variations in the structure of the bird flu virus H5N1 all of which could Lead to more effective breakthroughs in drug development. Scientists at NIMR have also:- (With the University of Hong Kong) isolated the gene responsible for sensory development in the inner ear, which may lead to significant advances in the development of treatments for the deaf and those with severely impaired hearing; and determined the structure of the enzyme that regulates cellular energy levels which could lead to new drugs for type II diabetes, an illness that affects more than two million people in the UK. Taken together, these important results emerging from the UKCMRI could substantially improve the quality of life and allow those who benefit from the findings to continue to make their important contribution to the economy.”

It would appear that there is a very real possibility of level 4 viruses being researched at the new site. Yet both the Camden officer’s submission and verbal replies from UKCRMI representatives during the hearing of the application were dogmatic that level 4 was never going to be a possibility. Clearly it is if all the MRC work is transferred to the new  site.  Please write to me and explain why my advice of the true situation has been ignored by Camden officers.

I would appreciate a rapid answer to all my questions as this very obviously is a matter which needs to be cleared up as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson  

————————————————————————————

Relevant extract from my objection to the planning application

Gordon Brown’s interference with the bidding process

Document 25

RESTRICTED – POLICY & COMMERCIAL

To James Purnell Margaret Hodge, Jonathan Stephens,Ros Brayfield

From Nicholas Holgate

Date 18 September 2007 ____________

SALE OF LAND TO THE NORTH OF THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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;

and

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

————————————————————————-

Document 26

Sent: 27 November 2007 13:09

To: HOLGATE NICHOLAS

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.

Cheers

Private Secretary  to Jonathan Stephens

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

SWlY 5Dl1 email: [40]@culture.gsi.gov.uk tel: 0207211 fax: 020 72116259

————————————————————————-

Document 27

From: [40]

Sent: 29 November 2007 11:49

To: HOLGATE NICHOLAS

Cc: STEPHENS JONATHAN: FERRERO MARK;[40] MARTIN

LINDA

Subject: RE: British Library land

Nicholas

Thanks for this. The SoS has seen your note and is content. Grateful if you could keep us updated on whether the PM will be announcing this next week as part of his science speech.

Many thanks,

R

Private Secretary to the Rt Hon James Purnell MP

Department of Culture, Media and Sport

2-4Cockspur Street, London SW1Y 5DH

Tel@ 0207 7211 [40]

———————————————————————-

Document 28

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

RESTRICTED – COMMERCIAL

———————————————————————

Document 29

To James Purnell

From Nicholas Holgate

Date

4 December 2007

cc Margaret Hodge

Gerry Sutcliffe

Jonathan Stephens

Mark Ferrero

[40]

BRITISH LIBRARY LAND

Issues: the sale of this 3.6 acre site; and the recycling of the proceeds to benefit DCMS causes.

Timing: urgent, albeit for information.

As you know, we have been marketing this site. The highest commercial bid was £105 mn. But a consortium of the Medical Research Council (MRC), Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and University College London have also entered a bid to re-site the Mill Hill research laboratory on this land and thus establish a world class interdisciplinary facility in central London.

2. Their final offer was £85 m. We have accepted the assessment of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills that the public value’ in addition to the sum offered, in terms of increasing the pace of medical research and its practical application, is well worth a discount on a fully commercial sale price of £20 m.

3. The Prime Minister has taken an interest in this proposal; and is expected to announce the deal tomorrow at a breakfast seminar (8-8.45 am).

4. I attach the final press release and some questions and answers.

5. We will be able to re-cycle some of the proceeds: notably, we can meet the tax bill for the proposed acquisition of a major collection; and he deemed to have met almost all of our disposals target for the next three financial years, thus underpinning your proposed capital allocations to the NDPBs.

Nicholas Holgate

Chief Operating Officer

—————————————

Document 30

BRIEFING NOTE FROM POLICY ADVISERS DATED 12 NOVEMBER 2007 TO THE PRIME MINISTER COPIED TO No 10 OFFICIALS.

THE NOTE WAS ENTITLED: PROJECT BLISS – CREATING A WORLD-LEADING MEDICAL RESEARCH FACILITY IN LONDON

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?

Background

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.

————————————————————————-

Document 31

BRIEFING NOTE FROM NO 10 POLICY ADVISER TO THE PRIME MINISTER DATED 27 NOVEMBER 2007

COPIED TO NO 10 OFFICIALS

ENTITLED “MEETING WITH PAUL NURSE ON BLISS PROJECT”

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


Objection to UKCMRI planning application for a research centre in Brill Place London NW1

December 16, 2010
8 Comments

London Borough of Camden

Development Control Team

London, WC1H 8br

12 October 2010

Dears Sirs,

Application Ref: 2010/4721/P

Associated Ref: 2009/2565/NEW

Dear Sirs,

Objection to the proposed UKCRMI Medical Research Centre

Context

I write as someone who would be one of those most directly affected by the development for I live the width of a narrow road (Ossulton Street) from the proposed UKCMRI research centre site.

The submission consists of 9 pages of objection with 55 pages of supporting documents. The supporting documents are simply there to substantiate the references made to them in my objection.

I am willing to appear before the planning committee to give further evidence in person.

When considering the planning application, please do so with this question in your mind: if this centre was being built in such close proximity to your own home would you want it there?

The wholesale breach of the Camden planning brief

The decision to sell the land to a consortium consisting of the Medical Research Council (MRC) , Cancer Research UK, University College London (UCL)  and the Wellcome Trust breaches the Camden planning guidelines for the site in the most fundamental manner because it is a single use development rather than the mixed development, including much needed affordable housing, envisaged by the planning brief.

Not only does the Camden planning brief clearly lay out the intention for this to be a mixed development,  but the offer document – “Somerstown St Pancras A New Chapter” – produced by the DCMS to guide bidders does the same, viz.:

“On the basis of the local planning policy guidance, the land outside of that to be retained for British Library use, has clearly defined potential for a significant mixed-use development. As a starting point the local planning policy guidance could support a scheme of approximately 50:50 commercial and residential development with approximately 50% affordable housing.” (see fuller extracts from the offer document at document 1).

Most of the 27 groups which showed interest in the site submitted plans which took account of the planning brief. It is difficult to understand how the  “value-for-money” and “public benefit”  tests which were supposedly the only criteria for deciding who was to be the successful bidder, could lead to the UKCRMI bid being accepted in front of other bidders who offered considerably more money for the site and devised plans which took attempted to satisfy the Camden planning brief (see document 32).

It is also telling that as recently as July 2008 the Temperance Hospital site was still considered suitable for the research centre, viz.:

‘The MRC’s property chief Keith Tucker said in a letter to the Town Hall that the process would produce planning guidance that was “undermined, its legality questioned and little or no weight would be given to it by developers”. Mr Tucker added: “If our plans for the UKCMRI [UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation] at Brill Place are not successful then the National Temperance Hospital site will be used for that purpose; either as a refurbishment or redevelopment.”’ Camden New Journal 31 July 2008 (see document 2).

This severely undermines the consortium’s claim that only the Brill Place site will do. As for the existing Mill Hill site, this is a fifteen minute train ride from Kings Cross. The consortium’s claim that this presents an insuperable barrier to cooperation between London based universities and other medical researchers is self-evidently absurd. The centre should be built at Mill Hill – with the massive political backing it has received it is most improbable that planning permission would be refused for that site.

The Mill Hill site is 47 acres. Ask yourself why they need a site of less than 4 acres when they have one of 47 acres already in their possession. A plausible answer is that the driving force for the centre on this site is prestige and vanity. In short, the consortium wishes to substitute an ego trip for the 15 minute rail trip.

Disruption

This email from the UKCMRI’s director of communications was sent to me on 12 10 2010. It details their position on most of the disturbance issues:

Dear Mr Henderson,

It was good to meet you last night. I promised to send you details of the numbers of vehicle movements to the site during construction. A standard productive day is assumed to be ten hours. For the bulk of the project it is anticipated there will be an average of 180 vehicle movements per day.

For the LBC, permitted hours of noisy works are as follows:

• Mondays to Fridays – 8am to 6pm;

• Saturdays – 8am to 1pm; and

• Sundays and Bank Holidays – No noisy work

The building will take two years to build and two years to fit out.  The anticipated date of completion is late 2015.

Once constructed, servicing traffic will use Brill Place . The use of an off-site Consolidation Centre means that vehicular activity can be minimised with the expectation that the average number of vehicles entering the service area within the site will be in the order of 25-45 per day.

I hope this is useful.

Best wishes,

John Davidson

UKCMRI Communications Director

UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation

215 Euston Road

London

NW1 2BE

The estimated building time of four years is more than long enough to have a massive building site a few yards away from a residential road containing hundreds of flats and maisonettes. But we all know from bitter experience  that large building projects hardly ever come in on time, for example, the building of the British Library went on for more than thirty years as the original finishing date was inexorably extended. (When I moved into Levita House in December 1986 I was told that the building would be completed by 1988. The library was not finished until the late 1990s.) Taking the general history of large building projects into account, it is not unreasonable to suspect the research centre will take 6-8 years to build.

Because of their experience with the British Library,  many Ossulton residents are only too aware of the effects of such a site:  heavy machinery operating with considerable noise and a great deal of fine particulate debris tossed into the air and the continuous hubbub that any large building site generates. Because several levels of the building will be underground,  the amount of particulate matter will be much greater than for buildings constructed without vast subterranean accommodation for the amounts of debris excavated will be truly massive.  This type of disturbance will be happening six days a week according to Mr Davidson.

The disturbance would be enhanced substantially if a service road into Ossulton Street is allowed. The street is narrow with a single lane in each direction. Even now any HGV vehicle on its own struggles to use the road during normal working hours, especially if it has to turn out of the road, because there is so little room to manoeuvre.

A site the size of the proposed centre will require large numbers of HGVs coming and going every day. If they move during normal working hours they are bound to cause traffic jams and a great deal of commotion caused by going backwards and forwards to execute the turn necessary to bring the vehicle onto the research centre site. (The service road could be put at a shallow  angle to facilitate HGV entry to and from Ossulton Street without such manoeuvring,  but that would be at the cost of being able to gain entry only from one end of Ossulton Street because of the very sharp angle created on one side by sloping the road.)

The HGV issue is particularly pertinent to the question of disturbance,  because of the massive amount of debris to be removed as a consequence of the research centre’s underground levels. If this is to be removed from the site and the four year building schedule is maintained, the debris would presumably  have to be removed within a year because the detailed building schedule is for two years’ work on the external building and two on the interior construction. To remove such a large amount of debris in such a short time would require HGVs coming and going very frequently.  Once the excavation is complete there will still be a constant flow of HGV traffic to transport the material required to build the centre and to remove waste generated by the building work.  There will also be the transport in and out of the heavy machinery required to excavate the site and then build the centre.

There would also be a considerable increase in non-HGV traffic, because the workers will want to travel to work by small van or car and many of the sub-contractors will use  both HGV and non-HGV vehicles to transport their equipment and materials.

Taking all this into account, I suspect Mr Davidson’s estimate of 180 movements a day is a substantial underestimate.

Even after the completion of the building the traffic will be much heavier than it is now if the service road is retained. This will be because (1) the large number of people working in the research centre, many of whom will need or want to get to work by car and (2) the need to deliver goods and services to the centre and remove material from the centre.

If there is no service road into Ossulton Street, there will still be a considerable increase in traffic to reach an entrance in Brill Place.

In assessing the traffic implications, please bear in mind that every vehicle entering the site has to make two trips: one in, one out. I mention this because a previous application by the British Library to have a service road into Ossulton Street tried to get away with projected traffic increases based on a one way trip for each vehicle.

The research centre would also inevitably be the target of animal rights protestors, both during its building and after completion. Even when “peaceful”, such demonstrations are generally rowdy and violence frequent.

Finally, the centre is likely to provoke terrorist threats  resulting in evacuations of the centre and quite possibly the immediate area around the site.

It is indicative of UKCMRI’s dismissive and condescending attitude towards the local population that at no time have they proposed making any disturbance payments to those who would directly affected by the research centre, during and after building.

Security

Security issues alone should prevent the research centre being built.  The centre would be a prime terrorist target  because (1) there are three iconic sites in the closest proximity – the Eurostar terminal, the British Library and the Medical Research Centre itself; (2) the nature of the work to be undertaken at the Centre – the public information released to date suggests that it will be handling dangerous material and (3), all three of the major British political parties have given it enthusiastic public support which both raises its public profile and attaches it to national politics -hit the centre = hit the politicians – (see document 23).

Whether as a result of a terrorist attack or a failure of bio-security the consequences of an escape of  dangerous biological agents would be severe, both in terms of any contamination of people and by the economic effects on London (and by extension the country) which the fear generated by the escape of toxins would bring.

I have been attempting without success to get answers about the security arrangements for the proposed research centre since 2007. (For my dealings with the consortium and its individual members on security and other matters see documents 10-22).

My requests have been turned down on the grounds that this would breach security. This is a bogus ground for refusal because I deliberately did not ask for detailed operational accounts of their security, which would compromise security,  but general issues such as whether the security staff will be employed directly by the centre; whether the staff will have been raised in Britain (vetting foreigners is in practice impossible); how cleaners (normally a weak point in security because they work at night when security is minimal); how toxic materials will be transported in and out of the centre and whether the security staff would be armed, something absolutely necessary if there is a threat of terrorist attacks especially if they involved suicide bombers.

The real reason why the consortium will not comment is they do not have a clue about how their security will work. The UKCMRI CEO John Cooper gave the game away at a meeting convened by St Pancras and Somers Town Planning Action and  held on 4 10 2010 in the Somers Town Community Centre when he said that their security arrangements would not be decided for three years. It is absurd to allow people who have not considered in detail  the security issues involved before submitting a planning application to be granted that application, not least because the design and situation of the building should be taking these issues into account as one of the primary drivers of the design.

The security, both bio and anti-terrorist,  is particularly compromised by the intention of the consortium to allow scientists who are not employed by the consortium to carry out research. These people could be either from non-profit organisations or private firms:

“There will be dedicated space for technology transfer and additional lab space to enable the findings of the research teams within the centre to be developed and translated into clinical applications by scientists from pharmaceutical companies and partners.” The Bliss Project Concept and Vision (see document 7)

This raises two security problems: the vetting of such people and the lack of a single authority responsible for the security of the centre.   This is precisely what happened at Pirbright which was split between government and private business with no one in overall control (see document 9). Come the foot and mouth outbreak of 2007 no one would take responsibility with both sides blaming the other.

Thorough vetting of those who come from abroad would be impracticable and vetting of anyone born and raised in Britain but who has spent substantial periods of time abroad problematic. These considerations would be relevant to both scientists and other staff, many of whom would be foreign or have spent long periods out of the country.

I would also draw the planning committee’s attention to the fact that Islamic extremism is seen by the government as a growing problem in British universities (see document 5) and that one of the consortium’s members – UCL – has been recently had a student-  Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – who went on to try to commit a terrorist act (see document 6).

The limited access proposed for the public would also be a weak link in the security.

Things are no more promising on the bio-security side. At the meeting of 4 10m 2010,  John Cooper promised that nothing more dangerous than influenza viruses would be in the centre. However, this  was meaningless because, as he very grudgingly admitted, there would be legal bar to this policy  being changed at some point in the future. Moreover, ‘flu viruses can be extremely toxic, vide the 1918 epidemic which swept Europe and caused more deaths than had occurred in military action during the Great War.

There is good reason to believe that toxins officially classified as more dangerous than influenza will be used. The MRC site in Mill Hill – the site Brill Place is meant to replace –  has 11 laboratories licenced for level 3 biohazards and one licensed for level 4 biohazards (see document 3).  The license for level 3 work allows the following to be used for research:

Biohazard Level 3: Bacteria and viruses that can cause severe to fatal disease in humans, but for which vaccines or other treatments exist, such as anthrax, West Nile virus, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, SARS virus, variola virus (smallpox), tuberculosis, typhus, Rift Valley fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, yellow fever, and malaria. Among parasites Plasmodium falciparum, which causes Malaria, and Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes trypanosomiasis, also come under this level.

The consortium is applying for level 3 licenses for the proposed medical centre. Once they have these they can work on any of the viruses and bacteria listed above regardless of what is promised now.

Presumably whatever work the MRC has been conducting under the level 4 licence will continue. If it comes to the new centre work on these toxins would be covered:

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.

If the level 4 work is not to come to the proposed research centre the consortium’s claim that their work has to be done at the Brill Place site

is discredited. If it does come to the site then risk is raised considerably. As to whether it  will come to the site, answers given by John Davidson at a meeting held 11 10 2010 in the Ossulton TRA Hall  provide a strong pointer. Questioned by myself, he stated that the Mill Hill facility would definitely be closed if and when the centre was built and he could not rule out all the Mill Hill work being moved to the Brill Place site including the level 4 risk work.

The DCMS were certainly led to believe that the centre would deal with viruses other than influenza, viz.:

“4. MRC anticipates that some £205 m of additional investment will be secured from consortium partners for the development of the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation. This is investment which would otherwise be Lost to the public purse. This additional investment in the work of the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) will support the delivery of high quality research on:

“ The origins of the AIDS epidemic, detecting tuberculosis (TB) infection, variations in the structure of the bird flu virus H5N1 all of which could Lead to more effective breakthroughs in drug development. Scientists at NIMR have also:- (With the University of Hong Kong) isolated the gene responsible for sensory development in the inner ear, which may lead to significant advances in the development of treatments for the deaf and those with severely impaired hearing; and determined the structure of the enzyme that regulates cellular energy levels which could lead to new drugs for type II diabetes, an illness that affects more than two million people in the UK. Taken together, these important results emerging from the UKCMRI could substantially improve the quality of life and allow those who benefit from the findings to continue to make their important contribution to the economy.” (See DCMS Q and A – document  4)

Every large organisation which has security issues always says their security is very tight and time and again the security fails. Pirbright said  exactly this before they had to admit that they were at fault. The members of the consortium say this. The MRC recently were involved in lax procedures which resulted in the death of a patient, viz.:

“Daily telegraph

Man dies in government cancer drug trial A man about to get married has died in a government-funded medical trial after receiving seven overdoses of drugs.

By Jon Swaine

Last Updated: 7:50PM BST 21 Sep 2008

Gary Foster, 27, was repeatedly given twice the amount of chemotherapy drugs he should have been prescribed. He was due to be married this month. Reports have said his death was caused by an error in the setting up of the trial on the computer system at University College London Hospital (UCLH). A second patient was affected by the same mistake, but survived. When the MRC suspected patients had been given overdoses, instead of calling the hospital immediately it wrote a letter – which a nurse at UCLH failed to open until two days after Mr Foster had died…” (see document 8).

Gordon Brown’s interference with the bidding process

From documents I have obtained through FOI requests it is clear that Gordon Brown played a key role in the decision to sell the land to the UKCMRI. This unambiguously contaminated the legality of the sale because the bidding process was not conducted fairly with all bidders treated impartially and the decision decided on the criteria of “value for money” and “public benefit”. You cannot have that if the Prime Minister is pressing for one of the bidders to win. The failed bidders could well have a case for compensation for the time and money they expended on a futile quest. It is also pertinent to ask whether a criminal case for fraud might be mounted.

The pertinent extracts from government documents are:

Treasury report prepared 1 August 2007: “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).” (see document 24)

This is very significant because here is Brown interfering not only before the sale but before the final date for bids.

Treasury memo to James Purnell Margaret Hodge, Jonathan Stephens,Ros Brayfield  18 September 2007  ” 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.” – this is Civil Service speak for we know this is the PM’s pet project – and “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.” (See document 25)

Also in document 25 we have “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…”  So there you have it not actual neutrality just enough to give a specious appearance of the quality.

Memo from DCMS 27 11 2007: “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 …… 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.” (see document 26)

Memo from DCMS 29 11 2007: “Thanks for this. The SoS has seen your note and is content. Grateful if you could keep us updated on whether the PM will be announcing this next week as part of his science speech.” (see document 27)

Treasury memo 4 December 2007: “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  (see document 28)

Treasury memo to James Purnell 4 December 2007 “3. The Prime Minister has taken an interest in this proposal; and is expected to announce the deal tomorrow at a breakfast seminar (8-8.45 am).” (See document 29)

There are also two briefing documents which demonstrate Brown’s involvement:

BRIEFING NOTE FROM POLICY ADVISERS DATED 12 NOVEMBER 2007 TO THE PRIME MINISTER COPIED TO  No 10  OFFICIALS. THE NOTE WAS ENTITLED: PROJECT BLISS – CREATING A WORLD-LEADING MEDICAL RESEARCH FACILITY IN LONDON (see document 30)

BRIEFING NOTE FROM NO 10 POLICY ADVISER TO THE PRIME MINISTER DATED 27 NOVEMBER 2007 COPIED TO NO 10 OFFICIALS

ENTITLED “MEETING WITH PAUL NURSE ON BLISS PROJECT” (see document 31)

Final thoughts

If this project goes ahead those responsible for granting planning permission will have to shoulder the responsibility for any terrorist act on the centre or any bio-security leak. The dangers of both are blindingly obvious.  There will be no excuse for saying we did not know.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson


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