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Talking cure for Barts hospital dispute over Hogarths

07 November 2014

FRIENDS OF THE GREAT HALL & ARCHIVE OF ST BARTHOLOMEW’S HOSPITAL

Tending the wounds: the Samaritan treats the injured man with oil and wine, in The Good Samaritan (completed in 1737), one of the Hogarth paintings at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London. The priest who ignored the man is shown in the back­ground, with a man lying at his feet

Tending the wounds: the Samaritan treats the injured man with oil and wine, in The Good Samaritan (completed in 1737), one of the Hogarth paintings ...

A LEGAL wrangle has broken out over rival plans for developments at St Bartholomew's Hospital (Barts) in London.

The charitable trust Maggie's wants to build a £5-million cancer counselling centre at the hospital in the City of London. But campaigners seeking to preserve the 18th-century Great Hall in its Grade I listed north wing say that the plans will block their own designs for restoring the hall and the adjacent church of St Bartholomew the Less as a heritage centre.

Both plans have been approved by the City of London, but Sir Marcus Setchell, the leader of the Save Barts Great Hall Campaign, has sought a judicial review of the planning permission given to Maggie's. The presiding High Court judge has frozen the permission for six months and asked both sides to find a solution through arbitration.

Sir Marcus says that the Great Hall requires urgent repairs in order to protect scenes of charity and healing by the 18th-century artist William Hogarth sited on its grand staircase. Maggie's has rejected his suggestion of moving the new centre 20 metres from the proposed location so that it will not obstruct construction of "bussles" on the north wing's flanks to meet hygiene, access, and safety requirements.

Sir Marcus said: "It's disheartening to see the debate about the two proposals reduced to an either/or decision. Under our plans, Barts could have both a Great Hall that is no longer a burden on the NHS and a Maggie's Centre with its helpful counselling services."

Supporters of his campaign include the historian Dr David Starkey, the chairman of the National Trust, Sir Simon Jenkins, and the director of the Courtauld Gallery, Professor Deborah Swallow.

But the chief executive of Maggie's, Laura Lee, accused Sir Marcus of putting forward a "vacuous argument", and said that the centre was backed by cancer doctors and patients. "I'm surprised that the [Friends'] campaign think that the Maggie's Centre will in some way jeopardise the future of the Great Hall," she said. "We have worked very closely with the planning department and Barts' board to ensure our proposals in no way jeopardise it."

A Barts Health NHS Trust spokesperson said: "With 5500 new cancer diagnoses a year at Barts, we are anxious to have this new centre open as soon as possible. As has been our commitment throughout this process, we will continue to work with the Friends of the Great Hall on our plans to maintain and develop the Great Hall for future generations to enjoy."

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