So urge the conservation committees for King’s Cross and Bloomsbury and the Friends of Argyle Square. They have launched a campaign to protect the area of Euston Road facing the stations from becoming a home for tall buildings. It comes as the Shard opened last night to sci-fi fanfare. The skyscraper has been dubbed by some “a little bit of Qatar in SE1” – can you picture a bit of Qatar in WC1?
The campaigners say:
The stations are national treasures and their setting must be protected. We are asking Camden to produce a “Heritage Stations Context – Master Plan” which would, amongst other things, stop tower blocks being built in this sensitive location.
These station buildings were intended to tower majestically over London. They were built to reflect the optimism and confidence of the Victorian period. In front of them lay Georgian terraced housing, perfectly proportioned but domestic in scale, in contrast to the deliberately grandiose buildings opposite.
They resonate power and prosperity in their own right, and their character would be greatly diminished by the construction of tower blocks in front of them. To make these 19th-century buildings subservient to 21st-century speculation would be a crude act of vandalism.
The town hall annexe has been under threat of redevelopment as a tower block for some time. Recently 1–11 Euston Road (opposite King’s Cross) came under threat. This terrace is now, we believe, temporarily relatively safe. But recently we met with a representative of the new owners of the Access Storage building (Belgrove House) and learnt they are in negotiations with Crossrail 2, clearly with the intention of building a tall tower on this site.
We are now asking for positive action from the Council to ensure that these Grade I-listed buildings are given the protection they deserve, not just the buildings themselves (which are being well looked after) but the context in which they are seen. This context is the entire streetscape from the town hall to the Lighthouse Building. No new building in this stretch of Euston Road should be planned without a proper, holistic, assessment of this specific “place” – to use a council buzzword.
The Council seems oblivious to the concept of this street scene forming a nationally important “place” which must be managed as a whole, not piecemeal. Their recently created “King’s Cross Place Plan” utterly ignores the existence of this area. If place-shaping is a meaningful activity, surely it must apply at this world-renowned location?
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