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Burlington House

Support the Geological Society’s fight to stay at Burlington House


Campaign update: Since going public late last year, our campaign to stay at Burlington House with the Society of Antiquaries, the Linnean Society of London and the Royal Astronomical Society has gained waves of support from across the UK and internationally.

Hundreds of letters have been sent to Members of Parliament, including a letter to Boris Johnson from Sir David Attenborough, Honorary Fellow of the Society.  

letter to boris johnson from sir david attenborough

Growing interest in the fate of the Societies’ future at Burlington House led to a Parliamentary debate on the subject in early June. You can listen here (from 16.50) or read the transcript here.

Multiple national and trade publications have also covered the situation, including The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph and BBC News with many also spreading the word on social media.

As a result of all this support in scientific and cultural circles, among the general public, and across Westminster, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) - our landlord - has now responded to our call for a solution for the rapidly escalating and unaffordable rents.

The response from Government

The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government has shared a proposed solution with us and our neighbouring Societies. It supports our aim to find a lasting solution and recognises the unique value of keeping the Societies together.

Although it proposes a slower rate of increase in rent, it does not take into account that the rent is already unaffordable. We are therefore urging the Government to help us to find a new basis for tenure, as simply slowing down the rate of increase is not enough.

We believe this is the only way to maintain and increase the public value we deliver each year and stop large funds from being directed away from our charitable objectives.

We are determined to find a unique and sustainable solution that will:
  • Build on our current public engagement and outreach programmes - to ensure the whole nation benefits from the activities conducted at Burlington House.
  • Support and facilitate the expansion of our scientific knowledge - bringing together leading scientists, industry and policy-makers to ensure the UK public can benefit from Earth science.
  • Maintain the UK’s world-leading position - and contribution to the scientific output, as well as being a figurehead for professional standards in Earth science internationally.

We welcome the broadening of current discussions to include the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as the Department responsible for our national culture and heritage, as well as the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) which can appreciate the value of scientific knowledge within the UK’s economy. These perspectives will see Burlington House as more than an investment property.
 
We hope that a solution can be found urgently before the Societies are forced out due to rents.
 
We also look forward to a new era of life at Burlington House, where a wide range of people, from all walks of life, all over the country can benefit from not just the collections at Burlington House, but the discovery and innovation enabled through evidence-based policy making.

We need your support more than ever as we enter into this critical stage of negotiations.


What does Burlington House mean to the Society?

After over 145 years at New Burlington House, we face being priced out of our home because of unaffordable and rapidly rising rents. Reaching a sustainable, long-term solution with our landlord, the Government, will secure our role as the internationally-recognised home of Earth science.

Burlington House helps us to physically bring together different interests, and to speak with a single voice on behalf of the Earth sciences in the UK. It is our scientific conference venue, where we promote education and awareness, translate Earth science research into policy, reach out to the public, and uphold professional standards and excellence in Earth science. Following a change in Government policy in 2014, Burlington House began to be treated as an investment property. Prices in the West End soared and, as a result, we have seen our rent increase in excess of 3,000% since 2012. As a charity, we cannot afford to pay such escalating rents. As such, we have launched a public campaign in a final attempt to find an affordable solution.

In collaboration with the other learned societies at Burlington House, we have engaged with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) for many years. However, an affordable, long-term agreement remains out of reach.

Our case for staying at Burlington House

The UK is a world-leader in the Earth sciences, and Burlington House is an internationally renowned scientific landmark, developed by the government in the nineteenth century as a meeting place for the arts and sciences. It brings the Geological Society together with the Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal Astronomical Society, the Society of Antiquaries of London, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Linnean Society of London at one single location, and is as relevant today as ever. As intended by the Government’s vision, the co-location of these unique organisations has allowed them to thrive and make significant contributions to the economy and public life over the past 145 years. In our current situation at Burlington House, we face either unaffordable rent rises at the hands of the Government landlord, or a move which could cost millions of pounds. This is creating significant uncertainty at a time when we should be investing more strongly in science, education, policy and outreach work to the benefit of society.

What will happen with no agreement?

Unless affordable and sustainable terms can be reached with the landlord in the very near future, we will have no alternative but to relocate from Burlington House in 3-5 years time. The Government is set to lose up to a third of the c. £26.7 million in economic benefits to the UK economy each year (PwC, 2019) from the Geological Society’s work, greatly exceeding what it receives from rent. This is in addition to the risk to the UK’s recognised position on the international stage.

Now is the time to guarantee the Society’s future at Burlington House.

 How you can help

 Frequently asked questions
arched doorway with geological society written above  exterior of burlington house and gsl doorway 

Contact

For questions about the campaign or to learn more about how you can help the Society stay at Burlington House, please email us at burlingtonhouse@geolsoc.org.uk.

Download the document 'Burlington House Apartments: Lease History and Status. 2021', as referred to in the letter sent by President Michael Daly on January 29th to all Fellows and Friends.