The new Labour-led council is going ahead with plans drawn up by the previous LibDem/Conservative-led council to sell the 1970s town hall annexe building and construct new offices in the King's Cross railway lands, according to a report in Camden New Journal (CNJ) on July 22. (Labour U-turn over ‘vanity project')
This is despite well-publicised Labour opposition before the election, from both King's Cross Councillor Jonathan Simpson and Holborn and St Pancras MP Frank Dobson, which picked up on strong local feeling.
As a King's Cross ward resident, I was anxious to see what was to happen to the project. I agreed with concerns put forward about the loss of my local library, the dangerous precedent set by the likely building of a much higher 'skyscraper' south of Euston Road and years of disruption for the local school and other facilities. In an individual written response to a letter of concern from my household, Frank Dobson said, "I should make clear that I am opposed to the Lib/Dem led council to sell off the Town Hall extension for redevelopment…I don't think it is in the Council's job to go in for property speculation…(this and other sell-offs mentioned in the letter) are to the disadvantage of the local community."
I happened to contact Cllr Simpson before the CNJ story was published, to find out the fate of the sale and details — he referred it on to Cllr Sarah Hayward, also of King's Cross ward and a council cabinet member. I'm awaiting a reply.
The building's costly state of disrepair was the key justification made by the LibDems and Conservatives for the site's disposal. They talked of a repair bill of some £15m. But according to the recent news story, the Labour administration now say it's a £77m bill. Whichever the figure, it is crucial that the calculations behind these hefty figures be made available for public scrutiny. If a decision has indeed been made, the local community deserves no less than a full and detailed explanation and the first fair chance to probe this controversial deal.