How can canal users and canal side residents ‘live harmoniously and healthily together’?

canal moorings


Kings Cross is a densely populated place. People from all walks of life live cheek by jowl. Occasionally frictions will arise due to this proximity and, over the years a body of rules has built up to enable harmonious co-existence without infringing unduly on peoples rights and encouraging some give and take. Quite often on this website people raise problems with us and we air them, usually getting both sides of the argument.   There’s discussion  in the comments on a recent post about canals (see panorama picture above for moorings last Friday) and a local resident has got in touch with the following which encapsulates a range of issues:

‘regarding the smoke pollution emanating at face level from canal barges moored up alongside residents` houses and flats (between Thornhill Bridge and Maiden Bridge).

Today, in our communal gardens the stink of smoke was particularly bad, so I took a photo of one of the offending smoke stacks.

The owner emerged from his cabin. When I put it to him that London was under an air pollution alert, and that his smoke was drifting into our gardens , flats and houses, he became immensely aggressive, ranting a lot of gibberish about the pollution being caused by `your power stations` and that I was intruding upon his private way of life and he was calling the police etc etc etc.

So you can see the problem of nil enforcement of existing laws and the failure to provide barge users with adequate mooring, electrical power points, staged and assisted introduction of electric motors, refuse collection – and so on.

I hope that you can use this to support the movement to unblock the log-jam preventing canal users and canal side residents from living harmoniously and healthily alongside each other.

And why are barges no longer permitted to moor up alongside the St Martins development? So as not to spoil the view?

Regards, resident who wants the right to breath smoke free air……….’

The canal is an integral part of Kings Cross and it’s no accident that a canal museum is here.  The canals enabled the industrial transformation of the area.  I have sympathy with people who live on boats, but in urban areas the clean air act and noise nuisance reflect real issues that crop up time and time again in Kings Cross.  And an unwillingness to accommodate new neighbours where you choose to moor, regardless of how limited mooring choices may be is not good.

Posted in Anti Social Behaviour, Crime etc, Noise | Tagged , , | 25 Comments

Catching the artistically curious

At dusk on a backstreet south of the Euston Road, Redhanded’s glowing shopfront jumps out from the swathe of council estates. Cromer Street is a perpetually shuttered row of shops, and two artists have set up a temporary studio and gallery in a vacant corner store.

Sally Hampson, a weaver, and Esther Caplin, a mixed media artist, have set up their desks, looms, paints and tools in the former butcher shop. It’s a beguiling scene that has been generating thumbs up and smiles from local passersby, and an endless stream of visitors for the past two months.

“They can see us working, and they respond to that,” said Esther, adding that there is “something cultural” and universal about seeing people working, which piques interest and often brings into the “shop”.

So why here? Caplin has lived in the flats above the shopfronts since 2000, Hampson spends divides her time between London and Stroud. Both are members of Stroud Valley Arts, a well-established artist-run studio and event space in Gloucestershire. SVA has a reputation for injecting life into disused spaces in Stroud, so the artists wanted to “bring the energy to King’s Cross”.

It is sorely needed in this part of KX, not least after the demise of nearby, albeit different, ventures such as the socialist café Firebox, and Sartorial Art Gallery.

It did took some doing. Caplin approached the shop’s landlord Camden Council “at all different levels” and after two years of persistence, the space was put into the council’s pop-up scheme and the pair could start working in the space. They also hold exhibitions of other artists’ work in the shop next door and the basement.

Large, well-funded arts institutions often have a plan for “outreach” or involvement with the local community. Redhanded seems to being doing this informally and naturally just by being there – with a growing number of people dropping in for a chat.

On the day I visited, the artists had hosted the “Bloomsbury Breakfast Club”, a print technician had popped in, and Hampson had given impromptu weaving tuition to a local Polish woman. Recently a man had come in to the shop, on seeing the looms, to tell them about how his “whole family was involved in weaving” back in his homeland of Somalia.

Perhaps it’s the novelty of a space that is neither shop nor café, containing approachable looking people doing interesting work. Long may it last. As Redhanded enters its third month, Caplin said: “We’re here for as long as they let us stay here.”

Posted in Arts and Entertainment, New | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

300 mph Maglev to connect HS2 and HS1

maglevKings Cross transport infrastructure is set to receive a further boost with announcement of plans later today of a new ultra high speed link connecting High Speed 2 from the North and High Speed 1 to France.  The Kazakhstan KX Investment Group Ltd are preparing to fund a MagLev to speed passengers between Euston and St Pancras at up to 300 mph.   The huge power of superconducting magnets will propel the train from zero to 300 miles per hour and back to zero over the course of the journey.  Any passengers that survive the 7G forces will be offered a place on the Kazakhstan astronaut programme.

Closing the huge gap between the two stations has been an important objective for local councils. Chronic local air pollution on the Euston Road has meant that several oxygen rich breathing stations were being planned for travellers acclimatised to the fresh air of Manchester and Birmingham and unable to cope with London smog.  These will now not be required. Engineers models had also shown that a colossal ditch would be gouged out along the Euston Road by millions of wheelie luggage wheels – the Terry Farrell ‘SomersTown East-West Ha Ha’ plan is now on hold pending completion of the Euston maglev.

To meet local concerns the maglev will be in a deep tunnel between the stations.   To counter the well known problems maglevs have with pneumatic resistance in tunnels the route will be five times as wide as it is long.  The Kings Cross cavern (as it will be known) will itself become a tourist attraction with a Floating Market designed by Neil Gaiman. The market will be based on the River Fleet that will be rerouted through the cavern.

The Euston maglev will also form a core component of CrossRail2.  A government spokesman said:

‘Frankly it’s much more likely that CrossRail2 will be built if it has a maglev component.  It’s shiny things like this that politicians understand.’

Network Rail could not be reached.  At all.

Picture credit

Posted in Big developments | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Kings Cross suffers from Angel Islington’s ‘Not In My Back Canal’ problem

IMG_20140331_100510273A couple of readers and now the council have got in touch to point out the issues caused by canal boats moored in the Kings Cross basin.  It turns out that council regulation of smoke and noise from issues caused by canal boats at the other end of the tunnel in Islington  has caused people to moor in Kings Cross instead.  It’s one of those classic public/private issues that arises from high proximity city living, whether you are moored or in a house.  Uneven enforcement moves the problem on elsewhere – a not in my back canal issue (ahem).

For boaters’ perspectives on this Islington issue see this Canal World discussion forum read down the thread for a balanced discussion on whether Islington berths are genuinely usable anyway and this good piece on Towpath Talk.  However a real problem is being caused for local people in Kings Cross.  A council pollution officer writes:

I’ve been asked by a local resident to email you and let you know about the problems they’ve been having with barges moored near their homes.

Over the past few years we’ve observed an increase in the number of boats moored along the canal as more and more people are choosing to live on the waterways; this is the case not just in Islington but also in neighbouring boroughs.

The increased numbers have also brought with them an increase in the number of noise and smoke complaints received by the council. This has been a particular problem at Islington Visitor Moorings (IVM -the stretch between Colebrooke Row and Danbury Street). We would usually find in the region of 18 boats moored in this location and due to the geography of the area the noise and smoke does not disperse very well leaving residents homes filled with wood smoke and diesel fumes plus quite often they were disturbed by noise from engines and standby generators.

The council has been working with the Canal & River Trust (C&RT) to resolve these issues and we’ve agreed a pilot project that aims to remove wood burning from this location in order to improve local air quality and also declare a quiet zone. This has been in place since November 1st and we’ve had a drastic decrease in complaints received.

Many of the boats that previously moored here have moved through the tunnel towards Kings Cross and now we’re receiving more complaints from this area.

The rules outside of IVM are slightly different in that boaters are permitted to burn wood for heating; the council is responding to every complaint to assess nuisance and if this is witnessed we follow up with the appropriate action. Once the pilot project is over we will be asking the C&RT to replicate the prohibition on wood burning across the canal network in Islington and also consider a feasibility for providing more mains power.

We are in the process of writing a best practice guide to reducing pollution from boating; particularly as the health of the boater is more affected than anyone else’s and we need to make people aware of what action they can take to reduce emissions as well as their own personal exposure.

Can readers remember what happened to the moorings that used to be West of the Maiden Lane bridge, where Kings Cross central is now? Couldn’t they be brought back there?

Posted in Community Health and Welfare | Tagged | 10 Comments

Are these barges polluting homes alongside Regents Canal?


British Waterways has been asked to examine reports from local residents that these two barges are polluting canalside homes with fumes from their generators.  There’s a very diverse community who lives alongside the canal in Kings Cross – from expensive designer waterside flats through to 1950s social housing.

One resident said

‘It is a balmy spring evening, just right for having all our windows open to blow away the winter blues, but hold on a moment, what the hell is that stink wafting in, killing the hyacinth and jonquil perfume stone dead? Diesel fumes. I’ve just had to close all our windows. The stench has filled our home.’

Grateful to local people who raised this with me following our article on air pollution.

Posted in Community Health and Welfare | Tagged , | 1 Comment

‘Very High’ air pollution forecast by Met Office

thick airKings Cross has relatively bad air: it’s a huge transport hub with very high levels of car, taxi, bus, lorry and diesel train movements.  I lived in the gyratory for a while and the pollution was ghastly.   But it looks like things could be even worse than normal over the next few days as the Met Office forecasts ’10/10 Very High’ air pollution for London as a whole.  It’s a combination of a winter high pressure trapping London”s smog, which is added to by a light Easterly wind that is bringing extra pollution from continental Europe.

The Met Office says:

Adults and children with lung problems, adults with heart problems, and older people, should avoid strenuous physical activity. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often.’

A few points worth bearing in mind:

a really great sunset in London often enhanced by pollution particles glowing red

the nice hazy look in the morning is probably chemical smog

if your allergies are playing up it might not just be Spring pollen but pollution particles

According to the Mayor’s office air pollution incidents have caused hundreds of hospital admissions in London.

If you want to know more check out Simon Birkett’s excellent campaign – Clean Air in London or follow them on Twitter – @cleanairlondon

Posted in Community Health and Welfare, New | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Kings Cross Square – are we there yet?

kings cross square panorama

Kings Cross Square is staggering towards the finish line as more hoardings come down. But there still seems to be a way to go.  Here’s a panorama of the square so far to try to give an impression of what it will look like when it’s finished (click through to the large original) – I took it with my back to the hoards at the West side, so they don’t show up..

Posted in Kings Cross Station Refurbishment | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Grays (Inn Road) Anatomy – post your pictures on Kings Cross Gallery

trinity courtGray’s Inn Road is a fascinating place with hugely diverse range of architecture, people and land use.  And it is adamantly un-gentrified, even occasionally a bit shabby.  I took a lovely stroll along the road in the sun last week and took a few pictures of one of London’s best and best preserved modernist housing blocks – Trinity Court, the curiously fitting squat at Litvinoff and Fawcett bed makers, the charming 1930s London Welsh Centre and a lovely C19th horse trough planted with flowers.  The pictures are up on Kings Cross Gallery a new thing we have set up and it would be great to have your pictures too – anyone can post there, it only takes seconds to set up an account (though it is moderated to keep things sensible).

Posted in Architecture, New | Tagged , | 1 Comment