Moorfields set to move from City Road

Councillors set to decide on Moorfields Eye Hospital relocation in ‘major step’ for local NHS services by Ed Sheridan, Local Democracy Reporter

Part of the old Moorfields Eye Hospital site on City Road
Part of the old Moorfields Eye Hospital site on City Road

Councillors are set to consider the redevelopment of St Pancras Hospital to make way for the new home of Moorfields Eye Hospital, in what a planning report describes as a “major step” in the transformation of NHS services. 

A recent consultation found “overall support” for the move of Moorfields to St Pancras, with the existing City Road site, which includes some over-century old buildings considered no longer fit for purpose and unable to “maximise opportunities to deliver excellent science.” 

Oriel – the name for the joint initiative between Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology (IoO) and Moorfields Eye Charity – is in charge of its delivery. 

A spokesperson for Oriel says: “The proposed development is considered to mark a major step in the implementation of joint NHS Service Transformation plan prepared by the North Central London health providers. The development would be paid for via the release of surplus land at the City Road site by Moorfields.” 

Property advisors CBRE have been asked to undertake a competitive marketing exercise for the sale of the City Road and Bath Street sites, currently home to Moorfields Eye Hospital and the IoO. “The sale of the sites will be ‘subject to planning’ so bidders will be asked to come forward with their own planning proposals that complement and enhance Islington Council’s ambitions for the area.” says the spokesperson. “Moorfields Eye Hospital and the UCL IoO will continue to work closely with Islington Council as the plans for the sites progress.” 

With increasing demand from the ageing population, Oriel wants to replace traditional hospital-based eye services with new models of care. As it says on its website: “Our current buildings at City Road were built over 120 years ago at a time when hospital care was provided very differently to how it is now. “The ageing infrastructure of the hospital… is increasingly difficult and costly to maintain, and the configuration of our existing building offers little scope for true integration between the clinical, research and teaching elements of our work. 

“Although intermediate refurbishments go some way to improving the environment for our patients and staff, they are no substitute for integrated facilities that can modernise patient pathways and meet the growing demand for eye health services.” 

Currently, Moorfields and UCL IoO are in separate buildings with complicated wayfinding at City Road and Bath Street. The new centre at St Pancras will change this. The move would also generate a capital receipt for Camden & Islington NHS foundation trust that would be used to pay for new and enhanced facilities including a brand new mental health ward in Highgate as well as plans for the future redevelopment of the wider St Pancras Hospital site. 

Oriel has received widespread support from community and national visual impairment charities, including the Royal Society for Blind Children (RSBC), Guide Dogs for the Blind Association UK, London Vision, Visually Impaired in Camden and the Thomas Pocklington Trust. 

A planning report summarises their comments as: “This new centre will bring major advancement for the treatment and research into childhood sight loss and attract the finest talent in the field. The centre would offer the very best environment for patients and staff.

 “[The] proposed development will allow Moorfields to continue its world-leading clinical outcomes and attract, inspire and retain the most talented clinicians, researchers and educators. “[The] proposal would create high quality public realm for patients and staff, with active uses at ground floor such as café, retail and education, [and] will also signify a major investment for the local economy, provide local training and employment opportunities as well as being a highly sustainable building.” 

Concerns have been raised by the Victorian Society over the impact on the historical site, as well as an objection at the Camden end from local amenity group The Regents Network, which criticises the development as “large, bulky, unappealing and overly dominant.” 

Other objectors are also quoted in the report as being overall supportive of the principle of the works, while urging measures be put in place over the ‘last half mile’ between transport and the development, with calls for tests over potential use for tactile paving to aid greater accessibility and green lines directing people from stations to the new bus stop for the site. The new centre at the St Pancras hospital site is scheduled to open in 2026.