Visit a beautiful local garden in the National Gardens Scheme

From 2pm to 6pm on Sunday 5 June 2016 Mike Jackson (of the film ‘Pride‘ fame) will once again open his small plantsman’s garden to the public at 1 Battlebridge Court as part of the Barnsbury Group.

Mike's garden

Mike’s stunning garden maximises sun and shade with peat block terracing up to the canal basin. This is a challenging spot but Mike is a Kew trained horticulturalist with over 40 years experience whose expertise shines through in his choices.

Highly recommended for a visit. Click here for more information.

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Camden Mela

This year the King’s Cross – Brunswick Neighbourhood Association will be holding the Camden Mela on Sunday 17th July 2016 at Corams Fields, 93 Guilford Street, London WC1n 1DN.

This is always a very popular family event which showcases the richness of the British Asian culture  There is always a wonderful mix of music, food and fantastic stalls.

Camden Mela 17 July 2016. For more details and stall bookings contact Nasim Ali

For more information and stall bookings contact Nasim Ali.

Posted in Arts and Entertainment, Community groups, Community stuff, Food and Drink, New, Noticeboard, Things to do | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Will the transparency law help us get to know our Kings Cross neighbours? #anticorruption

private eye offshore ownership map

There’s a large number of properties in old and new Kings Cross owned by offshore companies. In one building alone, the Arthouse 33 flats owned by companies in exotic locations many with high opacity about their true ownership.  At the anti corruption summit today the government says:

The PM will announce today that foreign companies that own property in the UK will be forced to make public who really owns them.

Any foreign company that wants to buy UK property or bid for central government contracts here will have to join a new public register of beneficial ownership information before they can do so. This will be the first register of its kind anywhere in the world.

Crucially, it will include companies who already own property in the UK, not just those wishing to buy. Foreign companies own around 100,000 properties in England and Wales. Over 44,000 of these are in London.

The new register for foreign companies will mean corrupt individuals and countries will no longer be able to move, launder and hide illicit funds through London’s property market, and will not benefit from our public funds.

This is very welcome (subject to my caveats below) and it will be fascinating to see what impact this has on behaviours.  Will there be a sudden flight of capital as people dump London investment properties over the next year or so before the law comes in.  Or will the opposite happen and with a friendly face to a property we can invite them around for tea, to meetings, to get involved in the local community.  I once lived next to a hostel building in Kings Cross that was very noisy and its true ‘beneficial’ owners elusive – the company was registered in the British Virgin Islands – and neither I nor the council had a way of engaging with the people who ran it to help the building be a better neighbour.

I’d like to offer up the Arthouse building in Kings Cross as a canary in the coal mine – if the law works we shall know who is the beneficial owner of each of the companies on this 2014 list (from HM Land Registry/Private Eye) if they still own property there when the law comes into force.   My presumption is that the people involved with these companies have done nothing wrong and I welcome knowing who our neighbours are. However, if For Sale boards suddenly go up the journalists at the Guardian who have done so much work on transparency will be able to see them from their office window and investigate the impact of the new rules.

The Prime Minister has also said:

‘we will legislate this year to hold companies who fail to stop their employees facilitating tax evasion criminally liable.’

But and it’s a big but the UK courts and law makers have always had huge trouble working out who is responsible for a company’s behaviour. And where crimes may have been committed, pinning charges on the executives.  This website led a long campaign to hold a company (Transport for London) to account for the death of a cyclist on a junction on which their own engineers had warned them in writing that casualties were ‘inevitable’.  In long discussion with experts, the police etc we realised the ineffectiveness of corporate manslaughter laws in large organisations.  The concepts used in law just don’t work in large bureaucracies where blame is diffuse or can be made to appear so – the Corporate Manslaughter Act is widely recognised to be almost useless, except with very small companies.  Similarly fraud convictions in the UK are few and far between.

So the challenge for the government’s noble endeavor is to learn from past experience and produce a workable law that can pin charges on companies in a way that counts.  And to fight off the huge hordes of lobbyists from the financial services and legal industries who will try to subvert it.

Posted in Anti Social Behaviour, Kings Cross N1C, railwayslands | Tagged | 1 Comment

Kings Cross rental market – for only an extra £1,000 you can have the same flat


The rental market in Kings Cross throws up some real eye openers often of the dodgy landlords and beds in kitchens type but here for once is an apparently well appointed one bed flat and the cringe inducing, but possibly market rate of £1,343 per calendar month.  If it appears a bit bigger than comparable private properties that’s because it was once thoughtfully designed by the council as social housing on the Bemerton Estate.

As I understand it to rent a similar flat on the Bemerton from the Council would be about £350 a month, indeed possibly the flat next door.  Which gives a graphic illustration of the role of social housing in providing accommodation for people on lower incomes.   The monthly London Living wage is roughly £1,650 per month before tax.   The Bemerton Estate although greatly improved by modern management has been one of the ‘top 3% most deprived by multiple deprivation‘ super output areas in the whole country.

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Geddes Gallery – Mammary Gang 15-16 May 10-8pm.

mammary gangThe Geddes Gallery (formerly KC Continental Foods aka the Italian Deli at 26 Caledonian Road) is getting back into the swing of things with some new shows – first up is the Mammary Gang

>Private view: Saturday 14th May 6.30-9pm
Open: 15th – 16th May 10-8pm

A collaboration of five Wimbledon Collage of Art Graduates in celebration of the female as both creator and muse. This exhibition houses a selection of artworks, in a variety of mediums, that explore the ever-changing relationship between women and art. Including work by Bea Campbell, Elizabeth Pike, Hebe Rut, Manon Teychenne-Simoes and Lauren Youngs.

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Kings Cross Spring Loop

The Eighth Kings Cross Walk is on Sunday 22nd May, taking a circular route around this  rapidly changing area, finding out what’s new; sharing information and finishing with a drink (and food) in The Harrison.

Gas Holder Number 8

We will walk up the hill to Amwell Street and Chapel Market before dropping down to the Regent’s Canal which we will follow to Granary Square and the nature reserve at Camley Street and return along King’s Boulevard

Lubetkin Staircase

The walk begins from the outdoor gym in Argyle Square at 11am the site of London’s first and only monorail and we will also take in the place where elephants were once unloaded for the Kings Cross circus, the inventor of the tea break; Lenin’s Kings Cross house; the March of the Bricks and Mortar; one of London’s most surprising nature reserves,

Old St Pancras Tree

Please feel free to invite friends. Please call me Tobias on 0771 8080956 if you have any questions or want to ensure that we wait for you.We should finish the walk at about 1.30 (ish). Its a fascinating little sociable local urban walk with a bit of magical greenery and water in the middle of it.

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A corner of Kings Cross that is forever Samoa, Seychelles, British Virgin Islands etc

private eye offshore ownership map

All the palaver about off shore companies can feel a little distant at times but you can just walk up to the door of many  Kings Cross properties and experience it for yourself.  Private Eye produced a map of property acquired by overseas companies using Land Registry data.  If you zoom in there is a cluster of leasehold blobs half way up York Way (just beyond the Guardian building – owned by a German company) on the left, in the Arthouse Building.

art building

Arthouse was one of the first residential properties in the Kings Cross re-development to be marketed.  And by the looks of things it was marketed hard overseas and a good number of buyers availed themselves of corporate vehicles to hold the properties in a variety of places around the world – from the British Virgin Islands and Seychelles to Samoa via Singapore.  32 properties according to the Private Eye presentation of the Land Registry data.  There are other clusters of off shore ownership in Kings Cross.

One can enter the names of the companies into the new database of offshore leaks by the the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and one or two show up there.  So, for instance Key Navigation Consultants a British Virgin Islands registered company bought Apartment A3-4 at the Arthouse in January 2014 for just over £1 million.  The ICIJ database search yields for a company of that name a network map  at the time the data was gathered (see the ICIJ caveats on their site).

So what does all this mean? On the one hand there is great international confidence in Kings Cross as a place to invest – I see that even a vacant lot on Randells Road (the old dry cleaners) is owned by a British Virgin Islands company.  On the other hand it shows that the days of just popping into the estate agent with a mortgage pre-approval are numbered, unless it’s the Road Town branch.

Posted in Architecture, Kings Cross N1C, railwayslands | 2 Comments

Eye eye – Kings Cross estates are new designer icon

beaconsfield_buildings_1969Gentrification, love it or loathe it does all sorts of odd things to change how people perceive a neighbourhood. The estates and streets of ‘London’s trendy Kings Cross’ seem to have transcended edgy in the designer pantheon and are now genteel enough to name traditional designer products. Artisan designer types ‘Cubitts’ have gone Kings Cross-tastic with their glasses range. ‘

‘The materials employed were done so for function, but through use and wear, developed a rich patina and unintentional beauty.

As Michael Palin stated, ‘King’s Cross was not concerned with dazzle and decoration. It was built for purpose’.

Cubitts give us ‘The Bingfield

‘Introducing Bingfield.

With a classic panto round oval (PRO) lens shape, Bingfield is our modern interpretation of a timeless shape, which most recently had a renaissance in the early 90s.
Constructed from high grade stainless steel, Bingfield features custom titanium nosepads.  It is available in brushed gold and silver with traditional Windsor Rims (in Matte Black, Dark Turtle, Blonde and Amber), and in two sizes. Bingfield is named after Bingfield Street and Bingfield Park in northern King’s Cross. This now residential area, sandwiched between the railways lands and Caledonian Road, was once home to the notorious Beaconsfield Building. These were built by the Victoria Dwellings Association and housed at least 1,000 people in five storied walk-ups with external balconies.

and also: The Argyle with custom pin drilled rivets, The Ossulton, with acetate temples tips with custom cubitts detailing and the Pembroke with millimetre precision hand drilled acetate.  There is also a fetching cleaning cloth with an an original picture of Kings Cross, a steal at £3.50

‘The Cubitts cleaning cloth, oversized and extra thick. The cloth features an illustration by designer Lucy Dalzell. Her cityscape includes a building from each of the King’s Cross streets (from which our first frames were named), the Cubitt brothers and butterfly rivet (bottom left) and a small Harry Potter reference.”

Not a burning moped or dog turd in sight.

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