Blow for Aga Khan’s SE1 museum plan

The Aga Khan's hopes of building a museum on the South Bank suffered a blow this week when King's College London said it would prefer to sell to the NHS.

The Aga Khan had selected Block Nine, part of the the St Thomas' Hospital site, to house the largest collection of Islamic art in the English-speaking world.

The Aga Khan's charitable foundation has offered a bid of 24m, approximately double its market value, to King's College London which controls the medical school at the hospital.

King's College was thought to be preparing to accept the bid from the Aga Khan until it realised that St Thomas' Hospital, which adjoins the triangular site of 1.8 acres, also wanted the land.

Constrained by public finances, the Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust could only offer 10m to 12m.

The ruling council of King's College will meet early in July to decide which of the two bids to accept but the college has indicated that its first duty would be to the NHS. A spokesman said: "We work closely with St Thomas' and our preferred solution is one that will work with the hospital."

"They are our partners and it would not be in anyone's interests if they are put in a position of considerable antagonism and distrust."

Consultants at St Thomas' are passionately opposed to the sale for an "inflated price" – some even have threatened to chain themselves to the railings if a sale to the Aga Khan goes ahead.

Sources within the museum project have suggested that the Aga Khan may look away from London for a home for the collection if he is unable to secure the SE1 site.

We recently asked visitors to whether they were in favour of the Aga Khan's plans – 38 per cent said yes and 62 per cent said no.

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