Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Francis Crick Institute: local benefits

Planning permission was granted in March 2011 for the £650 million Francis Crick Institute, 
which will be Europe’s largest dedicated biomedical research building, and will be located behind the British Library adjacent to the Somers Town estate

Camden worked closely with the Institute to secure a package of benefits for the local community. 

The total package of benefits secured is worth almost £10 million (including £6,742,000 in financial contributions) including: 

  • £1.7 million to improve local council housing through Camden's Better Homes (repairs) programme; 
  • £3.8 million towards a new district energy centre to supply cheaper heat and power to local homes. 
  • £360,000 community Policing resource contribution 
  • £450,000 public realm contribution 
  • A new community Living Centre and £180,000 towards management of centre. 
  • Apprenticeships, training for Camden residents and a local business support strategy.  

The Institute is currently under construction and is scheduled to open in 2015. 


  1. Part of the emotional freight of this post is an idea that goodies have been "won" from a big corporate by Camden. We have no way of telling if this subliminal message is true. One thing is for sure - it's politics.
    So what's a "community living" centre ?
    It's not clear how the £1.7m for housing repairs was calculated or produced. Is it the result of a land deal, or a exchange of services in some way ? Money isn't given away: there's alway a quid pro quo - even in the case of charity: indeed even more so.
    What will the public realm contribution be spent on ? I wonder if it offers Crick a tax advantage for example. I'd be immensely surprised if the investment in new district energy doesn't provide Crick with some kind of tax help.
    As for apprenticeships, why is that a political "win" ? That's just normal and correct.

    Broadly, this post is heavily invested in the idea of "wins" which is understandable but actually a bit thin.

    Presumably, the thing that will give and give over the years is the presence of a high-powered institute in Camden, contributing a world of intellectual energy to our piece of the city. Given the blather about high-value added business as the mainstay of the uk economy - "we can't compete in a race to the bottom etc etc" - the presence of the Crick seems very important.

    Much more relevant to the long term benefit of London, and Camden, is the contribution Crick can make to the startup culture in Camden. How Camden milks that needs real place strategy beyond the list of "wins" TB posts about.

    I'm not "having a go" just trying the move the conversation away from the tedium of politicking to the serious long term business of city-making.

  2. All a bit cynical... I'm sorry if this means that politics has invaded your life but the package was a result of a negotiation between elected members, officers and the Crick, which is a charitable institute rather than a "corporate". That's democracy working in the planning system. I can give you examples where it doesnt work for residents (12% affordable housing for Mount Pleasant?). What we wanted to avoid a repeat of the British Library development which didn't do a huge amount for the people of Somers Town. I was involved at an early stage and I can tell you that this point was forcefully made.

    The planning process allows for payments to be made for certain things to mitigate development. In this case large capital contribution for housing and public realm was identified, there is no 'quid pro quo' other than it being part of the consent.

    Believe it or not apprenticeships don't always come about on developments, but we wanted them - that's our policy.

    Yes, the Crick will be important and we're glad its in Camden rather than in Nottingham. The Living Centre is described here - so we are getting a world-class institute and community benefits - what's not to like about that?

  3. Nah the cynicism isn't mine. I'm perfectly clear that the benefits which should be trumpeted are the long distance ones related to the synergy between a centre of excellence and the city around it.

    The British Library may fall down in your estimation because it didn't produce funds for a local authority admin to spend and publicize as wins. Yet it offers free access to readers - your borough's inhabitants. That's not an inconsiderable local service: it's a huge boon. The real value of the Library can't be measured in a list of wins such as your post sets out. It's that long term benefit which challenges the administrators at Town Hall to capitalise on it.

  4. The credit goes to the Crick not you.

  5. Your animosity gets in the way of points you are trying to make, so I'm not sure what they are. You also make an odd spilt between what you think the council 'gets' and stuff for people. They are the same: this is because we live in a local democracy where local people decide priorities and we try and deliver them. The post is actually about the additional community benefits achieved by Crick being in Camden, there are obviously benefits to Crick itself. But planning gain would have been zero or nothing had these not been negotiated. The point about the Library was the in construction it pointed away from Somers Town and there was limited additional community engagement - we wanted to ensure that something like that never happened again.

    By the way, we also won lots of stuff from developers in King's Cross of benefit to the community, such as:

    - £2.1 million to support the activities of the Construction Training Centre and Skills and Recruitment Centre; training schemes to allow local people to compete successfully for jobs; measures to support existing local businesses
    - 1,700 new homes, more than 40 per cent of which will be affordable - the highest for such a development in London - up to 650 units of student accommodation and a nursing home
    - Community, sports and leisure facilities: a Sure Start children's centre with medical centre, drop in crèche and nursery; play facilities; two form entry primary school; contribution of £1.5m towards secondary school provision; two healthcare facilities, one a Primary Care Centre and one a Walk in Centre; a leisure centre with 25m swimming pool; indoor sports hall; multi use games area; community meeting facilities; a Social and Community Fund of £1m for community activities
    - Three new green public spaces, plus new landscaped squares and well-designed and accessible streets, forming almost 40 per cent of the site
    - A new 'exploratory' visitor centre, floating classroom education centre and bridge across the canal to link with Camley Street
    - Financial contributions to improve adjacent streets, bus stands and bus services and to carry out a feasibility study into providing a new station on the North London railway line at Maiden Lane

  6. Please don't bleat about animosity: it's politics, no?

    The beneficence of the Crick is not due to your offices. It's the result of the institutions fundamental orientation towards the public good.

    The blame for a lack of wins at Mount Pleasant isn't yours either.

  7. This is a serious point about debased communication between politicians and voters. I think the way you communicate is so endlessly partisan that you diminish what you say.

    The no-BS way to have written your post might be as follows:
    "Crick have been a tremendously constructive partner in discussions that we initiated about community benefits to flow from their new investment in KX. We're pleased to announce that with their generous support we are able to make the following investments etc etc"

    The nearest your post goes to extolling the Crick is "Camden worked closely with the Institute.."

    Unconstructive partners are out there - Boris for example or whoever's responsible for Mount Pleasant. It makes a change to deal with decent folk like the Crick. Don't take the credit for their decency. Trumpet it loudly. That's a much more intelligent, scrupulous political contribution to public discussion than for instance a peeve about the British Library. Don't lower yourself to the shite Tory level.

    My points about the long term benefit of the Crick - its long term giving through what it does and the intellectual and entrepreneurial culture it will support and foster - are perfectly good. In the round, these are far important that the "wins" we're discussing here.

    So my aim is clearer communication and correct balance.