John Allan of Avanti Architects, friend and biographer of Berthold Lubetkin
David Sulkin of the Amwell Society
David Gibson, architect and Chair of the Islington Building Preservation Trust and representative of the Islington Society
Dr Wendy Savage of Keep Our NHS Public
Ivor Kenna of Compton St Residents Association
Angela Sinclair, Islington Pensioners Forum and widow of one of the first doctors to work at Finsbury Health Centre
James Dunnett, architect and former Co-chair of DOCOMOMO-UK, a UNESCO-recognised group for the conservation of modern buildings
S Casey, resident of Bourne Estate, Holborn
Helen Cagnoni, local activist and other contributions from the floor
Nearly 100 people attended, with a range of people concerned about the PCT’s plans to sell Finsbury Health Centre from the local community, conservation and architectural professionals and medical staff who work at the Finsbury Health Centre.
Terry Luke of Unison spoke about the history of the Finsbury Health Centre, Wendy Savage of
Keep Our NHS Public about the dangers of creeping privatisation within the NHS, Tony Hoolighan, Locality Director gave a presentation of the PCT ‘messages’ about the changes they want to make.
From the floor Dorian Crone of English Heritage spoke about the PCT’s miscasting of the constraints surrounding grade 1 listing, their false assumption that the Pine Street Centre next door could be easily demolished, and confirmed that they haven’t seen a scheme by which they could judge the PCT’s estimate of costs. David Gibson of the Islington Society countered the PCT’s claims that the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘only funds museums’ and offered support for an alternative survey. Staff at the FHC countered claims that people with disabilities haven’t been able to use the centre, expressed their affection for it and confirmed that Finsbury Health Centre is used by people in the neighbouring localities of South Camden and the City. Jonathan Wright of the 20th Century Society said that negotiations over changes to the FHC were ‘on the point of agreement’ last year and expressed his disappointment that the PCT had thrown years of work away by suddenly opting to sell. John Allen biographer and friend of Lubetkin as well as architect on the repairs on FHC in the 1990s confirmed that Lubetkin’s vision for the FHC was that it would change over time, and that listed consent was given 10 years ago for a lift to be added. Richard Sykes pointed to an alternative to the sell/leaseback arrangement which the government is imposing on the PCT as a condition of funding refurbishment. Many many people challenged the PCT about costs, the accessibility of where they plan to move services, and the validity of the current consultation. Most memorably Ivor Kenna questioned the PCT claim in the press that they are spending £1.5 million a year maintaining the FHC at the moment by asking how that didn’t pay for a lick of paint on the windows, and David Sulkin of the Amwell Society called the Finsbury Health Centre “our St Paul’s”.
Many thanks to the Church of the Holy Redeemer for providing use of the hall and their PA system without charge, Andrew Da Sylva who plastered the area with posters in the days before the meeting and everyone who attended and contributed, including Rachel Tyndall Chief Executive of the Islington PCT who answered points at the end – although this fell short of satisfying the audience. Thomas Cooper and friend Euygen made a video record, and this will be up here soon. In the meantime comprehensive notes for it are here.
There will be a public meeting on Thursday 6 November, 7-9pm at the Holy Redeemer Church Hall, Exmouth Market EC1 called ‘Finsbury Health Centre Under Threat: Ways Forward’. The meeting will begin with a short history of the Finsbury Health Centre written by a local historian. Confirmed speakers include a representative from Islington Primary Care Trust, Wendy Savage from Keep Our NHS Public, and an architectural expert who will talk about the actual refurbishment possibilities. Representatives from English Heritage and the 20th Century Society are also planning to attend, as well as Richard Sykes, former chair of the Board of Trustees of the De La Warr Pavillion, a building of about the same age which was under threat a few years ago in Bexhill on Sea, and is now beautifully restored and updated. Islington Unison and the Islington Trades Council are in support of the Campaign to Save Finsbury Health Centre.
Please attend if you can – so far this is the only chance for a thorough, public discussion of the PCT’s proposal to sell Finsbury Health Centre.