Dezeen Magazine

An exterior visual of Maggie's Taunton by Alison Brook Architects

Maggie's charity forced to find new site for Alison Brooks-designed cancer care centre

Plans for a Maggie's Centre by Alison Brooks Architects on a site in Taunton, UK, have been halted after the local council voted against leasing land for the scheme.

The cancer care centre, which had been granted planning permission by the former Taunton Deane Borough Council in 2019, is designed for a small parcel of land within Galmington Playing Fields – a play area close to Musgrove Park Hospital.

However, the authority has now been replaced by Somerset West and Taunton Council, which has blocked plans to lease the site due to public backlash and the potential loss of communal green space.

Maggie's is now searching for a new site for its centre, which is hoped to support the local hospital's care for cancer patients and their families.

Site chosen for proximity to hospital

Alison Brooks Architects' studio was appointed for Maggie's Taunton in 2014, shortly after the former council first gave an agreement-in-principle to develop the land.

Its proposal comprises four pavilions, placed in an X shape around a central two-storey building. Externally, these would be wrapped by lush landscaping and distinguished by gently curving roofs.

The centre is designed to be domestic in scale and is imagined to use landscaping in place of partitions to help create a light, open-plan environment.

An exterior visual of Maggie's Taunton by Alison Brooks
Top image: the proposal comprises four pavilions with curved roofs. Above: it will be nestled within lush greenery

The proposed setting within Galmington Playing Fields was earmarked because it is the only site in proximity to Musgrove Park Hospital's cancer ward that would not require the demolition of existing buildings.

There are also no homes currently built within 40 metres of the site.

Locals "frustrated" by lack of consultation

Since the plans were revealed, however, there has been a backlash from locals due to loss of public green space and a lack of public consultation during its development.

This is partly because ownership of Galmington Playing Fields was handed over to the people in 1931 by a former MP, meaning the council lacked authority to develop it.

Leading the local campaigns is a group called Friends of Galmington Playing Fields. The group said that public discussion could have resolved many of the issues.

Addressing Maggie's on Twitter, the group said: "Please understand that this was never about you and the wonderful work you do but the principle of building on protected green spaces."

"We were frustrated that no formal consultation took place as a lot of the issues may have been resolved before planning went in," added the group. "We hope that future developments are community-led to avoid the aggravation we have all endured."

"Significant support" remains for centre

The council voted against the leasing of land in December 2020, with 44 councillors against it, five in favour and two abstentions.

Despite this, Alison Brooks Architects said: "there is significant support from all parties to bring a Maggie's centre to Taunton".

"Alison Brooks Architects continue to work closely with Maggie's, Musgrove Park Hospital and Somerset West and Taunton Council to find a new site," the studio told Dezeen.

The council has also announced it will work with the charity to find a new site, while Maggie's has said it will "greatly look forward to working again with Alison Brooks".

"We are continuing to liaise with Somerset West and Taunton Council and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, to bring a Maggie's centre to Taunton, because we know our support is required now more than ever."

Backlash follows completion of several UK centres

The Maggie's charity was founded by Maggie Keswick Jencks and the late architectural historian Charles Jencks in 1995.

Its first centre was designed by Richard Murphy for Edinburgh in 1996 and has been followed by several more across the UK by an illustrious list of architects.

Most recently, this includes Heatherwick Studio's completion of a plant-filled building in Leeds and Ab Rogers Design centre for the Royal Marsden in London that is glazed red terracotta.

Elsewhere in London, Daniel Libeskind is currently developing a centre in Hampstead covered by timber louvres, while in Southampton, Amanda Levete is shortly due to complete a mirrored centre set within a tranquil flower garden.

Visuals are courtesy of Alison Brooks Architects.