The museum wish to create a public open space at the corner of Exhibition Road and Cromwell Road with a museum shop and café beneath and an additional connection to the London Underground pedestrian tunnel. The tower adjoining the south-eastern corner of the 1970’s building on Exhibition Road would be removed.
They also wish to provide disabled access to the main entrance, and to create a new garden on the western and south-western parts of the museum grounds. The gate at the south-west corner of the grounds would be opened to allow visitor access through the garden to a new door in the western wall of the modern Darwin Wing, to relieve congestion at the main entrance.
I visited the museum on 12th July and discussed the proposals with Justin Morris, Director of External Engagement. I see no objection in principle to the proposals.
With regard to the garden, I discussed with him concerns expressed by Members about potential damage to the existing wildlife garden on the south-western side of the grounds. His response was that the garden would be redesigned and substantially enlarged, with a new pond and retention of most of the existing trees. There are three trees with TPOs which would be removed – a lime and two poplars. These would be replaced with a native lime and two native black poplars which are threatened species and better support native wildlife.
Suitable paths would be laid to allow visitors to pass through and enjoy the garden at all times of the year without harming the plants, insects and animals whose habitat it would be. There would also be significant areas of planting around the pond and the margins, designed so that amphibians can easily enter and exit the pond.
The garden would not be just a municipal park, but is intended as an outdoor addition to the scientific working space of the museum, as well as a space which visitors can experience. There are of course on the museum’s staff some of the world’s leading experts on plant, animal, and insect life who would be engaged in the project, and who would make a detailed record of the species currently living in the garden before work commenced. These species would be reintroduced into the garden as necessary, and there would be an interim period of about two years before the new garden became established.
Planning Committee Chairman