Monday, 21 March 2016 10:47

Another historic building to be converted for housing

Written by
The Cruciform building at the NIMR The Cruciform building at the NIMR
Barratt London have released the first details of their plans to build up to 450 homes in and around the site of one of Barnet’s most iconic landmarks, the former headquarters of the National Institute for Medical Research on the Ridgeway, Mill Hill.

The massive pitched roof on the nine-story main building – which was constructed in the shape of a cruciform – can be seen for miles around.

Barratt say they intend to rebuild the main structure in a way that “retains the best of its unique features, while maximising its potential for high quality, sustainable homes.”

The redeveloped building would include commercial space for use as a business hub to host small start-ups and local businesses, and also a café that was open to the public.

Other buildings around the main cruciform structure would be demolished to make way for “attractive clusters” of new homes across the site, together with additional “expansive green spaces” that would open up “panoramic views” across the Totteridge Valley.

As part of the redevelopment there would be new public access to Totteridge Valley, and the aim would be to liaise with local schools to make the best use of fields at the bottom of the site, with perhaps additional sporting facilities for local children.  

In his first assessment of the plans – see below – the Barnet Society’s spokesman on planning and the environment, Robin Bishop, says the concept does look “promising” and seems to be in line with the advice of the planners at Barnet Council.

Robin Bishop, says the concept does look “promising” and seems to be in line with the advice of the planners at Barnet Council

Barratt London have begun local consultations on their plans. An exhibition featuring the redevelopment will be held on Saturday 16 April at Mill Hill Library (10.30am-4pm) and on Monday 18 April at the Adam and Eve public house on The Ridgeway (6.30pm-9pm).  

The site was sold for redevelopment when the National Institute for Medical Research moved to new premises in central London, and in 2015 Barratt London ran a competition to redevelop the main cruciform building. Julian de Metz, the winning architect, grew up in Mill Hill.

NIMR site boundary“We recognise that the main cruciform building is unique, and while local opinion is divided on its architectural quality, it is a local landmark that can be seen for miles around.

“We propose to rebuild the cruciform in a way that retains its best features while maximising its potential for high quality, sustainable homes, co-working space and a public café with views over the valley.”

As the site is within the green belt and is partly within the Mill Hill conservation area, Barratt London intend to work closely with Barnet Council to “protect and enhance” the local environment.

The Medical Research Council established premises at Mill Hill in the 1920s, but the main cruciform building, designed by Maxwell Ayrton, was not completed until 1949.

“The site has a proud scientific history, with major advances in medicine following the research carried out within the buildings. We want to ensure we remember this legacy and are exploring various options, including naming different areas of the site after NIMR Nobel prize winners.

“We plan to build the scheme using high quality architecture with materials that are respectful of the local context. We are currently running a competition to appoint an artist to help us reflect the site’s history in our designs.”

Robin Bishop, chair of Barnet Society’s planning and environment, gave his reaction to the scheme outlined by Barratt London:

“The National Institute for Medical Research is one of those buildings that is so big and odd that you wonder how it was ever permitted.

The answer is that it was started in 1938, before the greenery it overlooks was protected by planning controls, and Londoners were distracted by the impending 2nd World War. Its weird appearance made it the ideal double for Arkham Asylum in the 2005 film, Batman Begins.

“Barratt London’s approach looks promising, and their concept is in line with the Council's rather good planning brief.

Of course much will depend on how it translates into outline designs, which we won't see until April.

But employing a decent architect and engaging in early consultation is always a good start, and the Barnet Society wishes it was done more often.”


  • Comment Link Monday, 21 March 2016 12:09 posted by Mrs Angry

    Has the Barnet Society asked what sort of housing this will provide, in terms of affordable levels? Will this be like West Hendon: more luxury accommodation for a wealthy elite, or overseas investors? How will a large increase in traffic in this area be managed, without any detrimental impact on the rural environment that is unique to this part of Mill Hill?

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 19 April 2016 13:29 posted by Nick H

    has the Barnet Society considered the extreme issues with Parking in the area and the significant congestion seen on a daily basis on the Ridgway? Looking at the plans they really only appear to do a minimum in terms of addressing parking and traffic issues

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 07 February 2017 12:36 posted by peter Greenhill

    A sports park would be devastating to this unique oakland site which dates back to the Battle of Barnet and beyond.The three farms that border Darlands wetland Nature reserve are run as Council training projects for young farmers allowing the to build up a farm management cv to apply for a bank loan for small holdings and farms after a three year tenancy.This enlightened scheme does not show immediate financial gain Barratts on the other hand can see the profits. Let us be clear this is about profit both for the Council and the developer.An open air childrens sports facility in a deseignated wildlife area would create the largest open air refuse site in North London. As to the evil animal research lab full of screaming monkey's which dominates the landscape like one of Count Dracula's third rate castles, Barratts are welcome to it.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 09 January 2018 19:09 posted by Malcolm Turner.

    I have written to the LBB with the firm view of saving the cruciform main building.
    It should have been listed years ago, and the developers would simply have had to incorporate it.
    I therefore hope that it will not be knocked about too much., and fully retained within their scheme.
    I worked in and around it for many years, as an outside contractor.

  • Comment Link Friday, 01 June 2018 13:12 posted by Dr Spick

    In response to Peter Greenhill - you are so misinformed re "full of screaming monkeys" - the site for many many decades has had no such animals. It has contributed significantly to the reduction of debilitating diseases found around the globe such as Malaria , Polio etc. But you are fortunate living in GB and don't have to contend with such diseases. So before ranting about loony things please check the facts. As from the building aesthetics I truly hope the Iconic nature of the building is retained for all to enjoy in the future.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 12 June 2018 07:49 posted by Ancly

    It seems to be almost completely demolished.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 13 June 2018 09:20 posted by Mrs Angry Broken Barnet blog

    I would like to read Robin Bishop's view of what has now taken place in the last few days: the total destruction of this irreplaceable building, and it might be good to have some sort of debate with the Barnet Society as to how we can better defend our build heritage from the ravages of such development.

  • Comment Link Monday, 02 July 2018 17:51 posted by ??

    This is so sad ever since I was a child I’ve called it the rainbow house and I see it when I come back from school one day I was coming back with my friend and we realised it got smaller and it kept getting smaller so we had to search it up there basically taking down history

  • Comment Link Sunday, 31 March 2019 11:51 posted by Tom Munro

    Has The Barnet Society been able to check if proper remedial work was carried out before and after the demolition of the Medical Research Building ,as I understand parts of the Building had to be dynamited, which may have resulted in the release of strontium and other toxic substances into the surrounding area?
    Presumably Barnet Council is required to make a public health assessment to ensure all remedial work is carried out in a responsible and efficient manner? Do you know if this was done?


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