The Commons Science and Technology Committee today publishes its report on the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation and says it agrees with, and commends, the scientific vision for the centre but expresses reservations about the project's location.
It says the case for the centre's central London location near St Pancras station was not overwhelming and it could have been sited elsewhere.
The advantages of co-location with universities and hospitals and access to good transport links, which the committee's accepts play a fundamental role in the centre's vision, come at a price: extra construction costs; a site incapable of expansion; and the concentration of medical sciences in the 'golden triangle' in the south of England.
While the decision over location cannot be reversed, the committee urges the centre to develop plans and put in place measures so that those outside the South-East are part of the project and obtain maximum benefit.
On the issue of funding, the committee's concerns about the project's costs were assuaged by evidence from the Government that the taxpayer will not be liable to any further costs should the project overrun. On the management structure, the committee was told that an experienced team with a proven track record were now taking charge.
It also heard evidence that UKCMRI Ltd and the Government have carried out the necessary risk assessments.
The committee is sympathetic to the local community's concerns about the project, and recognises attempts made by the centre's management to engage with the local community, but says it is saddened that efforts have not been as successful as they might have been. One way some benefit could accrue back to the local community is to ensure that the land released from the National Temperance Hospital site (the original site intended for the UKCMRI) is used for housing, including social housing.
Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the committee, said,
"This is an exciting project and we are in no doubt of the significant benefits it could bring to life sciences in the UK. However, we remain unconvinced that a project of such national importance should be located within the 'golden triangle' of the South East, where a high concentration of research already exists. Every effort must now be made to ensure the whole of the UK receives the maximum benefits from the centre, and we intend to continue our close scrutiny of this project."
The committee welcomes the recent announcement that the Centre will be named after Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA.