King’s Cross Central – a ghost town?

Sainsburys new HQ in Kings CrossSainsbury'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.

About Sophie Talbot

Sophie runs a small business designing websites for small businesses and community groups. She also manages King's Cross Community Projects
This entry was posted in Kings Cross N1C, railwayslands, Planning, Licensing and Regulation. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to King’s Cross Central – a ghost town?

  1. K Cross says:

    What a spectacularly ignorant post.If your going to have a dig at least get your facts right.

    Argent are backed by one of the UK largest pension funds not “easy credit” and this is a long term development.

    I noticed you totally ignore Bank BNP Parabis actually buying a site and will be going to submit a half a million sq ft HQ. Sainsbury’s only backed out because they couldn’t get anyone to take over their current HQ in Holborn.

    What would you have instead , a semi derlict area crawling with whores and druggies as it once was.

    No owonder developments take years to get going with idoits like you onboard.

  2. Andrew says:

    I think it is a shame that Sainsbury’s aren’t able to move in, as I too agree that a full building is much better than an empty one. I do hope Argent are able to find someone else to fill this, and all the other buildings planned.

  3. Paul Convery says:

    I’ve had a few fights with Argent (and Camden planners) over Kings Cross Central and I remain critical of recent variations to their scheme. However, this posting is not helpful.

    Times have certainly changed and I think that Camden should be pushing Argent not to plough-on with large floorplate HQ-style buildings which is what they offered for the “Sainsbury’s site”. I think there’s still negotation to be had about reshaping other parts of the development site.

    I am also not impressed by this post saying that “all that S106 cash is going west, literally.” That’s wrong. The S106 agreement says the benefits are concentrated in neighbourhoods both sides of the Borough boundary – with a reasonably large slice committed to Caledonian Ward.

  4. stuart lambert says:

    Wow – what a negative and pessimistic post. As someone who lives right next to St Pancras station in Somers Town, I’m immensely excited about Kings Cross Central. The first major new square in London for a century, new streets, new markets, new shops and houses and a rejuvenated canalside environment – this is a wonderful project, next to vital links to Paris and Brussels, with a new arts centre and The Guardian nearby, with many more brands and employers destined to move there eventually. Unless you want to be super short termist and actually claim that office space will sit there empty forever? Why be so pessimistic? This is a great scheme for Kings Cross, an area of London that’s been overlooked for far too long.

  5. Sophie Talbot says:

    Re-reading my post I’m also struck by its negativity. I think that reflects how scared I am that it’s all falling apart – the Sainsburys building is pretty awful anyway – a big ugly box – and the thought that it may be empty is quite frightening. I think it also reflects my disappointment that so many wonderful ideas that came up during the master-planning exercise have disappeared, combined with the current plans playing on my skepticism rather than imagination – large flagship HQ types corporate spaces, the possibility we’ll be faced with yet another shopping area with the same old same old whilst well loved independents just a couple of streets away are forced to close leaving streets like King’s Cross Road and The Cally looking very poorly indeed. I do hope that this won’t happen, but at the mo – and for the entire 20 years I’ve been here, living with the planning blight followed by the shift westwards – it feels like it is. Perlease Argent prove me wrong… How about more community engagement, really opening yourselves up? For example Goodsway. The signage still isn’t as informative, visible or accessible as it could be – there’s a huge opportunity there to get the community involved in creating that signage and keeping a momentum of community involvement going… I’d much rather we all work together rather than feeling constantly shut out and boxed in….

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