Small window to oppose a skyscraper next to the town hall

Town Hall annexe aerial

The decision by Camden Council to sell off the Town Hall annexe is a fait accompli, but the planning guidelines covering the site are currently under review.

With talk of a building up to 22 storeys high, the review’s request for comments is a important chance for residents and concerned groups to call for the height to be restricted to eight storeys.

The deadline for comments is Tuesday 1 May, but local group Friends of Argyle Square have done the hard work of wading through the planning jargon of the review document, Camden Site Allocations Local Development Framework and responding in the particular structure requested by the council.

FoAS invites the local community to support their opposition to a tall block next to the Town Hall. To do this, read their response, and email info@friendsofargylesquare.org.uk with your message of support by 1 May. They are particularly keen to hear from groups in the King’s Cross or beyond, if you are one please include its name and the number of members in your message.

The response refers to pages 19–21 of the aforementioned framework document. If you feel inclined to respond directly, see the documents and response form on the council website, although they may be daunting. A Camden officer told FoAS it responses would be accepted even if they did not use the form.

Clare Hill

About Clare Hill

Clare is a writer and editor living south of the Euston Road. She is passionate about King’s Cross history, transport and food. Contact Clare by commenting on her posts or go to http://www.clarehill.net
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14 Responses to Small window to oppose a skyscraper next to the town hall

  1. Jim says:

    It saddens me that people are so vociferously opposed to tall buildings in such a location. The idea that new buildings must be of the same height as existing buildings while the population is growing and transport provision is improving is absurd. London desperately needs taller buildings in areas of high transport accessibility such as this.

  2. Friends of Argyle Square says:

    You seem to be suggesting that every tube station should be surrounded by a forest of tower blocks. Not sure everyone would agree with that as an acceptable blanket planning policy! This town hall extension is immediately opposite two Grade 1 listed buildings (St Pancras Chambers and King’s Cross Station) and practically surrounded by “only” grade 2 listed buildings. If this site doesn’t deserve special protection then we might as well throw all planning policies in the bin and go home.

  3. Jim says:

    None of those listed buildings would be demolished or physically altered by this proposal. They would get a tall neighbour but I don’t see the problem with that. We have listed buildings alongside tall buildings in the City and they look just as lovely as before. If we don’t allow ourselves to put tall buildings beside listed ones in London we’re just guaranteeing a stagnant building stock and ever-worsening affordability problems.

  4. Gregory says:

    Jim might like to contact Argent Ltd. to buy into some of the plentiful space in the tall buildings being built now in the development opposite, called “King’s Cross Central”. Although transport provision (Underground, regional and international trains) has improved, the environment for those using Euston Road has not improved, but become more crowded and difficult. The planning gain (s106) money from Kings Cross Central and other developments has not benefited the wider area. There are many vacant street level properties available, while “affordable housing” is relegated to the northern border of the borough.

  5. Clare Hill says:

    I would have thought the problems with putting a tall tower in a densely populated residential area, next to a school, are self-evident. The City is not a relevant example, tall buildings are in virtually non-residential areas in comparison.

    Context does matter. If it did not, so much time and money would not have been spent sensitively restoring St Pancras and King’s Cross. I’m sure it would have been more efficient (profitable) to demolish St Pancras and put up a taller building. Thank goodness people kicked up a fuss.

    What is the ‘affordability’ referring to? Affordable office space? No shortage of empty office buildings in London. There will be acres of office space next to transport links – in the King’s Cross development. An office building is made tall for speculation and plot ratio purposes, I’m not sure where the arguments for ‘need’ or ‘affordability’ come in.

    Surely we’ve learnt something from Centre Point.

    • Jim says:

      London has some of the most expensive office space in the world, largely because of extremely tight restrictions on building the stuff, much of it motivated by this idea that you shouldn’t be allowed build anything tall near anything that looks nice. The same attitude contributes to our extraordinarily expensive housing, as well as exacerbating congestion through increasing the need to travel long distances.

      It’s sad that anyone making these points gets painted as obsessed with profit and economic efficiency. I’m strongly left-wing, which is why I want to make housing and work space affordable. Tight restrictions on building homes and work spaces enriches existing property owners, including those who care more about their views and house prices than about whether working-class people can afford to live or work nearby.

      • Clare Hill says:

        How will a tall office building on Euston Road help provide affordable housing in King’s Cross? I don’t see the connection, so I’d be keen to have it explained. And what do you think of the affordable housing provision in the King’s Cross development?

  6. Friends of Argyle Square says:

    Going back to considering the effect development can have on listed buildings, Jim said “We have listed buildings alongside tall buildings in the City and they look just as lovely as before.” I don’t think he’d say that’s the case with this listed building: Hopton’s Almshouses in SE1.

    http://tinypic.com/r/69oyeh/6

    Of course there are places where tall buildings are not a problem, such as Canary Wharf, but elsewhere the context must be considered.

  7. Ben says:

    Surely the argument is whether or not tall buildings should be allowed per se in this area. I think there are many reasons why they should be allowed but as always there are conditions, considerations and constraints. The emerging trend for mixed-use developments demonstrates that tall buildings do not have to have single use occupiers – offices can be accommodated alongside residential, restaurants, hotels, and (dare I say it) retail. The Shard is a high-end example of this and it will be interesting to see how it works. Of course, it doesn’t have an affordable housing quota but I would hope that any King’s Cross development would. There is a critical shortage of affordable housing – and indeed affordable workspace – in London, both of which can be secured through the provision of new developments in well-connected places like King’s Cross.

    • Clare Hill says:

      How affordable is the workspace in the Shard?

      • Ben says:

        Most if not all of the Shard office space isn’t affordable and probably never will be, it’s a high-end development. I was putting it forward as an example of a mixed-use development. The s106 probably could have been handled better with the Shard. However, from experience I know that affordable workspace can be secured through s106. It just needs to be raised early in the process as an expectation for buildings such as the potential development for the annexe site.

  8. Friends of Argyle Square says:

    This doesn’t strike me as a conversation that is going anywhere. Jim and Ben are just ignoring the points made by me and Clare and Greg. Over and out.

    • Ben says:

      I thought it was a worthy slight veering off topic, to consider other issues beyond heritage, where communities can benefit from development. Surely it’s all part of the same conversation.

  9. Jim says:

    Clare, I mentioned housing because arbitrary and restrictive planning rules contribute to expensive housing as well as expensive office-space. I note you ignored my point about the cost of office space.

    Friends of Argyle Square: I actually think that almshouse looks fantastic in that context. And clearly I’m not ignoring your arguments – I’m just disagreeing with them. Maybe you’re not used to that?

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