Sainsbury's HQ, a flagship development of the King's Cross Central project may well turn out to be empty office space on completion. Back in 2007 Sainsbury's signed up to an agreement with Argent that this building would be their new HQ and on that basis LB Camden gave planning permission. Sainsbury's has now pulled out of that deal.
King's Cross Central developer Argent are having to make alternative arrangements for what may turn out to be the first of many white elephants on the much vaunted massive new site, 'ready for business'.
Despite Argent's positive spin, “We are getting phenomenal interest from a number of massive requirements, including professional services, media, pharmaceutical, and financial services.” (Property Week), common sense, at a time when major companies are closing down entire towns, would suggest they are unlikely to be successful.
King's Cross Central was a brainchild of the pre-crash, pre credit crunch era, a time when developers and local authorities alike were (once again) seduced by the heady amounts of cash constantly changing hands. Easy loans were available for property and property development and hungry local authorities were desperate to cash in with officers winning friends in exciting places and members securing money for much needed community gains.
However, it turned out that, like Enron trading in the weather, this emperor wasn't really wearing any clothes. There was nothing behind the theoretical money changing hands and the smart mouthed property executives much beloved by planning officers had actually been full of 'it'. Meanwhile, our community was sold down the river. Were we gullible for participating in master-planning events that bought our loyalty because our children spent an afternoon drawing imaginary freely available swimming pools that would never exist at King's Cross Central? Were we gullible for believing our local authorities' planning briefs that showed in graphic detail how the existing community would benefit from free-flowing access routes that would immeasurably improve our daily lives and then disappeared as fast as Keyser Soze when push came to shove and actual planning applications were approved?
It'll be very interesting to see how far LB Camden will continue to kowtow as more planning applications (possibly!) come forward from Argent. It's understandable that Camden wants to see these applications approved and fast. They need every penny they can get from Section 106 agreements to ameliorate the impact of massive budget cuts on voters – and remember: all that S106 cash is going west, literally.
And we remain, as ever, blighted. Picking our way through a building site destined to become empty streets surrounded by empty office space, playing spot the community gain.