Sunday, April 25, 2010


Two weeks ago, Camden Council gave planning permission for the R4 complex of housing to be built on the King's Cross Central site. The block will serve a mixture of uses - 15 flats of supported housing for people with mental health problems, 77 units of "affordable" housing to rent, and 25 flats for shared-ownership. The Homes & Community Agency has funded it, via a £42m grant to One Housing Group (for more on HCA grants, see here).

This is what it will look like:

The Kings Cross Development Forum's views on the plans can be found here.

We visited the plot (on the junction of York Way and Rufford Street) yesterday, on the eastern fringe of the brownfield site. A security guard was drinking coffee and talking into a mobile phone on the roof of a huge prefab. Over the bulldozers and containers in the forecourt, he looked onto a vast field, scuffed with weeds, leading up a steep verge to the Eurostar line, as it edges east.

For him, every day must feel like Groundhog Day. Guarding this hugely ambitious development project must have seemed rather thrilling once, but aside from the R4 scheme and some completed student accommodation, there are no immediate plans to build on this land.

A letter in the local press reveals that Argent - the developers of the KXC site - cannot afford to build the earmarked office blocks until corporate tenants (in particular, Sainsbury's) have confirmed their lets. The writer points out that several million square feet of office space in the City, snapped up by corporate backers in happier financial times, has not been built on. With this in mind, is it possible that the King's Cross will not see the sort of corporate activity it once promised? And if so, could the land be put to better use?

If not, what of the residents of R4? The letter-writer offers a bleak prediction:

These two schemes are paid for by taxpayers’ money. While the developers wait for corporate occupiers and the investors that they attract, problems for local people and commuters from the surrounding areas are compounded by the closure of the remains of Battlebridge Road ... The students and the residents of the blocks of social housing flats to be built facing on to York Way may find themselves looking at one another across an otherwise deserted site.


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